Dallas Cowboys: 5 Most Valuable Players in First Half of the Season
The Dallas Cowboys stand at 4-4 at midseason for a reason. Certain players, such as Dan Bailey and Tony Romo, have carried the Cowboys to victory. Meanwhile, some, like Romo and Abram Elam, have been prime suspects in Cowboys losses.
This piece will focus on the players who have been most crucial in generating wins for the Cowboys. These players have made clutch plays. Some have been standards of consistency. All of them shine as leaders by example at their respective position.
Following is a list of the most valuable Cowboys players in the first half of the season.
5. Jason Witten
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While the two starting receivers for the Cowboys, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, have suffered through injuries, Jason Witten has shone as a pass catcher. Witten leads the Cowboys in receptions (44) and receiving yards (548). The second leading receiver, Bryant, is 16 receptions behind him.
That's how valuable Witten is as a target for Romo.
Witten has been a soldier this season. Against the San Francisco 49ers, Witten suffered bruised ribs. Still, Witten played very well the next week against the Washington Redskins. He caught six passes for 60 yards.
Through the first eight games, Witten stood as an emblem of consistency. In each game, Witten caught at least four passes. No one else on the team averages four receptions per game. Witten hauled in touchdown passes in four of the last five games.
Down the stretch, Witten will continue to play a large role in the passing game. With Austin injured again, Witten remains a primary target.
4. Sean Lee
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Sean Lee is a crucial part of the Cowboys' success on defense. Lee plugs gaps in the running game. He snoops on ball carriers and brings them down. Also, Lee picks up players well in coverage in the middle of the field.
Lee is a big reason why the Cowboys have been one of the best teams in the league at stopping the run. Lee snuffs out runs. Due to his strong play, the Cowboys didn't allow a rusher to run for 75 yards in the first six games.
The impact of his absence is significant. Despite Lee's absence due to injury on Sunday, the Cowboys survived. However, they still allowed Marshawn Lynch to rush for 135 yards, his highest total since his rookie season in 2007.
Lee is the second most productive defensive player for the Cowboys. He leads the team in tackles (51), interceptions (three) and fumble recoveries (two). His production will remain to stand out for the Cowboys through the remainder of the season.
3. Tony Romo
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Romo has been a bellwether player for the Cowboys this season. When Romo is on his game, the Cowboys have a good chance to win. When Romo falls off track, the Cowboys are bound to lose.
Twice Romo has led comeback victories. Against the 49ers, Romo came back from a broken rib and a punctured lung to bring the Cowboys back from a 14-point deficit. Despite the broken rib, Romo carried the Cowboys back from a nine-point deficit the next week against the Redskins.
Cowboys fans might want a chip of Romo's rib after he dies—similar to the way churches used to pursue bone chips from saints.
Meanwhile, Romo blew two of the first four games for the Cowboys. His fumble deep in New York Jets territory and interception in the last minute figured highly in Cowboys opening week loss, in which they blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead.
Romo's three interceptions against the Detroit Lions breathed life into the team, allowing the Lions to come back from a 24-point deficit.
Cowboys fans have been able to enjoy calm victories led by Romo in two of the last three games. On Sunday, Romo cruised to 279 yards passing and two touchdown passes with no interceptions.
Cowboys fans have to hope that Romo has more games like that down the stretch. A Cowboys playoff appearance won't happen if Romo doesn't have productive and clean games.
2. Dan Bailey
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One of the most valuable players for the Cowboys is one who wasn't even in Cowboys training camp. David Buehler battled three kickers for the chance for the kicking job.
Somewhere in the scuffle of meandering kickers was Dan Bailey.
Buehler came away the de facto winner in the race for the kicking job. However, the Cowboys kept Bailey for insurance.
Since Jason Garrett felt unsure what Buehler—a 75 percent kicker last year—would do, he installed Bailey as the field goal kicker. Buehler took kickoff assignments.
If Garrett has been on key in any area this year, naming Bailey the field goal kicker is definitely one of them. Bailey has been one of the best in the NFL this year. He's fourth in field goal percentage (95.2 percent), first in field goals made (20) and fifth in points (77).
Bailey has been as clutch as anyone else for the Cowboys. Twice Bailey has kicked game-winning field goals. Against the Redskins, Bailey scored all 18 Cowboys points. Already, Bailey has kicked a 51-yard field goal
Whenever the Cowboys stall in opposing territory, they can rely on Bailey to notch three points for them. Bailey will remain a high scorer for the Cowboys down the stretch.
1. DeMarcus Ware
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Bailey would be the most valuable Cowboys player to this point in the season if one player weren't incredibly ferocious.
DeMarcus Ware has been a terror to quarterbacks this season. Ware looms as a sack threat in every game. He is second in the NFL in sacks (12.5), trailing Jared Allen by only half a sack. In six of eight games, Ware gained a sack. Four times Ware picked up multiple sacks.
Both Allen and Ware are on pace to break Michael Strahan's single season sack record. Seeing who will come out with the sack title will be interesting.
Ware aids the Cowboys in shortening opponents' drives by sacking quarterbacks and rushing them to throw. His role as a backfield threat will persist through the rest of the season.