Over the last four years, the Cowboys have steadily increased the number of players that have received Pro Bowl nominations, culminating with eight players in in the 2015 Pro Bowl. Here's an overview of who got the nod over the last few years.
|Year||No. of Players||Cowboys Pro Bowlers|
|2015||8||Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, L.P. Ladouceur|
|2014||5||Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray, Tyron Smith, Jason Hatcher|
|2013||3||Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer|
|2012||2||DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff|
This year's collection of Cowboys Pro Bowlers included a well deserved but highly unexpected nomination for long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who made the Pro Bowl for the first time, just as Zack Martin and Travis Frederick did.
That got me thinking: Which Cowboys players could make their first trip to Honolulu following the 2015 season?
One way of approaching that question is to take rabblerousr's ranking of players 1-90 on the Cowboys roster and picking out some candidates. I'm going to assume that regardless of where a given player is ranked specifically, the top 20 from rabbles's ranking should provide somewhat of a shortlist for possible Pro Bowlers. Here's rabble's ranking along with details about which player has or hasn't been to a Pro Bowl:
|1||Tyron Smith, OT
|2||Dez Bryant, WR||2
|3||Zack Martin, OG||1|
|4||Tony Romo, QB
|5||Dan Bailey, K||- -
|6||Greg Hardy, DE||1|
|7||Jason Witten, TE||10|
|8||Travis Frederick, OC||1|
|9||Tyrone Crawford, DT||- -
|10||Sean Lee, LB
Out of this top ten list, only three players could be first-time Pro Bowlers in 2016.
Dan Bailey is the NFL career leader in field goal percentage. Last season, Bailey passed the 100 field goals made mark for his career, qualifying him as the most accurate kicker in NFL history with a career field goal percentage of 89.8%. Bailey is playing at an All Pro level but didn't even make it as an alternate to the 2015 Pro Bowl. At least three kickers were voted in ahead of him. For shame.
Tyrone Crawford may have the potential to play at a Pro Bowl level, but it would take a truly stellar season for him to get a nomination in a position group dominated by big-name players with high draft pedigrees. Crawford has neither, but a 10-sack season could do the trick for him.
Sean Lee has only played in 46 out of a possible 80 games since entering the league in 2010, but leads all linebackers in interceptions over that span. There is little doubt that Lee is a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he'll need to stay healthy to get a nomination.
Up next: the second group of Cowboys players ranked 11th - 20th, where the number of Pro Bowlers thins out considerably.
|11||Cole Beasley, WR||- -
|12||Rolando McClain, LB
|13||Orlando Scandrick, CB
|14||DeMarcus Lawrence, DE||- -|
|15||Doug Free, OT||- -
|16||Terrance Williams, WR||- -|
|17||Ronald Leary, OG||- -|
|18||Mo Claiborne, CB||- -|
|19||Barry Church, S||- -
|20||Byron Jones, CB/ S||- -|
Rolando McClain is out of the running for his first Pro Bowl nomination. Even if he were to get healthy in time, his suspension precludes him from receiving a Pro Bowl nod, the same situation Orlando Scandrick was in last year. Suspension-free, Scandrick might be a candidate for post-season honors this year.
Playing on the same offense as Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams will find it very hard to put up the type of numbers Pro Bowl voters like to see. Similarly, Doug Free and Ronald Leary probably don't have the type of name recognition and draft pedigree that would get them post-season honors, especially with how decorated the O-line already is.
In addition to Scandrick, three more defensive backs make this top 20 list. Barry Church was close to making the Pro Bowl last year, at least going by the popular vote, and may have a chance this year with improved defensive line play. Morris Claiborne and Byron Jones are both question marks at this point. Of course they could make the Pro Bowl this year - if the play like Pro Bowlers. Will either of them?
DeMarcus Lawrence has been heralded as the most improved player on the roster, but he'll probably need a double-digit sack total to warrant consideration for the Pro Bowl. Not impossible, given the improved quality of players playing next to him, but not an easy task either.
Finally, if everything goes the way the Cowboys planned it, there may be one more player on the roster who could make the Pro Bowl for the first time. Given the spotlight focused on the position by local and national media alike, Joseph Randle may not even have to put up DeMarco Murray-type numbers. Outside of of Murray, no other RB playing in the Pro Bowl last year had more than 1,300 yards rushing for the season. Justin Forsett came close (1,266) yards, Alfred Morris (1,074) and Jamaal Charles (1,033) barely cracked the 1,000-yard mark, while Mark Ingram (964) and C.J. Anderson (849) didn't even reach that. With the type of blocking the Cowboys expect from their offensive line, those types of numbers should be within reach for Randle.
Overall, a lot of young talent has been added to the Cowboys roster over the last few years, but injuries and inconsistent performance has kept many of these players from achieving post-season honors - and ultimately kept the team from making the post-season in three of the last four years.
The good things is that if previous seasons are anything to go by, the best chances all of the above players have of getting post-season honors is for the entire team to jump out to an early start - teams with the best records heading into December traditionally get the most Pro Bowl nominations.
Which Dallas Cowboys do you think are most likely to make their first Pro Bowl trip next season? Tell us what you think in the poll and in the comments.