After each game for the last few years, I’ve tried to pinpoint a handful of players that might not be the most memorable highlight, but somehow played a big role in deciding the outcome.
Now, throughout the game and definitely afterwards, I’ll get emails and tweets from fans suggesting certain plays and making sure I didn’t forget this or that. I’ll admit there have been times that I’ve used that advice to help write the story.
Well today, I figured I’d use that concept with players. The Cowboys are on quite a roll here, winning three straight games and five of six. Over that span, obviously Dez Bryant, Tony Romo, Brandon Carr and DeMarco Murray have been the catalysts’.
But I thought I’d pick out five under the radar guys who don’t get the same attention, but their play here of late has definitely provided a huge spark as well.
Here are my five players not to forget about here in the last few weeks.
Alex Albright – This guy just keeps standing out each week to me. For starters, he’s got great size for a defensive player. At 6-5, 260, he has the look of a 3-4 outside linebacker and even played defensive end in college. But he’s versatile enough to play inside linebacker, too. The Cowboys might have to call on him this week depending on Ernie Sims’ status. But Albright can literally play all four linebacker positions and with the injuries they’ve had at that position, his presence has been huge.
Sterling Moore – This guy was on the Patriots’ practice squad three weeks ago. Not only has he played three games for the Cowboys now, but he’s playing a huge role, especially last week when Morris Claiborne was out. He literally showed up at the Cowboys’ complex on Friday and was in uniform Sunday against the Eagles. Last week, he’s playing on the outside corner with the game on the line against the Steelers. He plays cornerback but has safety experience. I think the Cowboys got a steal in this guy, who has actually played in a Super Bowl, too. I can see him being a key player for this defense beyond this year.
Dwayne Harris – Each and every week he’s doing something to get noticed. It really started against the Falcons back on Nov. 4 with a big punt return, but the Nov. 11 punt return against the Eagles to give the Cowboys the lead might have changed this entire season. He’s starting to make some plays in the passing game and had another momentum-swinging return against the Steelers on Sunday. He’s pretty close to solidifying himself as the No. 3 receiver if he hasn’t already.
Lawrence Vickers – Needless to say, the running game has improved in the last few weeks and the biggest reason has to be DeMarco Murray’s return. Vickers has been in the lineup all season and just now is it starting to turn around. But Vickers has also played a role in this. He’s had some key blocks in short-yardage situations, including his diving jolt against the Bengals that helped Murray fly over the top to score. Where Vickers has seemingly made the biggest impression is in the passing game, where he’s starting to be a safety valve for Romo in the flat. Vickers also brings that attitude and toughness. The Cowboys seem like they’re starting to play with that type of swagger.
Sean Lissemore – Ok, so he’s probably the least under-the-radar player on this list. And now with Josh Brent’s situation and Jay Ratliff’s injury, Lissemore has been asked to step up in a starting role. But he just quietly goes about his business. His sack on Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter Sunday was a huge play to change the momentum.
Honorable Mentions: I had a hard time leaving James Hanna off this list, especially after a nice game Sunday. More and more we’re seeing him work into the No. 2 role. His speed is becoming a mismatch against certain defenses. Cole Beasley has also made a difference here lately, especially on third-and-short passing plays. You can tell Tony Romo is looking for him now. Safety Eric Frampton is also showing up more on defense and continues to be a steady player on special teams. Again, Frampton is another player signed off the street in midseason.