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Ellis: Five Players Who Actually Did Get Better

Get better, get better, get better. All. Season. Long. Get better as the year goes on.

Everyday it's all we heard from Jason Garrett, Tony Romo, this guy, that guy. Just about everyone in the locker room took it up as a personal motto, or default answer to questions from reporters.

And yet the Cowboys went from 7-4, leaders of the NFC East after Thanksgiving, to 8-8 and out of the playoffs because of a 1-4 finish to the season. The team did not *get better.

*Some guys did, though. Here are the five who improved their play most as the year went along.

QB Tony Romo- Long derided as a guy who falls apart in big games late in the season, he was actually at his worst in September and early October. He had the awful finish at the Jets in the opener and facilitated the collapse against Detroit in Week 4. But as he got healthy, his play improved, and he cut out the turnovers that had been a problem. In those last five games, his rating was a superb 115.9.

WR Laurent Robinson -The deeper into the season the Cowboys got, the more Robinson was depended upon offensively. An under-the-radar pickup who was actually released then brought back, he quickly picked up the offense and gained more of Romo's trust each week.

RT Tyron Smith -The Cowboys expected growing pains for their first-round pick, and he did experience his share, though mainly at the beginning of the season. Just 20 years old for most of the year, his pass protection continued to improve, and he cut down on the penalties. Smith committed four fouls in the first five games of the year, and just four more in the remaining 11.

DL Sean Lissemore -Used only sparingly as a rotational player during the early going, Jay Ratliff's injury situation put the 2010 seventh-round pick on the field much more down the stretch. He played both end and nose tackle, and managed to be productive with the reps he received, registering two sacks in December and a season-high six tackles against Philadelphia in Week 16.

LB Bruce Carter -Due to a knee injury suffered in November of 2010, Carter was on the PUP list the first six games of the year, but became active against the Eagles in Week 8, playing on special teams. As he continued to gain trust in the knee he started flashing more and more on special teams, even blocking a punt against Philadelphia, and by the must-win game in Week 17, had earned enough trust from coaches to register a lot of defensive snaps.

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