Last week, I listed my top three breakout players from the 2012 season. Unfortunately, the Cowboys also had some players fail to live up to expectations this year.
3. WR Miles Austin
It’s not as if Austin was one of the three worst players for Dallas in 2012, but rather that he was again unable to capitalize on what we all know is massive potential. Austin certainly overachieved in his breakout 2009 season, but he’s still a 6’2’’, 220-pound wide receiver with elite speed and run-after-catch ability. With defenses focusing on Dez Bryant for much of the season, though, Austin was never able to break out. He hauled in only 57.4 percent of his targets and averaged only 4.6 YAC-per-reception—the lowest mark of his career.
2. NT Jay Ratliff
Ratliff’s fall from grace may have been a shock to some, but it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise for those paying attention. Defensive tackles tend to break down well before most other positions; on average, defensive tackles turn in only 70 percent of their peak production at ages 31 and 32. Ratliff, who turned 31 in 2012, didn’t even reach that with zero sacks in 269 snaps. Ratliff could be a good fit in Monte Kiffin’s defense, but not in the midst of his current $48.6 million contract.
1. RT Doug Free
Free struggled in 2011 and there have always been questions about his athleticism, but many believed switching back to right tackle would be a huge positive this season. Instead, Free turned in the worst season of his career and perhaps the worst of any player on the team in 2012. The right tackle allowed pressure twice as often as Tyron Smith did in his rookie season at right tackle. Free also committed 13 penalties—the most for any player in the NFL. There’s a good chance he isn’t in Dallas in 2013.
CB Morris Claiborne
Claiborne didn’t have a poor rookie season by any means, allowing a 69.6 percent completion rate and 9.68 YPA—numbers in line with an average NFL cornerback. As the No. 6 overall pick, however, we all had expectations of Claiborne that were through the roof, and the truth is he didn’t perform as well as the typical top 10 cornerback. The signs of a bounce-back in 2013 are there—Claiborne played really poorly in a handful of games but quite well in the others, for example—but there’s no guarantee that Claiborne will turn into the top defensive player from the 2012 class that many believed him to be.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.