Dallas Cowboys 2011 Predictions: 4 Surprise Players Who Could Make Impact in '11
Coming off a highly disappointing 2010 season, the Cowboys will need an "all hands on deck" type performance in 2011.
There were a litany of problems last season, and they will need improvement in every aspect to get back to where they want to be.
To get to the promised land, they will need some unexpected contributions from players they aren't already leaning heavily on.
Here are four candidates to make surprise impacts for the Cowboys in 2011.
RB DeMarco Murray
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I'm not sure that if Murray had a big rookie season it could really be called a surprise. There's a reason that the Cowboys made him a high draft pick.
The Cowboys backfield is already a little crowded, though. Marion Barber is no longer with the team, but Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, two experienced backs, are still in place.
Given the way the Cowboys like to split carries, Murray will be given a shot. The hope is that he will at least replace the production Barber was giving Dallas, but he has the potential to do even more than that.
Last season at Oklahoma, Murray rushed for 1,214 yards and 15 touchdowns, leading the Sooners to a Big 12 championship and a BCS title game. If Murray brings that type of production to Dallas, the Cowboys will be flying high.
WR James Cleveland
Top receiving option Miles Austin is well-established as Tony Romo's favorite target, but the jury is still out on the No. 2 option.
The hope was that by now, Dez Bryant would have developed into a real threat. Bryant showed flashes as a rookie, but his season could be described as inconsistent.
With Bryant struggling to find his footing, it leaves the door open for other receivers to step up. James Cleveland of the Houston Cougars is a diamond in the rough waiting for his chance to shine.
Thanks to a transfer and later a suspension in his senior season, Cleveland missed significant time. When he was on the field, though, he was tough to stop.
In 2009, when he was part of a near record-setting offensive at Houston, Cleveland caught 104 passes for 1,214 yards and 14 touchdowns.
At just six feet tall, he isn't that big a target, but he plays much bigger than that. He goes up and gets the jump ball incredibly well, making him an ideal red-zone receiver.
LB Anthony Spencer
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Spencer has been a solid defender for the Cowboys. There's no doubting that. He puts up good numbers and is solid or better in most aspects of his position.
He just hasn't broken out with the numbers that many expected at the time he was drafted. His career high in sacks is six, set two seasons ago. Last season, he had another solid season with five sacks.
To be fair, teammate DeMarcus Ware spends a lot of time in opposing backfields and leaves few leftover sacks for everyone else.
Spencer has the talent to rival Ware in sack totals. He isn't as talented as Ware and I'm certainly not suggesting that Spencer will surpass Ware, but with as much attention as Ware attracts, there will be some opportunity for Spencer to shine.
LB Sean Lee
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In his limited playing time as a Cowboy thus far, Sean Lee has given their defense a little bit of everything.
Last season as a rookie, Lee collected 32 tackles, forced a fumble and intercepted two passes. He even scored a defensive touchdown last season, which made him nearly as effective a scorer as the Cowboys offense last season.
Coming from Linebacker U. at Penn State, you know Lee will be a hardworking, instinctual player who is always in the right place at the right time.
Given what the Cowboys need defensively, Lee might be in the right place at the right time with the Cowboys this season.