56) Can Any Of The Young Defenders Stay On The Field?

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IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.

Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.

As we count down the days to camp, the writers of DallasCowboys.com will take a different question each day that is hovering over this team.

With 56 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on the longevity of the young defenders.

*56) Can Any Of The Young Defenders Demonstrate An Ability To Stay Healthy Long-Term?  *

Injuries decimated the defense last year, and they weren't just limiting the older veterans. 

Many of the injured players were rookies or young defenders still trying to make names for themselves. Former No. 56 Bradie James was a mainstay at linebacker for the Cowboys, playing from 2003-11 and suiting up for every game his final eight seasons in Dallas.

The current No. 56, Caleb McSurdy, missed last season after hurting his Achilles in the preseason. After securing a safety spot, Barry Church also missed the majority of the year with an Achilles injury. Staying at safety, hamstring injuries limited Matt Johnson all season and stopped him from playing a snap in the regular season.

At linebacker, Lee missed more than half the year because of his toe injury and Bruce Carter missed the end of the season with an elbow injury. Morris Claiborne missed most of the offseason with a wrist injury and hurt his knee in training camp.

All of those players are at the beginning of their NFL careers, and the Cowboys will need many of them to become mainstays at their respective positions. Their health and longevity could determine how this defense performs in the future and will have to be taken into account when they get their second contracts.

Injuries will happen from time to time, but they specifically burdened the young defenders. Each of those players enters this season healthy once again with a chance to demonstrate they can stay on the field.

Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 56:

  • In addition to James, linebacker Randall Godfrey also wore the No. 56 and stayed on the field, suiting up for all 16 games in each of his four seasons in Dallas. Eugene Lockhart, Thomas Henderson, Tom Stincic and Harold Hays all wore the number for at least three seasons with the Cowboys.
  • Tight end Todd Christensen was the No. 56 overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft and the only player the Cowboys drafted at that spot to make a Pro Bowl. Tony Dixon was also selected 56th overall and played four seasons in Dallas.
  • Danny Villanueva holds the Cowboys' record for most point after attempts made without a miss on the season, finishing with 56 in 1966.
  • DeMarcus Ware finished with 56 combined tackles last season, according to coaches' film. He still had 11.5 sacks, but that tackle total was the lowest of his career. If not for injuries late in the season, that number would have likely been considerably higher. 
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