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Top 4 Most Crucial Players on the Cowboys in 2013

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At DallasCowboys.com, I put forth my top four most crucial (non-Romo) players in 2013.

Just Missed the Cut

  • Sean Lee/Bruce Carter: Lee and Carter are obviously talented, but the linebacker position isn’t of extreme importance relative to positions like defensive end and cornerback. Further, I think the Cowboys have decent depth with players like Justin DurantAlex Albright andErnie Sims.
  • Anthony Spencer: The Cowboys will undoubtedly have a rough time if either starting pass-rusher goes down, but Spencer’s production (certainly his ceiling production) is at least theoretically replaceable, whereas Ware’s probably isn’t.
  • DeMarco Murray: I do indeed think there’s a big talent gap between Murray and rookieJoseph Randle; a quick look at their weight-to-speed ratios will confirm that. However, running back is such a dependent position that Murray’s value, and that for any running back, is minimal. Murray will go as the offensive line goes.
  • Jason Witten: Some of you have asked how I can possibly claim that Witten’s play has been declining for years. This is how:

Now with two viable replacements, Witten’s importance, while still great, isn’t as monumental as it once was.

The Top 4

4. CB Morris Claiborne/Brandon Carr

Claiborne and Carr average 5-11 ½, 201 pounds – excellent size for cornerbacks. They both checked in as low-end No. 1 cornerbacks in 2012 by allowing an average of 1.19 yards per snap that they were in coverage.

The Cowboys have two talented cornerbacks sitting behind Claiborne and Carr in Orlando Scandrick and B.W. Webb, but their mean size is 5-10, 185 pounds, quite a difference. Scandrick and Webb could both theoretically play outside, but they’re certainly smaller than ideal, especially in Monte Kiffin’s scheme.

Plus, since defenses basically use nickel personnel as their base these days, a Claiborne or Carr injury would affect two starting positions, forcing Scandrick outside and a fourth-round rookie into the nickel spot.

3. DE DeMarcus Ware

You knew Ware would be on this list, it’s just a matter of how high. I resisted placing him higher because, entering his age 31 season, Ware is reaching the age when many pass-rushers see a steep decline in play. Much of Ware’s 2012 “struggles” can be attributed to injuries, but that’s also a part of aging; as players get older, their chances of injuring themselves increase.

Nonetheless, Ware offers a pass-rush threat the Cowboys simply don’t have elsewhere. He draws attention and forces defenses to game plan to stop him, opening things up for the rest of the line.

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