'Boy wonders

Celebrate the Dallas Cowboys’ 22nd NFC East title with the animated cast of characters who have made America’s Team great again


The un-rookie

Dak Prescott, QB

If Tony Romo was the answer to Jerry Jones’ prayers, then what is Prescott? The next coming? Considering he came out of nowhere (fourth-round pick, 135 overall), and has the on-field maturity of a 10-season veteran, it’s not far off. His leadership, decision-making and running ability have been crucial to the offense’s success.

The hungry man

Ezekiel Elliott, RB

When the Cowboys selected Elliott with their first-round pick, some thought it was more of a luxury than a necessity. But the rookie rusher has become the MVP of the team, if not the league, by gobbling up yards on the ground with an impeccable mix of vision, speed and toughness. A former high school hurdler, it looks as if there is no obstacle (or tackler) Zeke can't jump over on his way to becoming the Cowboys' next franchise back.

Ol’ reliable

Jason Witten, TE

Remember a time when Witten wasn’t playing for the Cowboys? Yeah, we don’t either. Into his 14th season, the future Hall of Famer just quietly keeps making catches and executing blocks in his non-flashy fashion. It will definitely be a strange Sunday when No. 82 is no longer on the field for the Cowboys.

The Oh! line

LT Tyron Smith, LG Ronald Leary, C Travis Frederick, RG Zack Martin, RT Doug Free

When it comes to football, the offensive and defensive trenches is where the real dirt work gets done. When it comes to offensive lines in the NFL, the Cowboys have one of the best, providing iron-clad protection for Prescott and blowing open holes for Elliott and company.

Tackling machine

Sean Lee, LB

The defense is pretty much a no-name, blue-collar unit. But six-year veteran Sean Lee stands out for his bloodhoundlike ability to sniff out the ball and his teeth-rattling hits. Healthy all season, the Cowboys linebacker is among the league leaders in tackles. His 22 against New York were the most in franchise history.

The X-Factor

Dez Bryant, WR

While Bryant’s season has been disappointing due to injuries and a decline in on-field production, his toughness, edginess and play-making ability command attention from the opposing team's top cornerbacks. Come playoff time, expect Dez to deliver and throw up more than a few of signature X's in the end zone.

Man of stature

Cole Beasley, WR

If you had the 5-foot-8 Beasley as the Cowboys' leading receiver, then you should head to Vegas right now. Beasley’s main contribution has been the manner in which he’s receiving passes. Over two-thirds of his catches have gone for first downs, due, in part, to his tremendous separation and shiftiness.

He’s got leg

Dan Bailey, K

The Cowboys haven’t had to rely on Bailey as much this year, which is a good thing. But he’s still a rock star in the kicking world. His career field goal percentage is around 90, which is one of the best ever. He’s also been perfect on extra points, which are no sure thing any more after being moved farther back.

Mr. Versatility

Byron Jones, DB

While the pass defense is in the bottom third of the league, it’s not because of Jones. Out of necessity, Jones has moved into a hybrid DB role switching from safety to cover corner, sometimes in the same game. He’s definitely the future face of the Cowboys secondary.