Every season, each team has a few players that find a way to get the proverbial light to turn on. Some players either need a chance to breakout and others find a way to rewind the clock for a magical run ala Ray Lewis a few seasons ago. The Cowboys have a lot of questions surrounding their team that is filled with youthful players. Lately, if you are like me, you've been reading every article or listening to every podcast you can get your hands on about the Cowboys. This week a few of those podcasts really brought forth some 'nuggets' of wisdom in regards to what the coaches believe they are seeing take shape out of these organized team functions.
Look, we all know that OTA's are not necessarily a mirror for the upcoming season, but they are important when it comes to building unity and a solid team. It's those that go to battle every day for each other that usually find the most success on the football field. Our boys, McCool and Joey Ickes, had a visitor this week to their podcast, a personal friend of mine, Marcus Mosher with Footbology, he gave the skinny on some great stuff, go check it out. Some of these 'nuggets' as well as other we've picked up through the grapevine can't help but get you a little excited about the upcoming season. A new season of hope has been restored. However, it got me thinking again, who are some players that could really be in for a solid year in 2016? I have a feeling there may be a few surprises in-store.
Brandon Carr, CB
In his last season on the books with the Cowboys, Carr is poised to have a very solid year. Does that mean he's going to be All-World? Of course not, but it's been mentioned by Jon Machota and Brandon George of the "Candidly Cowboys" podcast that Carr has looked really good making his switch to the right side. Admittedly, Carr has stated that he prefers to play on the right side taking the X-receivers instead of having to run around with some of the league's top pass catchers that don't fit his strengths on the left.
Most of the success that Carr has seen throughout his career has been when he's playing the right cornerback spot. Eight of his 14 career interceptions have come from playing the right side, all eight of those when he was a Chief. In the Cowboys hybrid 4-3 press scheme, Carr hasn't had any turnovers since the switch. The hope is that by having him play on the right side he will be more comfortable and achieve and better success. Carr has always been a standup locker room leader and has never missed a game. He's gone on record as to saying he's got unfinished business in Dallas. You got to like a cornerback with some confidence, something tells me he might be in for a little redemption.
Prediction: 54 tackles, 15 PD, 4 INTs, 1 FF
Brice Butler, WR
Mosher would like everyone to know that the chemistry between Tony Romo and Butler is very real and starting to get noticed with each practice. Romo has shown in the past if he can build a trust level with you, he'll make you a star and get you paid. All musings coming out of these practices have shown that Romo has had some fun with Butler and Terrance Williams. What Butler has is soft hands, size, and some real speed. Unfortunately, the only game they were on the field at the same time last season, Romo was injured. Now, we've heard that Tony has really liked what he's been able to do with Butler.
We don't really need to get into conversations about him beating out T-Will just yet but think about the possibilities for Butler not only split out but inside. Some little rumblings have suggested that Romo has had some success in getting Butler in the right positions to take advantage defensive looks. If Butler can keep progressing through minicamp and training camp, they just may hook up for some special moments.Derek Dooley won't admit it just yet, but they are excited about his 2016 prospects.
Prediction: 43 receptions, 705 Yards, 6 TDs, 16.4 YPC
Tyrone Crawford, DT
It's safe to say that Crawford was definitely disappointed in the season he had last year after hurting his shoulder and watching the locker room grow tenser by the day. It can't be overstated that Crawford at one time couldn't bench 225 pounds but managed to contribute five sacks. If the Cowboys' defense is going to make that jump from a young, inexperienced defensive line to a formidable pass rush, they're going to need Crawford to step up big. Perhaps the best offseason move they made besides the Buckeye was going after Cedric Thornton in free agency. Dallas has done quite a bit to upgrade their defensive tackles even if folks are worried about their edge rushers.
Thornton is going to be the catalyst that allows Crawford to reach his potential. This isn't the try-hard, bless-your-heart defender that Nick Hayden was. This is a guy that can free Crawford up to make big plays. Teams find different ways to attack the quarterback. For Marinelli, his 2016 bunch is going to try and sit blockers down into the laps of the quarterback, that's their best bet. I would fully expect that to be the plan that allows Crawford to burst onto the season and announce his penetrating presence in the NFL.
Prediction: 25 tackles, 11 sacks, 5 TFL, 3 FF
Morris Claiborne, CB
It's not really much a secret, Morris Claiborne looks like a different athlete than we can remember him ever being right now. To quote Mosher and Joey, he's "jacked". There is also a different air about him, he's lost any bit of that "I'm the sixth-overall pick and deserve this" attitude that we saw when he walked out two years ago after being demoted. This is a player with some strong will, confidence, character and determination. Everyone grows up at their own pace, I for one am still learning that. It should be noted that the coaches are very excited about what they've seen out of Claiborne this offseason. With Orlando Scandrick on the mend, Mo' has taken over at left cornerback and he a Carr have been in-sync throughout the offseason program. They both know they have a lot to prove.
Mosher was adamant in saying if this translates to the field this season, Morris Claiborne will by far be the best defensive back on the roster. I tend to agree with those sentiments, can you imagine what it'll be like if that light switches on for him? Also, think about having Carr handling his own at RCB and Scandrick working out of the slot and covering the Odell's of the world? One aspect of this team that has had me excited is the potential of this secondary. Morris Claiborne may just be ready to have a breakout performance at the perfect time for it to happen.
Prediction: 57 tackles, 19 PD, 6 INT, 2 Pick-6
The optimism is just pouring through this article, but we're interested in knowing which players you see have a surprisingly good year for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys. Give us your predictions.