Lee won't be underrated for long.
The Dallas Cowboys have a roster that’s loaded with talent. Part of having a team with so many playmakers is that some guys don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Despite being one of the most underachieving franchises in recent years, Dallas has its share of underrated players.
An underrated player is someone who is taken for granted and isn’t given the credit he's due. Some of these guys may not have been around a long time and are on the cusp of emerging as a star.
Other underrated performers play well, but aren’t acknowledged in the top tier at their positions.
With that being said, here’s my list of underrated Dallas Cowboys on the 2013 roster.
Lee will be a force for years to come.
Within the Dallas Cowboys community, Sean Lee is seen as the next great NFL linebacker.
The rest of the league will have to wait to recognize his talent on the field next season.
Lee is a game-changer and the most influential defender next to DeMarcus Ware. Dallas’ defense was not what it had hoped during 2012 in large part because of Lee’s absence. He only played in six games because of a season-ending toe injury.
In his first year as a regular starter in 2011, Lee showed he’s arguably one of the best young linebackers in the NFL. The 26-year-old recorded more than 100 tackles while grabbing four interceptions.
Although the injury didn’t help, Lee isn’t regarded as one of the best linebackers in football. That will change next season when he’s sure to have a Pro Bowl year and lead an improved Dallas defense.
Hatcher will look to duplicate last season's numbers.
Unlike Lee, Jason Hatcher isn’t really identified at all. The defensive tackle is by far one of the most underrated Cowboys.
In spite of being with the team his whole career, Hatcher wasn’t seen as a quality defensive lineman until 2011 when he totaled more than four sacks.
Last season, Hatcher compiled the best stats of his seven-year career. On a depleted Cowboys defense, Hatcher acquired 51 tackles with four sacks.
The 51 tackles in 2012 were more than the two previous years combined. This was done in a 3-4 scheme where he often faced double teams.
The move back to the 4-3 defense will only help Hatcher. Next season he will build on the confidence and elite level of play he was able to produce.
Smith is the best Dallas lineman.
Tyron Smith is one of the best young talents in the entire league. Part of the reason he’s underrated is that he played on a unit that’s recognized as one of the worst.
There’s no doubt that the Cowboys offensive line was the team's weakest unit in 2012. However, Smith was the lone bright point.
Protecting the quarterback is the key to succeeding in the passer-friendly NFL. Tony Romo has spent too much time on his back the past few years to be as effective as he can.
That’s why Dallas drafted Smith with its first-round pick in 2011. After a solid rookie season at right tackle, Smith did even better in his sophomore campaign. He played the whole year at left tackle, providing the only consistent play along the line.
Smith is as youthful as they get (he’s only 22) and his ceiling is incredibly high. The Cowboys will go as far as their quarterback can take them, and Smith is the only one currently keeping Romo upright.
Carter will be great once he plays a whole season.
Bruce Carter is another Dallas linebacker that everyone in the league will respect in a short period of time. Like Lee, injuries have plagued his first couple of years and are a large part of why he’s underrated.
In only 11 games in 2012, Carter grabbed 70 tackles on a defense that had minimal playmakers remaining. He also did an outstanding job becoming the leader and play-caller with Lee injured.
Carter was a surprise to even Cowboys fans because he didn’t see any real action in his rookie year. The coaching staff was looking for someone to fill in as a consistent starter. In doing so, it may have just found the next Patrick Willis.
Carter won’t play middle linebacker only because of the potential and skill of Lee. However, the two together will make for one deadly combination for the foreseeable future.
Romo needs help from his supporting cast to be great.
I can only imagine the amount of discussion and debate this choice will generate. Tony Romo is the most underrated Dallas Cowboy.
Yes, I understand Romo only has one playoff win in his career. Yes, I’ve witnessed him “choke” in the playoffs and in numerous regular-season finales. He is, however, a very formidable NFL quarterback and has the potential to be one of the greats.
Romo gets the blame for many of the Cowboys' losses. However, he doesn’t get the recognition when they win. He’s treated unfairly simply because Cowboys fans have ridiculous expectations and will only settle for Super Bowls.
Troy Aikman delivered three of these during the 1990s, but he didn’t do it by himself. He had Emmitt Smith in the backfield, numerous weapons on the outside and one of the best offensive lines in the league.
As far as numbers are concerned, Romo’s numbers speak for themselves.
Romo’s going to become the leading passer in franchise history within the next two years and he’s never had a season with a passer rating less than 90. He also has a completion percentage a full three points higher than Aikman’s.
With the right pieces in place, Romo can lead Dallas to the Super Bowl and finally get the recognition he deserves.