Cowboys Pro Bowl Future: Who's Got Next?
Entering his 27th year as owner and GM of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones has overseen the drafting of 34 Pro Bowlers - 14 more than any other current GM. Yes, yes, that's the work of Jimmy and Parcells and Ciskowski and Garrett and McClay and Stephen and more ... but the numbers here on "The Jerry Era'' do not lie.
In the last two years, the Dallas Cowboys have had seven different players make their first Pro Bowls. This got me thinking, which Cowboys - who have yet to make a Pro Bowl - are most likely to make their first appearance in 2015? With honorable mentions to Rolando McClain, JJ Wilcox, and Orlando Scandrick, these are my top five "Who's-Got-Next?'' Cowboys ...
When healthy, Sean Lee is one of the best LB's in the NFL. Despite missing nearly two full seasons worth of games in his five year career, Lee still leads all LB's with 11 interceptions since entering the league in 2010. Opposing QB's have to be fully aware of where Sean Lee is at all times. If it weren't for injuries, Lee would've easily made at least two Pro Bowls by now. At 28, Lee still has a few prime years left.
If he can stay on the field, there's no reason to think he won't be able to return to playing at a Pro Bowl level. He's got to stay healthy for an entire season eventually, right? Why can't that season be 2015?
Bailey has been one of the most consistent and reliable kickers in the NFL since his rookie season in 2011. He is as close to automatic as there is, especially when attempting FG's of less than 50 yards. In fact, in the last three years, Bailey has only missed 3 of 71 attempts from less than 50 yards out. Bailey holds the Cowboys records for most consecutive FG's made as well as most game-winning FG's. Oh, and did I mention that Bailey has the highest FG % in NFL history among all kickers with at least 120 attempts?
Inside Valley Ranch, the Cowboys think it's amazing that he hasn't made a Pro Bowl already. His turn is coming.
Crawford had somewhat of a breakout year in 2014, despite not even knowing what position he was going to play during the offseason. The coaches switched him back and forth between DE and DT before permanently moving him to DT early in the season. Crawford had 3 sacks, 29 QB hurries, 12 QB hits, 1 pass breakup and 1 forced fumble in 2014. He was also just seconds away from getting 3 or 4 more sacks.
This is the Cowboys Ed Block Courage Award winner ... a high-quality guy and a high-motor guy. With a full offseason working strictly at his new position, he should have an even bigger impact in 2015.
When the Cowboys traded up in the 2nd round to get DeMarcus Lawrence in the 2014 draft, they did so with the hope that he would eventually turn into an elite pass-rusher. An injury in training camp sidelined those expectations for most of the season, but Lawrence showed glimpses of his potential in the Cowboys two playoff games - recording 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 QB hurries and 1 forced fumble.
The addition of Greg Hardy on the other side of the defensive line will take a ton of pressure off of Lawrence and could bring out the best in him sometime very soon.
The Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL - if not the best. Their three 1st-round offensive linemen are all still very young too, so they're only going to get better. Some fans are worried because the Cowboys didn't select a running back in the draft. While I'm sure they wish they would have come away with someone like Tevin Coleman, the Cowboys clearly have a lot of confidence in their offensive line and, well ... just enough confidence in their current group of running backs.
Fish and Bryan Broaddus have both reported that the organization has a "trust'' problem with Randle. Randle needs to get his head on straight but he averaged 6.7 yards per carry on 51 attempts in 2014. Williams and McFadden have durability concerns but have both shown huge potential. The Cowboys could choose to utilize multiple runners in a RB-by-committee approach, as KD explains here, but I say optimistically that if one of these guys emerges as the starter and gets enough carries, he could potentially have a Pro Bowl-caliber season.
Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain is getting a dismissal of his 2013 misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct in his hometown of Decatur, Alabama, prosecutors on Monday asking the judge to drop the case.
McClain had been accused of cursing at police officers in a park in April.
McClain signed with Dallas last season for the vet’s minimum and missed the beginning of training camp due to the legal issue. He was a pivotal part of the Cowboys’ 12-4 season but deemed difficult enough by those inside the building to receive nothing more than another inexpensive one-year deal. Nevertheless, he’s viewed as a Pro Bowl-level talent and is slated to start at middle linebacker again this season.
No, the Cowboys haven’t “changed their mind’’ on Mo Claiborne. It was never Dallas’ intention to pick up the fifth-year option on the injured and struggling cornerback, and the passing of the May 3 deadline to do so isn’t really new news … unless you believed “Jerry Poppins’’’ silly January proclamation that Claiborne had done enough to earn $11.08 million for the 2016 season.
Claiborne, the sixth-overall pick in his draft class four years ago, has struggled on the field and is also coming off a torn patellar tendon that limited him to four games last year. The Cowboys hope he can participate in training camp but coming off recent surgery, there are no guarantees there.
"I was at a point where people thought I wasn't going to walk again," Claiborne recently told CHQ. "I'm in a better place now in my life and in coping with my injuries and coming back from them."
The decision to let Claiborne play out his contract as it stands was an easy one, has nothing to do with this weekend’s first-round drafting of Byron Jones, and morphed into silliness when Jerry suggested otherwise.
Claiborne will be paid his $2.607 million this season and hopes to play up to that level … and will be contractually evaluated from there.
"I can't wait" to get back on the field, Claiborne told us. "It's one of those things. It's a day-by-day thing. I'm getting better each and every day, getting stronger each and every day. You know, that's all I can ask for at this moment."
Fish's column on Greg Hardy's 9-11 Twitter foolishness is here ... Want tons of Cowboys Draft info? Click here! ... CHQ has the inside story on the trio of Cowboys alums prepped to help Randy Gregory - including 1-on-1 insight from Leon Lett. ... For the first time in team history, the Cowboys didn't select a skill-position player in the draft. No QB, no running back, no wide receiver. So much for Jerry only caring about "Wowboys.'' ... With that trade to draft UT's Geoff Swaim (a blocking tight end), 2016 will be the third year in a row that Dallas will be without a sixth-round pick due to trades ... Why the LB emphasis in the draft? Cam Lawrence took snaps last year. Kyle Wilber took 200 snaps. They lost Durant and Carter. They have their concerns with Lee and Ro. That’s 4 LBs to be replaced and two starters causing crossed fingers -- and LBs play teams. ... Dallas gave UDFA receiver George Farmer a $15,000 signing bonus with $55,000 of his contract guaranteed. That doesn't automatically give him a roster spot; but it means somebody inside Valley Ranch thinks very highly of him. ... How many teams are interested in a legality-free La'el Collins? All 32 of them.
It was initially reported that Randy Gregory would wear No. 99, but it looks like the Cowboys switched him to No. 94. That's Haley-Ware stuff, and it shows how much faith they have in him.
It's also tradition-building, as Dez has learned by joining Drew and Irvin in wearing No. 88.
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