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Phillips: 10 Cowboys (Not Named Zeke Or Dak) Contributing To This 5-1 Start

FRISCO, Texas – There's a reason Dak Prescott made the cover of Sports Illustrated five games into his NFL career.

There's a reason Ezekiel Elliott is answering questions about Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record.

Both rookies are the talk of Dallas right now, and for good reason. In leading the Cowboys to the top of the NFC East, they've also played their way into the national conversation.

Yet so many of their teammates have also filled important roles during this 5-1 start: rookies, former starters, players returning from injury, players changing positions, starters overcoming early-season adversity.

Here are 10 of many who deserve recognition:

DT Terrell McClain: Was anyone talking about McClain this past offseason when dissecting the defensive line rotation? Not really, and that was a mistake. Toe surgery sidelined McClain for the final 14 games last year, but he played a pivotal role in the 2014 rotation. Now healthy, he arguably has been the line's most consistent player.

S J.J. Wilcox:He lost his starting job at free safety to Byron Jones, and some thought he'd be on the roster bubble when the team drafted Kavon Frazier in the sixth round. Instead, the coaches have made an effort to work Wilcox into the rotation, and he has responded with sure tackling and solid plays on the football, including a key third-down pass breakup against the 49ers.

OT Chaz Green:The 2015 third-round pick missed most of his rookie season following hip surgery and had some challenges at left and right tackle in training camp. But the extra reps in preseason, while Tyron Smith sat with a stinger, made Green better and it showed in the two regular-season starts he made in place of Smith. Green has missed the last two games with a foot injury but he's getting healthy.

FB Keith Smith: The Cowboys have always wanted to find a full-time spot for him on the roster because of his special teams ability. For two years, he tried to stick around at his natural position: linebacker. Now it appears he's found a home as the lead blocker for Elliott. Watch some of his blocks in short yardage and near the goal line. Zeke deserves credit for his terrific start, but Smith is creating space with athleticism and a linebacker's mentality.

TE Geoff Swaim: The last of eight 2015 draft picks played only two percent of the team's total offensive snaps last season. Swaim reported for training camp as a much-improved receiver, but he's also been a sturdy blocker for the running game in James Hanna's absence.

G Ronald Leary: He lost his left guard spot to La'el Collins last year and, wanting a starting opportunity, he didn't report to the voluntary portions of the offseason program. Many assumed he'd be traded at some point. The Cowboys refused to deal away quality depth, and it's one of the best decisions they've made. Leary has been outstanding at left guard with Collins (toe) on injured reserve since early October.

DT Maliek Collins: Jerry Jones predicted on draft weekend that Collins could be a "cornerstone" player. Then the rookie defensive tackle broke his foot a month later and didn't return to practice until the final week of training camp. (Remember, DeMarcus Lawrence broke his foot at the start of his first training camp and spent most of his rookie season getting acclimated to NFL football.) Collins became a starter by the third game, and his development has allowed the Cowboys to move Tyrone Crawford outside to help shore up the left defensive end spot.

CB Anthony Brown: The sixth-round pick had never played the slot until training camp. The Cowboys have missed Orlando Scandrick's experience, but Brown hasn't hurt the defense in that role the last four games. He's technique-sound and competitive.

DE David Irving: If he can just force three fumbles and bat down one critical third-down pass per game…kidding. Those are Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan expectations. But Irving is a unique player; at 6-foot-7, he can get his hands in passing lanes and play multiple positions on the line. He was a difference-maker in 19 snaps against the Packers.

WR Terrance Williams: The only offensive starter on this list had a painful start to the season. He got ripped on social media for staying in bounds as time ran out on the Cowboys in a Week 1 loss to the Giants. He didn't catch a pass in Week 2 against the Redskins. Since then, he has led all Cowboys receivers with 277 yards and, along with Brice Butler, has been winning routes on the outside while Dez Bryant has been sidelined.

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