Dallas Cowboys: 5 Most Valuable Players of 2011

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIJanuary 4, 2012

Dallas Cowboys: 5 Most Valuable Players of 2011

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    Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys surely are unhappy to have to watch the playoffs instead of play them. The Cowboys might have stumbled to the finish, losing four of their last five games, but they have some things to be proud of.

    Some players had outstanding seasons. Romo had one of the best seasons of his career. Laurent Robinson had a breakout season, as did Sean Lee. Dan Bailey had a very nice rookie year.

    These players are among the most valuable Cowboys for this season. Read along to see the full list and to see how they rank.

5. Laurent Robinson

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    The race for the most valuable receiver is a close one. Jason Witten had the most yards and catches, as well as the most consistent performance. Dez Bryant was close behind Witten in yards (928). Neither had an absolute breakout game. Neither had a 100-yard game.

    Laurent Robinson did. Robinson had three 100-yard games. Also, he had three games with multiple touchdowns. Robinson was the biggest deep threat for the Cowboys in 2011. He led the team in receiving yards per catch (15.9) and non-passing touchdowns (11).

    2011 was a year to remember for Robinson. He jumped on shortly before the season started, only to be cut after not catching a pass in the first game against the New York Jets. Then, the Cowboys signed him back before Week 3. Before long, Robinson gave the Cowboys reasons to keep him beyond 2011. He set career-highs across the board.

4. Dan Bailey

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    Dan Bailey had a fast start to his rookie season. He hit game-winning field goals in two of the first three games. In Week 3, he scored all 18 Cowboys points on six field goals. Through Week 11, he led the NFL in field-goal percentage.

    Things caught up to Bailey. He would miss a potential game-winning field goal after being iced by his own coach against the Arizona Cardinals. Then, Bailey had a kick blocked against the Giants that would have sent the game to overtime. That was after Giants coach Tom Coughlin iced him.

    Not everything goes right for rookie kickers.

    Stilll, Bailey ended up with a very nice rookie campaign. He was third in field goals made (32), fifth in kicking points (135) and 10th in field-goal percentage.

    David Buehler has nothing on that.

3. Sean Lee

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    Sean Lee had a solid year. Lee led the team in solo tackles (71) and was tied for the lead in fumble recoveries (2) and interceptions (four).

    He was the key cog to the Cowboys running defense. Lee showed gap integrity like no one else for the Cowboys.  He played intelligently and could sniff out the ball. He was the biggest reason the Cowboys had the No. 7 rush defense.

    When he was injured, the run defense suffered. The Cowboys gave up 162 rushing yards to the Seattle Seahawks when he was out with a broken wrist. When he worked his way back aganst the Buffalo Bills, Fred Jackson went for 114 yards against the Cowboys.

2. DeMarcus Ware

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    DeMarcus Ware had an amazing first half of the season. Ware had 13 sacks in the first seven games of the season. He had four sacks in the Week 7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Ware slowed down in the second half. He only had 5.5 sacks in the last eight games. While that's a year's total for many players, Ware fell off his first half pace considerably. His drop in production was partly due to the stinger he suffered in the loss to the Cardinals.

    Still, he ended up with 19.5 sacks, almost half of the Cowboys' 42 sacks. Also, Ware had 47 solo tackles, two pass deflections and two forced fumbles.

    He finished second in the NFL in sacks. Ware was the most consistent pass-rusher for the Cowboys, garnering 13 more sacks than the next most productive Cowboys pass rusher, and put more pressure on the quarterback than anyone else for the Cowboys.

1. Tony Romo

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    Tony Romo had one of his two best seasons as a starter.  Romo was fourth in passer rating (102.5), fifth in passing touchdowns (32), seventh in passing yards (4,184) and third in completion percentage (66.3).

    Romo was as efficient as ever.  He had his second lowest interception rate (1.9 percent), highest completion rate for a full season and had his highest passer rating by more than five points.

    Romo had his moments. He led four comeback wins, the most he's had in any season. That includes comeback wins in Weeks 2 and 3 against the San Francisco 49ers and Redskins with a broken rib. He had the blown leads against the New York Jets, Detroit Lions and New York Giants (in Week 14).

    All in all, the Cowboys wouldn't have been close without Romo. After he left the Week 16 loss to the Eagles with a bruised hand, Stephen McGee couldn't create the output to keep pace with the Eagles. Romo was much steadier than the rushing game or defense. In only three of his full games, Romo had a passer rating below 85.

    Meanwhile, the pass rush was up and down. The rushing game hinged on the health of fullback Tony Fiammetta. 

    While others flagged often, Romo was fairly consistent, which is more than most would expect.