Dallas Cowboys: The Top Ten Players Of The 2000s

Daniel GrossmanContributor IIDecember 3, 2010

Dallas Cowboys: The Top Ten Players Of The 2000s

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    In a Dallas decade mired in mediocrity, high expectations and plenty of letdowns, there were still players on both sides of the ball that rose above the muck.

    One playoff win isn't anything to give a standing ovation to, but these 10 players, at times, were worthy of one.

    Here are the top 10 Dallas Cowboys of the 2000s.

10: Miles Austin, WR (2006-Present)

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    Although he has only had one Pro Bowl season, Miles Austin's 2009 season gave the Cowboys a new No. 1 wide receiver.

    In Week 5 of the 2009 season, Cowboys' fans were introduced to Austin as he gained 250 yards through the air against the Kansas City Chiefs and also scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

    At age 26, combined with a six-year contract extension, Cowboys' fans can look forward to Austin making spectacular receptions for a while—he just needs to watch out for Dez Bryant in the next decade.

9: Mat McBriar, P (2003-Present)

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    The punter doesn't get a whole lot of credit. In fact, he is the universal sign of giving up in football. When the punter jogs onto the field, the fans see it as the team saying: "We were not good enough to do anything with this drive."

    But when Mat McBriar, a former Aussie Rules football player, comes on the field, Cowboy fans know that his golden leg will pin the other team deep in its own zone.

    Many worried his impressive kicks would hit the gigantic screen at the new Cowboys Stadium.

8: Roy L. Williams, SS (2002-2008)

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    Oh boy, Roy L. Williams.

    When Dallas selected Williams eighth overall in the 2002 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma, Cowboys' fans were excited that the hard-hitting safety was coming to take the reigns from the aging great Darren Woodson.

    And for a few years, it seemed that he was the answer.

    Williams' hits brought the fans out of their seats but also brought the ire of the NFL.

    The horse-collar tackle was made a penalty that was known as the "Roy Williams Rule."

    Unfortunately for Williams, injuries took him off the field, and when he was on the field, he struggled at times with coverage of receivers.

    In his time with the Cowboys, Williams was a five-time Pro Bowler.

    Williams was granted his release from the team in March 2009 and is currently with the Cincinnati Bengals.

7: Marion Barber III, RB (2005-Present)

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    If the truck stick was invented for anyone, Marion Barber could have been a target.

    He loves to put his head down—is that a good idea in football?—and power through defenses.

    Barber is a good bet to hold onto the ball as he averages only three fumbles per year since he entered the league in 2005.

    In 2009, Barber showed his toughness by playing 13 games with a torn quadriceps.

    What the future holds for Barber remains to be seen due to the three-man running back system the Cowboys' offense runs.

6: Terence Newman, CB (2003-Present)

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    Arguably the best member of the current Cowboys' secondary, which is shaky at best, Terence Newman has the ability to be one of the best corners in the game at any given time.

    In his rookie season, he tied the team record for individual interceptions in a game with three against the rival Washington Redskins.

    When 100-percent healthy, Newman is one of the most effective players on the defense.

5: Flozell Adams, T (1998-2009)

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    Not only was Flozell Adams one of the best offensive linemen in the league during his tenure with Dallas, he was one of the most frustrating.

    Adams was flagged for a false start seemingly every game and often at the worst possible time.

    But the five-time Pro Bowler can be forgiven for his miscues because of his stellar play and ability to give the quarterback—whether it was Troy Aikman, Randall Cunningham, Quincy Carter, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Bledsoe, Brad Johnson, Tony Romo or Ryan Leaf (yes, Ryan Leaf)—time to find an open receiver, although most of the quarterbacks on that list couldn't.

    Adams left the Cowboys for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010.

4: Terrell Owens, WR (2006-2008)

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    Say what you will about him, but no Cowboys' wide receiver had a better three-year span than that of Terrell Owens.

    In his three years with Dallas, Owens gained over 1,000 yards and reached double digits in touchdowns every year.

    But just like his time with San Francisco and Philadelphia, Owens talked his way out of favor in the Dallas locker room and then out of the organization all together.

    Since his release at the end of the 2008 season, Owens spent a dismal season in Buffalo. He then signed with Cincinnati to join forces with another Owens prototype, Chad Ochocinco, where Owens has found his groove again.

3: Tony Romo, QB (2003-Present)

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    With Drew Bledsoe floundering behind center, then-coach Bill Parcells put in an undrafted free agent, signed in 2003, to take the snaps against the New York Giants.

    That day in October 2006 brought on the emergence of Tony Romo.

    Since then, Romo has shown that he has the goods to be a premier quarterback in the NFL.

    Romo's stats are impressive to say the least.

    In the two seasons in which Romo started all 16 games, he cleared 4,000 yards. Since his first full year as the true starter, he has thrown at least 26 touchdowns. Romo is also a three-time Pro Bowler.

    Romo also led the Cowboys to their first playoff win since 1998. Seriously, 1998.

    Romo's 2010 season took a hit—no pun intended—when he broke his collarbone in a game against the Giants in Week 10. The injury effectively ended Romo's season.

2: DeMarcus Ware, OLB (2005-Present)

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    There may not be a more feared linebacker in the NFL than No. 94, DeMarcus Ware.

    Since he entered the league in 2005, Ware has been a constant threat to get to the quarterback. Just ask any QB that faced him in the 2008 season when Ware collected 20 sacks, a franchise record.

    In every season of his career, Ware has been in double digits in sacks and averaged 55 tackles. He's on pace to match that in the 2010 season.

    Ware's on-field presence has not gone unnoticed, as he is a four-time Pro Bowl selection and he is most likely on his way to a fifth this year.

    Ware has only missed one game in his entire career, that game coming in 2009 after he sprained his neck.

    At age 28, Ware still has plenty of sacks left to dish out.

1: Jason Witten, TE (2003-Present)

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    When it's the two-minute drill and the Cowboys need yards, Jason Witten is the go-to guy.

    Witten has been the most durable, consistent Cowboy of the decade.

    When all is said and done, Witten may go down as the best Dallas tight end ever. 

    When he gets the ball, rarely does he not gain an extra two to three yards, rarely is he stuffed at the line, and rarely does he drop the ball.

    Due to his ability and skill, Witten has become the favorite target for Romo and his stats reflect this.

    He has put up two 1,000-plus yard seasons as a tight end and he has averaged nearly 11 yards per catch throughout his career.

    He's also the toughest player on the roster. [See video]