We all know that the next five weeks will be an extended job interview for Jason Garrett. What we don't know for sure is which of his players will also be under the microscope as the team plays out the string and starts making plans for the 2011 season.
We've got some ideas on that front, although let's take a moment to explain the methodology. Salaries aren't going to be part of the discussion because the lack of a labor deal makes it impossible to really analyze the financial side of the ball at this point in time. That means there's no point in bringing up Marion Barber as the main reasons for releasing him -- his ineffectiveness and the fact that he's not guaranteed any more money -- means that the next five games can't do anything to change his status.
Same goes for any individual member of the offensive line. We know that there are going to be changes and we know that there should be changes to that unit. Five more games can't make Kyle Kosier seem more durable nor can they make Marc Colombo more athletic. Those guys have made their cases over a long period of time.
The three guys we're choosing are players who need to show something that reminds us why the Cowboys should be counting on them for next season. They've all provided doubt about their ability to contribute over the long term, but all of them still have a chance to quiet that doubt with strong performances down the stretch.
Martellus Bennett - We're still waiting for Marty B to show that his physical gifts can actually translate into something beneficial to the offense on a regular basis. Jason Witten seems to be slowing down a bit physically and the Cowboys will need to know if Bennett is ever going to be the weapon that hype has deemed him to be over the years. It will take a lot to get him off the roster, although it will be easier John Phillips is healthy enough to push him next year, but without some kind of sign it will take even more to believe he's ever going to be more than a spare part.
David Buehler - You can live without your second tight end being a major threat in the passing game, but you can't live with a kicker who only occasionally makes easy field goals. Buehler needs to be lights out the rest of the way on those kicks, and he needs to get back to knocking the ball into the end zone on kickoffs. There are guys out there who can do those things and the mere fact that Buehler is a freakish athlete for a kicker isn't enough to keep him in the job.
Terence Newman - From the Pro Bowl in 2009 to the bubble in 2010? A pretty steep drop, but it illustrates just how important it is that the Cowboys have to bring a critical eye to their player evaluations this offseason. Newman simply hasn't been good enough this year and his inability to make it through entire games without getting hurt has to factor into their decision more than the fact that he's been very good in the past. The Cowboys have to turn a page and sometimes that means making difficult calls about well-liked players.
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