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Cowboys News & Notes: Which Players Can Have A Break-Out Sophomore Season?

Latest Cowboys headlines: Second-year players who could take a step forward in 2016; who replaces McClain; are Witten and Romo worth it?

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NCAA Football: South Carolina at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Happy 4th of July, everyone! Today we commemorate America’s independence from Britain and to celebrate, here is Tony Romo declaring his independence from those pesky Broncos pass rushers.

Can OL Chaz Green show enough progress for Cowboys to groom him as right tackle of future? - Kate Hairopoulos, Dallas Morning News

Everyone talks about the players that won’t be available to the Cowboys, but what about the players that will be available?

The hope is that Green could emerge as a swing tackle to backup left tackle Tyron Smith and right tackle Doug Free. Green started games for Florida at both tackle positions. In an ideal world for Dallas, Green would show enough progress that it could groom him as its right tackle of the future, but that remains to be seen.

Cowboys Sophomores: QB Jameill Showers - Sean Martin, Inside The Star

Remember when Tony Romo was the undrafted free agent sitting at the bottom of the depth chart? Well, Showers is that guy now and while it would be hard to see him snag a roster spot, don’t throw the towel in just yet for this dark horse quarterback candidate.

A quarterback that can create extra time for himself, similarly to Tony Romo, is incredibly valuable for an offense that features weapons like Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams. Jameill Showers has a chance to be this guy for the Cowboys, rushing for 312 yards and 4 touchdowns in his final collegiate season.

Anthony Hitchens: Next Man Up for the Dallas Cowboys - Lauren Draper-Wood, The Landry Hat

Hitchens isn’t a second-year player, but after an impressive rookie campaign, he took a backseat to the LB combo of Sean Lee and Rolando McClain in 2015. Now, with the suspension of McClain, he’ll have an opportunity to have a larger role.

It was a season ending injury to Sean Lee that thrust Hitchens onto the field so often in his rookie year. Starting 11 games he had 66 tackles, an interception and 5 defended passes. A healthy Lee saw Hitchens game time and production diminish last season, yet he was on the field for 546 snaps and made 39 tackles and 2 sacks.

German Engineering: Is Cowboys' Nzeocha the answer for absent McClain? - Zeke Barrera, Cowboys Wire

While Hitchens is the most popular name we hear when it comes to replacing McClain, the Cowboys could have some sneaky good players lingering around on the roster. As Zeke Barrera writes, the team could try to get some mileage out of a foreign import.

The Cowboys clearly see something worth hanging onto in Nzeocha. The 26-year-old was a bit aged for a rookie, but perhaps being more developed physically and mentally has allowed him to stick around. His athleticism is undeniable, but he must learn to trust his instincts on the field more consistently and up his NFL IQ before he can be effectively depended on week to week.

Here is Nzeocha with fellow Dallas German, Dirk Nowitzki. Nzeocha is the one on the right.

Five Cowboys who could break out in 2016: No. 5 wide receiver Brice Butler - Jon Machota, Dallas Morning News

Butler isn’t a second-year player, but this will be his second season with the Cowboys. Could he be a player that steps up and becomes a big contributor this season? Coach Garrett speaks out on how a full training camp with the team could put him on the right track to success in 2016.

"One of the challenges with players when they come into your team during the regular season is they don't have a real foundation with you and they're kind of picking things up on the run and they're learning game plans and they're learning your system as you're getting ready to play a game," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "Brice did a good job for us last year until he got hurt. Clearly he has some ability to make some plays. It's just going to be good to get him back into the offseason program and lay the foundation with our strength and conditioning staff, but also with the system, knowing how we do things starting from ground zero."

5 Worst NFL Tight End Contracts - Nathan Jahnke, Pro Football Focus

We all knew the day would come where Witten’s cap hit would be undesirable compared to his age/production. So, it is no surprise that the Cowboys tight end makes PFF’s worst contract list.

5. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

Years remaining: Two

Average remaining cap hit (per year): $9.1 million

Year he can realistically be cut: 2017

Throughout the PFF era, Jason Witten has been the tight end of the Dallas Cowboys, and has consistently graded as one of the better TEs in the NFL. Despite being an excellent tight end over his career, Witten has been on a steady decline, and his play took another step for the worse in 2015. His yards per route run has declined every season in the PFF era (since 2007), and for the first time in the last 10 years, his run-blocking grade was below league average.

Undoubtedly, Witten has become more of a safety net than a downfield threat, but these numbers don’t scratch the surface of Witten’s value to the team. His influence on younger players and commitment to practicing the right way is something you can’t put a price tag on.

Romo should not be on worst contract list - Ryan Johnson, Cover32

Tony Romo and Jason Witten have shared a lot of things over their career in Dallas - a seat on the bus their rookie season, pool-side view at Cabo, etc. Another thing they share is the idea that they are overpriced according to PFF. While Witten’s production may present a case against him, the same is not true for his BFF.

I’ve witnessed Romo lead an overtime win with a punctured lung and broken ribs. I’ve witnessed Romo have one of his best seasons with a fractured transverse process in 2014. You can’t overpay for a quarterback who won’t quit, who will always give you a chance to win any game. Tony Romo has done just that for the Dallas Cowboys since taking over in 2006. Romo stated the next four to five years we will see the best version of himself. I believe him, Cowboys nation should as well.

Healthy Romo adds zing to Packers vs. Cowboys - Ryan Wood, Wisconsin Rapids

The Cowboys will once again travel to Lambeau Field for the third straight season as they are slated to play the Packers on October 16th. With a healthy Romo, this could be the rematch we have all been waiting for. Even with the star quarterback behind center, the Cowboys should give Green Bay a heavy dose of the running game.

Power is their strength: Even with almost no threat of a consistent passing game, the Cowboys finished fifth in the NFL with 4.6 yards per carry. (They were ninth with 118.1 rushing yards per game.) The reason is arguably the NFL’s best offensive line, featuring three All-Pros with left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zach Martin. Even the two starters who are not All-Pro caliber — left guard La’el Collins and right tackle Doug Free — are above-average players. The Cowboys can run the football, whether defenses load the box or not. It should be a terrific matchup against the Packers' offensive line, itself likely a top-five unit in the NFL.

Lost timing? Romo, Bryant say no as Cowboys camp nears - Schuyler Dixon, Shreveport Times

With some injured guys returning, you can count that the coaches proceed cautiously when it comes to these players being on the field. Will that create a little rust or throw off the timing between teammates? Dez Bryant doesn’t seem to be the least bit concerned.

"I just think it's something me and Tony established a long time ago," Bryant said. "It's something that can't fade because that's something that we had. We truly commit ourselves to being on the same page. It's all about tuning it and going to work."

Man, I sure miss seeing these two connect.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. And it’s okay to let your hair down. Even the stoic, coach Garrett isn’t opposed to getting a little jiggy wit it every now and then.

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