The Dallas Cowboys were disappointing last season when they went 1-4 over the final five games of the season to finish 8-8 and missed the playoffs by a single game.
The Cowboys have now missed the playoffs for two straight years, their longest drought since in a decade, and they are just 2-7 in the playoffs since their last Super Bowl title in 1995.
Most experts agree that the Cowboys underperformed last season compared to their talent. They have a top quarterback in Tony Romo, plenty of offensive weapons and a defense run by Rob Ryan, one of the foremost defensive minds in the NFL. This is a team that should go to the playoffs.
In order to do that, the Cowboys are going to need some player to step up and really shine this season. Thankfully for the Cowboy faithful, the team has players who are capable of doing just that.
Morris Claiborne - Cornerback
The Cowboys took a big risk when they traded up to select Claiborne sixth overall. The 5'11 LSU product has incredible physical gifts but the Cowboys gave up a ton to select him. It should pay off almost immediately this season.
Claiborne was named the top defensive back in college football last season when he received the Jim Thorpe award. He grabbed 11 picks in just two seasons as a starting cornerback, but it is his versatility that makes him truly dangerous.
Claiborne is not only a defensive force, but a dangerous player in the return game. Claiborne returned kicks for LSU in his final season and could definitely help the Cowboys on special teams.
Brandon Carr - Safety
The Cowboys pourous secondary last season was one of the main reasons that the team collapsed down the stretch and Jerry Jones addressed that in the offseason. In addition to drafting Claiborne, Dallas signed Brandon Carr from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Carr started every game for the Chiefs over his four years with their organization, making 211 tackles, and picking off eight passes. Carr got his big money deal from the Cowboys after the Chiefs balked at signing him; look for him to pay the Cowboys back by helping to shut down opposing passing attacks.
Dez Bryant - Wide Reciever
Bryant has been an enigma for most of his football career. At Oklahoma State he was touted as a Heisman candidate in 2009 before an NCAA suspension for having improper contact with Deion Sanders cost him most of that season.
The Cowboys still took him in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft but he has disappointed. In two seasons he has played in 27 games, caught 108 passes for 1489 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. Those numbers are good, but not otherworldly.
But Bryant is showing flashes of finally living up to expectations. He fell just short of 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns last year despite never being truly healthy. He is poised for a breakout season and if it comes he could lead the Cowboys to a division title.
DeMarcus Ware - Linebacker
Ware us an animal. He has never missed a game in seven seasons as a linebacker for the Cowboys, and he has never had less than 10 sacks in a season, apart from the eight he grabbed as a rookie in 2005. He has 99.5 sacks in 112 games in his NFL career and the pressure he can put on opponents quarterbacks might be just the thing to help the Cowboys secondary to be a bit better.
Ware is potentially the only future Hall of Famer on the Cowboys roster right now and if they are going to make a run at the playoffs then he will have to be the catalyst on defense.
Jason Witten - Tight End
Witten is one of the most consistent players in the NFL. He has never missed a game in his nine seasons as a member of the Cowboys. But he doesn't just show up, his performances are remarkably consistent as well; he has grabbed at least 80 balls for at least 900 yards in six of his nine professional seasons.
The thing Witten doesn't do consistently is catch touchdowns. He has 41 over his career, but he has had some seasons where he just can't get into the end zone no matter what. If Romo can find a way to target him when the Cowboys are inside the 20, he will shine again and look for him to get close to 10 touchdowns.