Predicting Award Winners for the Dallas Cowboys' 2012 Season
For the past few years, the Dallas Cowboys have been labeled as one of the most talented teams in the National Football League. They have a statistical heavyweight in quarterback Tony Romo, two great wide receivers in Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and a defensive sack machine with DeMarcus Ware.
So to pick from a list of players with this type of talent and skill is a little tough.
While there was a grand amount of hyperbole to begin this piece, the Cowboys really do have talent and each player that was previously mentioned should have a great chance at winning a number of awards.
But for now, we'll just stick with team awards.
Here is a list players who I believe will win a few offensive and defensive awards in 2012.
Most Valuable Player: Tony Romo
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We are officially living in the pass-heavy, quarterback dominated era in the NFL. Passing records are broken every single season and quarterbacks routinely throw for 4,000-plus yards.
Romo has one of the best arms in the league and he should have another record year in 2012.
As far as most valuable players go, the offense runs through Romo. The ball is in his hands for every offensive possession, and he controls the flow of the offense.
Romo threw 31 touchdowns last season, and Dallas has no one else on their roster who can impact the offense in such a manner.
Because he is the most important offensive player for Dallas and will have the largest impact on their season, he will be the team's MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year: Dez Bryant
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Outside of Romo, Bryant should have the biggest impact on the team's offense next season. He's maturing on the field, learning more of the offense and should give the team greater options in the passing game in 2012.
But his largest contribution will be the threat of his presence for the opposition. Bryant disappeared in the second half of plenty of games in 2011, and we shouldn't see the same from him this season.
I fully expect Bryant to get his first 1,000-yard season and to take on the role of top receiver.
In fact, I predict that Bryant will turn into the NFC East's best receiving threat in 2012.
Defensive Player of the Year: Sean Lee
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DeMarcus Ware has been the pulse of the Cowboys defense for the past several seasons. He is the premier pass rusher in the NFC and will continue to serve in that role for the foreseeable future.
But Lee is quickly becoming a leader on defense. He led the team in tackles and interceptions last season and is still growing.
2012 will be his third season in the league and his second under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. I emphasize growth with him because he still hasn't fully matured with Ryan.
Lee will lead the team in tackles—and hopefully not interceptions again—and should have a very significant number of impact plays this season.
He is the future defensive leader of the team and 2012 will be a true breakout year for Lee.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Danny Coale
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This one is tough because I really believe that Coale will turn into Dallas' starting slot receiver. It may not be this year but Coale has all the talent and skill to do so. It's just a matter of him learning the offense and earning Romo's trust that will determine his playing time on the field.
This decision is was a tough one because of rookie tight end James Hanna, another deserving candidate for the team's Rookie of the Year award. I am truly in love with Hanna's ability and potential, and I cannot wait to see how he performs on the field. He does have inconsistent hands but he can split wide or be used solely as a tight end. His blocking ability concerns me, but I believe he's more of a pass catching tight end. Once Hanna fully develops he should push for Witten's starting job. By that point, Witten should be ready to ride off into the sunset.
At any rate, once we see how Coale fits into the offense then we can truly judge just how large of an impact he'll have.
Danny Coale will be the team's Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kyle Wilber
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Morris Claiborne will have a great impact for Dallas in 2012. He is an upgrade over what the Cowboys were working with at the cornerback position in 2011, and his talent should cover of many of the rookie mistakes that he'll make this season.
But the rookie who will make the biggest impact on the Cowboys defense this season is linebacker Kyle Wilber, who was drafted in the fourth round of last April's draft. I believe he'll grow pretty quickly in Ryan's defense, and he should record at least six or seven sacks this season.
He recently had a couple of pins removed from his index finger, but he should be ready to go by training camp. His hands will be important because he may be used in coverage situations.
If he lives up to his potential, his ability to rush the passer will be a major upgrade to the Cowboys defense.
Most Improved Player: Anthony Spencer
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Here is the quick and dirty: Spencer wants a long-term contract and needs to play like he means it in 2012.
If he does, then we should see a great upgrade over his play in 2011.
Spencer was franchise tagged this season, and if wants to re-sign with the Cowboys or receive a lucrative long-term deal with another team, then 2012 needs to be a career year for him. He can secure his financial future and a position with the team with a big year.
Most Hated Player: Tony Romo
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Here is a very false award but a very real one in the eyes of many fans. Hate is such a strong word, but it be apropos in this case.
Who is the player that Cowboys fans love to hate but the team just can't seem to rid themselves of? Answer: Tony Romo.
I love Romo and believe the Cowboys are much better with him than without him. He is the team's best offensive option, and he has done everything in his power to take the Cowboys to the next level.
But if Romo has an errant throw that results in a game ending turnover or if he makes a mistake, then he will face the full force of Cowboy Nation anger. (See the Jets game that opened the 2011 season and the Lions game from last year for example.)
To be clear, Dallas cannot do much better than a player like Romo at the quarterback position.
At any rate, Romo is probably the team's best talent while also being its most hated player.
Most Loved Player: DeMarcus Ware/Jason Witten
These two players are loved immensely by Cowboys fans. Witten and Ware can do no wrong in the eyes of many, as they have been so good for so long and have both performed at a very high level for almost a decade.
If Witten drops a pass, there is a collective gasp instead of a unanimous response of expletives hurled at the television screen.
Ware routinely drops opposing quarterbacks, but if he misses an assignment or a tackle, fans have enough faith and trust in him to know that he'll make up for it.
I enjoy watching these two men perform because they are professionals and take pride in their play on the field.
If there was such an award for most beloved players, Witten and Ware would be at the top of the list.