Each year all thirty two NFL teams begin on the same footing. No wins, no losses and no ties. Usually they all have their minor bumps and bruises as they progress through mini and training camps. Every owner, general manager, coach and player have the same goal in mind. Super Bowl Champion. That’s right all three words have a capital letter because it is that important. Each one of those four positions have some of their own duties that are different from each of the other four or at least not the same as the other four. One duty that they all share is how to make all the pieces come together so they can achieve that one goal that they start every year with.
Each off season all players move on to another season whether it be with another team, another step in their life as they retire or maybe even stay with the same team and try to build on the blocks that have already been assembled. For those special few though that are drafted out of college to start their childhood dream of playing for an NFL team they become those mystery players that every fan wonders if they will be able to make it in the NFL. Granted some of them were so well known in college and they were drafted in the first round of the draft but there are those that fly under the radar and no one sees it coming. They end up playing a significant part on their new team. Some take a year to gather all the information before it starts to click but occasionally a team will get that difference maker. Where everything clicks the moment they put that NFL helmet on. Each team has these players but more importantly every Super Bowl Champion has these players. So I venture into the NFL statistics vault to find out who some of these players were over the last five years and who might possibly be candidates for the Dallas Cowboys in 2010 as they drive towards the six-pack of Lombardi Trophy’s.
Over the last five years each NFL champion has had one or two players that were either in their rookie season or in their second year that made a difference on their run to a Super Bowl title. They may not have even started but they may have filled a hole in the lineup due to injury or maybe they were the situational player that wasn’t on the field every down. Either way they made a difference for their team. Last year there was a player on the Saints that many may not have heard of because his name isn’t announced very often and the only time you hear his name spoken is if he makes a mistake. The Saints second year player out of Nebraska, Car Nicks, came into last season and ended up starting all sixteen games of the regular season for them. In fact he had started 29 out of thirty games for them he has given up only two sacks over his first two years and only had his name called six times over two years for penalties while he held down that left guard position and help establish a rushing game and keep Drew Brees upright. The year prior Lamarr Woodley in his second year played fifteen games for the Steelers and racked up 11.5 sacks on their way to their title. Barry Cofield was fourth round pick for the Giants and playe din 16 games for them in their drive for the trophy. The year before that the Colts had two second year corners that played in almost every game during the regular season. Marlin Jackson sealed their victory of the Patriots on their way to the Super Bowl. Kelvin Hayden took a pick back for the Colts against the Bears for a touchdown to seal the win in that game. The Steelers fifth title was highlighted by two players, Ben Roethlisberger and Max Starks, that started 14 and 10 games respectively. Roethlisberger even won the Rookie of the Year trophy the year before.
Now you may start thinking to yourself(at least I did) … Who could be that player for the Cowboys this year? Well lets just say there isnt a lack of players that has the opportunity to do it. Between last years draft and this years draft there are definitely some players with the talent and ability to step up and make the difference during this season. Kevin Ogletree is one of the fastest players on the team and he was really starting to come on at the end of last year. Dez Bryant is fresh out of college and if his production matches his hype the NFC East will be in a world of trouble for years to come. Receivers and those skill position players are easy to pick out by just the average fan. I am looking for that player that comes from no where and as the season starts to progress they start to question… Where did he come from? This is complicated by the fact that the player will need to also have an honest chance at possibly making it on to the field. So below I have listed my top five players based on those two categories mainly but with other factors added in as well.
(1) David Buehler – granted almost every Cowboys fan knows who he is but he is taking on the actually kicker position for field goals as well. They brought in Chris Boniol to help coach him up as he has never really had any formal training by a kicking coach. Boniol, who holds the record for field goals by a Cowboy, has already been with him and working through the off season. With the type of offense many are expecting the Cowboys to have he could have an outstanding year when it comes to points. They really haven’t brought in any competition for him but if he starts to stumble I am sure Jerry will have no problem finding a replacement. That is the main reason he is at the top of this list. The job is his. All he has to do know is … Aim, Plant.. and Swing!!
(2) Michael Hamlin – a fifth round pick out of Clemson a year ago. He was making some strides until he broke his arm. He didn’t do much the rest of the season as he found himself just struggling to get on the field. He makes number two because he the starter from last year is gone. This basically brings the fight for the position to come down to the winner between Alan Ball and him. He is a little bigger than Ball and if he can somehow get his hands on the starting position. He couldreally make a name for himself. Thought they did sign Barry Church out of Toledo after the draft and he could be dangerous as he is talented has nothing to lose.
(3) Sean Lee – Drafted this year in the second round there were a lot of teams that thought prior to the college season that this could have been a sure fire first round pick. He comes form Linebacker U after all. Thinking of all the linebackers that have come out of Penn State just makes me smile when I think of this kid. His only downfall is his injury history. He played like a first rounder through college but had a torn ACL his junior year. Has enough speed to play all three positions in 4-3 defense but in the 3-4 he will be able to roam as an inside backer and with Brooking getting a little long in the tooth it might not be long before we start hearing his name announced in the starting lineup.
(4) Akwasi Owusu-Ansah- though I was initially a big fan of Scandrick when we drafted him this kid has more than just the ability to step in on passing downs and display his coverage ability. He also is a pretty electrifying return man in college. Granted his dancing feet wont work well in the pros he will how ever be able to make people miss no matter how close they are to him. He could make his impact felt not only in the secondary as a nickel corner but also in the return game. If he can beat out Scandrick or even just make it as one of the defensive backs on the team they could also use him as a possible candidate at safety thought he is only 6 feet tall. I am looking forward to seeing what he can do on returns more than anything and I believe he will be an upgrade over what we have now.
(5) Victor Butler- Many already know who he is the limited spot duty he was able to play last year. He came in as a pass rushing specialist to give Spencer and Ware a breather. He ended up tying for fifth in the league for in sacks by rookies and if he is able to improve on his coverage abilities which he has been working on during the off season with Reggie Herring(linebackers coach) and Anthony Spencer he could give Spencer a run for his money and maybe give the Cowboys a depth of riches at the position. Especially with fellow 2009 draftee Brandon Williams earning lots of praise already this year at the same position during off season workouts.