Dallas Cowboys Players Who Have Been Put on Notice This Offseason
The Dallas Cowboys boast a roster with considerably talented players, but that doesn't mean there aren't those who have something to prove.
There are some who need to bounce back from mediocre 2012 performances or a recent plague of the injury bug. Others have to prove they are worth their contract or high draft pick. Here are the Cowboys' top players who are on notice heading into this season.
Injuries kept safety Matt Johnson sidelined all of 2012, and he'll need to have a stellar 2013 to stay with the team.
Johnson might have been a fourth-round selection last year, but that doesn't guarantee him a spot on the roster next year if he underwhelms.
The Eastern Washington product didn't exactly receive a vote of confidence from owner Jerry Jones earlier this offseason, either.
“I like [Barry] Church, don’t know about Johnson,” Jones said told Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram back in March.
Johnson and Barry Church were the projected starters at safety before the draft. With the selection of J.J. Wilcox in the draft, though, there will be some competition in training camp.
This is a make-or-break year for Johnson with the team. If he earns a starting job, he'll need to stand out in order to keep it. If he doesn't and just fades into the depths of the depth chart, he'll be gone by next year.
It's no secret that Jerry Jones and Jay Ratliff had their differences during the 2012 season. It's also no secret Ratliff sat out quite some time with his groin injury last year. Now he has to learn Monte Kiffin's new defense and return back to his previous Pro Bowl form.
Jones has said publicly he's confident about Ratliff's ability to play the 4-3. The owner told Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News: "He will flourish, I emphasize ‘flourish,’ in this defensive scheme. He is a natural three-technique."
Some wondered if Ratliff would be let go this offseason after his forgettable 2012 season and spat with the team owner. He's been a staple on the defensive line for years, but he needs to erase last year from the memory of the Dallas brass.
His roster spot for next year might not be in jeopardy the way Matt Johnson's is, but the Cowboys expect big things from Ratliff. He needs to live up to those expectations and be a leader on this new 4-3 defense.
The Cowboys received plenty of scrutiny after selecting Travis Frederick in the first round of the 2013 draft. Frederick now comes into the NFL with a chip on his shoulder after many have said he didn't deserve to be a first-rounder.
The Wisconsin product isn't in danger of getting cut anytime soon. That being said, he needs to show the rest of the league why Dallas thought so much of him.
Frederick doesn't need to be a Pro Bowl player his first year. He just needs to show promise of becoming an elite NFL center and keep quarterback Tony Romo upright.
Given that so many have said the Cowboys reached on picking Frederick where they did, he's under the microscope this year.
DeMarco Murray has shown flashes of brilliance in his short NFL career. He's also been hurt in each of his two career seasons.
One second Murray is rushing for over 200 yards against the St. Louis Rams, the next he's sidelined with a high ankle sprain.
It should be noted that injuries are a part of the game, and it's not like Murray is actively looking to get injured. Injuries happen, but Murray needs to do whatever possible to not be ailed by them next year.
He's shown in spurts that he can give Dallas a legitimate running game when healthy. That's something this team desperately needs after ranking 31st in the league last year.
Another season with a significant injury would have to make the Cowboys wonder about what to do with the rusher.
Tony Romo might have just received a new contract extension, but don't think he hasn't been put on notice.
Receiving a $108 million contract with $55 million guaranteed and only one career playoff win is unusual in today's NFL. The Cowboys have shown their faith in Romo in the form of his new contract. He needs to repay that faith by producing a playoff run.
Romo can't bring this team to the playoffs for the first time in three years by himself in 2013. That being said, he can't be the reason Dallas doesn't make it either.
In the 2012 battle for the NFC East title against the Redskins last season, Romo threw for just 218 yards, three interceptions and completed just 54 percent of his passes. It's hard to argue he doesn't deserve some of the blame for Dallas losing that game.
Romo has the skill and talent on offense to do his part to bring the Cowboys to the postseason this year. Failing to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season would not reflect well for Romo after his big contract this offseason.
He needs to show the NFL why the Cowboys believe so much in him and silence more of his naysayers by taking another step forward in his career.
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