Player-by-Player Report Card for the Dallas Cowboys: Offensive Edition
Pretty soon, we're going to start moving on. It's been nearly a month since the 2012 Dallas Cowboys season came to an end and in February we'll shift the focus almost entirely to the offseason, free agency and the draft. But let's take another look back at this past season by grading all of the key offensive contributors on "America's Team."
Tony Romo: B+
I can't give him a top grade because of two really bad games, one of which came with the season on the line in Week 17. Still, Romo had arguably his best season as a pro, leading five fourth-quarter comebacks and keeping Dallas in it despite a slew of injuries on both sides of the ball.
DeMarco Murray: C+
Injuries derailed his 2012 season a little bit. Still, Murray's yards-per-carry number dropped from 5.5 in 2011 to 4.1 in 2012 on just three fewer carries. The 'Boys were still much better offensively with him than without him, but 2013 could be a make-or-break season for the 24-year-old Oklahoma product.
Felix Jones: D+
Jones wasn't terrible in relief of Murray (he put together decent performances against Baltimore and Philadelphia) but he lacked consistency and also struggled to stay healthy when given a big opportunity. It's safe to conclude that he's a backup for good now.
Lawrence Vickers: C
He was actually really productive as a receiver in his first year in Dallas, but Vickers took more penalties than all but one other NFL fullback and his blocking wasn't exactly top notch.
Dez Bryant: A
He doesn't get an A+ because he made some big mistakes during the first half of the season, but Bryant broke out and became one of the most dangerous receivers in the league during the second half of his third year in the pros. He also eliminated those mental mistakes he had become infamous for making.
Dwayne Harris: B
From a productivity standpoint, Harris was right there with Miles Austin during the final seven games of the season, picking up 222 yards on 17 catches and contributing with a big special-teams touchdown to boot. There's a chance he's good enough to earn an opportunity to start in place of the overpaid Austin in 2013.
Miles Austin: B-
Cowboys fans expected more from Austin, who can't really use injuries as an excuse this time. He's paid big, big money to become a top-end weapon in this offense, but he disappears too often. He really faded in the second half and finished with six dropped passes, three of which came in the final three weeks of the year.
Cole Beasley: C+
The rookie was great against the Redskins when given a big chance in Week 12 but didn't do much else. Jury's still out.
Kevin Ogletree: C
Should Kevin Ogletree by a Cowboy in 2013?
There was a lot of excitement surrounding Ogletree after he played so well in the season opener against the Giants. Many figured he'd finally begin to deliver as this team's No. 3 receiver, but he faded quickly and couldn't become a consistently productive cog in the Dallas offense. Now they're left looking for a No. 3 wideout once again.
Jason Witten: A+
This was supposed to be the year Witten finally started to lose it, right? Dude is 30 years old now and had that ruptured spleen at the start of the year. But instead, he broke the single-season record for receptions by a tight end and was the team's most consistent player.
James Hanna: B-
Seven of his eight catches and 76 of his 86 yards came in the final four weeks of the season, which is a very good sign for a rookie sixth-round pick.
John Phillips: C
He failed to step up with Witten less than 100 percent and his blocking wasn't particularly good. I'd imagine Phillips enters the offseason as the No. 3 tight end.
Nate Livings: B
The offensive line had some serious problems in 2012, especially early on, but Livings was its most consistent performer from start to finish. Jerry Jones has taken a lot of heat for not addressing the interior offensive line in recent seasons, but the Livings acquisition was a great one.
Ryan Cook: C
The fact that Cook was signed only a few weeks before the start of the regular season tells you all you need to know about this line. He did a solid job most of the time in relief of Costa but isn't a starting-caliber center.
Tyron Smith: C+
Smith gave up too much pressure and took far too many penalties to receive a top grade. He's far from being a bust, but I expected more from the 22-year-old former No. 9 overall pick in 2012.
Phil Costa: C+
Costa couldn't stay healthy in 2012, but I'm giving him some extra credit for the fact he was pretty damn good when he did make it onto the field. It's a shame he went down with a season-ending foot injury in Week 7, because I really thought Costa was turning into a half-decent starting center. He should enter 2013 as the presumed starter, but some competition wouldn't hurt.
Jermey Parnell: D
Parnell began to sub in for the struggling Doug Free late in the year and did a poor job. Better than Free, but still not what you need from a starting tackle.
Mackenzy Bernadeau: D-
Unlike the Livings acquisition,the Bernadeau signing turned out to be a disaster. The veteran interior lineman was plagued by injuries all summer and then made mistake after mistake throughout the year. Dallas has to find a new right guard for 2013.
Doug Free: F
Free has been one of the worst starting right tackles in football for two years running. His inflated contract only makes it more painful to watch as he gets beat over and over and takes penalty after penalty. He took a league-high 15 penalties and still managed to surrender a ridiculous 51 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Dallas would be making a big mistake keeping him on the roster for next season.
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