IRVING, Texas - So it’s a rare Wednesday off around here. It’s been almost a week since the last game and there are still five days before the next one.
So I thought I’d have some fun and create my own top-10 list. Everyone loves to rank things, especially players. When you try to determine worth and importance of football players, it’s always a healthy debate because players are asked to do so many different things.
The value of a defensive end compared to a tight end or even a kicker is always up for discussion.
So I thought I’d share my top-10 Cowboys of this season so far. And my criteria centered on value, not exactly the 10 best players overall. If it were, Witten and Ware would be 1-2 in some order.
But this is about value to the team.
So here’s my 10 Most Valuable Players of the Cowboys’ 2013 season so far. And like always, let’s start with some honorable mentions:
Tyron Smith – Some people might have had him a lot higher, possibly even top 5. And he’s probably getting there quickly. But I do remember him sitting out last year’s game on Thanksgiving and he wasn’t missed. He’s improved his play and protects Romo’s blind side.
Barry Church – In a secondary so banged up, he’s been a steady force back there. He’s probably the best tackler on the team and he’s got a knack for making plays.
Brandon Carr – It’s hard to ignore the Lions game. While not many players could hang with Calvin Johnson, Carr’s performance in that game makes it tough to list him here. But he’s had some big interceptions, too, in clutch moments.
10. DeMarco Murray – We’ve seen this team without him and it’s not always a good thing. While Murray isn’t a star back, he is the best option on the goal line, short-yardage, out of the backfield and in blitz pick-up. Since returning from his injury, he’s added a spark, and don’t look now, but with four games to go and needing 303 yards, he’s got a shot to break the Cowboys’ drought of 1,000-yard rushers.
9. Dwayne Harris– You wouldn’t have thought the fourth or fifth receiver would make this list, but Harris’ value isn’t about offense. He’s one of the better punt returners in the NFL, and he’s also become a stellar cover man in the kicking game, too. Last week he was missed in a variety of ways. His toughness also rubs off on the rest of the players.
8. Dan Bailey – Games come down to the end seemingly every week. What a luxury the Cowboys have knowing how steady Bailey is, regardless of range. He’s 19 of 21 this year. While the Cowboys could get other kickers, it’s unlikely they would provide the stability Bailey has in the last three years.
7. Jason Witten – It’s pretty low on this list for one of the Cowboys’ all-time greats. But in terms of Witten, we’ve seen the Cowboys win some games this year without major production from him. Overall, his versatility and presence alone have value. His six TDs a have been a big addition to his game this year.
6. Sean Lee – He’d be higher on the list had the Cowboys not gone 2-0 without him. But the run defense struggled in the first two games without Lee out there. Ernie Sims is not Sean Lee, who provides awareness, tackling and the ability to shed blocks. He also leads the team in interceptions. In terms of being the quarterback of the defense, Lee has unquestionable value for this team.
5. Orlando Scandrick – He’s been as good as anyone on this team and has certainly been the most surprising. Often ridiculed for his play in the slot, Scandrick has been able to showcase his skills more this year playing on the outside. He’s gritty, scrappy and also very smart about his assignments. He shut down Victor Cruz last week and has been playing at the highest of levels since training camp. With Claiborne’s struggles, Scandrick’s play has been a blessing for this defense.
4. DeMarcus Ware – He’s still No. 94. No, he doesn’t have the sack totals he’s accustomed to and the injuries are piling up more and more, but Ware’s presence alone has value. Getting him back from the quad injury has helped this defense tremendously. He’s going to have to get going to make double-digits, but he’ll have a few more huge plays this year that will carry this defense.
3. Jason Hatcher – There’s no doubt he benefits somewhat from Ware’s play on the outside. But, I think Ware could be benefitting from Hatcher’s performance, too. There isn’t a more productive defensive tackle in the NFL right now. Not only is Hatcher destined for the Pro Bowl, but maybe even All-Pro status as well. Without him in New Orleans, the Cowboys were completely embarrassed up front.
2. Tony Romo– This one was probably my biggest debate. I’ve said this for so long that Romo and the passing game is the best thing the Cowboys do, and of course, it all goes through him. But because Kyle Orton has won a few games in this league, I had to put Romo second behind Dez. The reason? If Romo went down, the Cowboys would still have somewhat of a chance because Orton would have Bryant to lean on. If Dez went down, I don’t know if I like the current receiving corps of Miles Austin, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Harris. Romo is the guy who has to perform, but in terms of value, he’s a very close second here.
1. Dez Bryant – And this is more than just his play at receiver. Dez Bryant has an attitude and it’s one that carries over to the rest of the team. He’s feisty. He’s intense. He’s emotional. But he’s also a great football player who loves to play. And there’s no doubt the rest of the team has taken notice. As a receiver, Dez has his moments of beastliness. He makes plays that you sit there and say, “Wow, Dez is just better than you.” And that happens a lot. Sure, he’s got some fumbling issues lately and maybe a few route-running problems, but Dez Bryant is the most talented player on the Cowboys and he has proven he can electrify the team and crowd at any moment. I always say, if you have the best player on the field, you always have a chance. For the most part this year, Dez has been that guy, and seemingly enough, the Cowboys usually have a chance. They didn’t have one in New Orleans, and yet Dez had just two targets. Give him a chance and I think the Cowboys always have a chance to win.