While I feel like this team as it stands now is certainly capable of a 10-6 season and a playoff win, the unfortunate reality is that there will certainly be games where we are not at full-strength. Guys go down every year. It happens. There are a lot of spots on this team I feel good about. There are others I do not feel good about. Here is my own personal look through the roster at which guys will be critical to our team's chances this season.
Let's start on offense.
QB Tony Romo. Indispensable rating: 9.5/10
Jon Kitna is not a great QB, but he can at least be expected to fill-in for Romo if necessary. The offense will take a hit of course, but I feel we are built much better this year to absorb a Romo injury than last year. This is not entirely to do with Kitna being the backup instead of Johnson, but that's certainly a big part of it.. I think our offense is more versatile this year, really. If we need to grind it out, we are more capable of that this season. If we need to throw deep, well, Kitna actually can do that, unlike Brad Johnson. We are more capable of being a spread-the-wealth offense this year, and I think that helps if Romo goes down. I still think we're probably 5-11 or so if he pulls a Brady in Week 1, but last season we might've gone 1-15 if Romo pulled a Brady. 9.5/10 may seem high given all of those reasons, but let's not forget that we'd be without a top 5-7 NFL QB. That's a big deal.
RB Marion Barber. Indispensable rating: 3/10
RB Felix Jones. Indispensable rating: 7/10
I love our RB depth with Choice, but he is much more suited to fill-in for Barber than for Felix. Felix is our only proven big-play threat, and he's really only semi-proven at this point. Losing him would be devastating (almost as bad as losing Romo). Barber is great, but do you really think Barber would've done that much better than Choice did if he started the last 4 games of 2008? I don't think he would've been THAT much better. Therefore, we could live without him for a few weeks if we had to.
TE Jason Witten. Indispensable rating: 7/10
TE Martellus Bennett. Indispensable rating: 3/10
Witten is very crucial to our offense, and I feel that no matter how good Martellus Bennett may become, he will never be as keyed-in with Romo as Witten is. Witten and Romo just GET each other mentally. I also feel that MartyB would be less effective without Witten being on the field at the same time. Therefore, Witten is pretty important, but if he missed a couple games I think we could manage with MartyB and John Phillips. If MartyB went down, we'd just roll 2007-style with Witten and Fasano (John Phillips). Wouldn't be the end of the world, even though I like what Bennett adds.
WR Roy Williams. Indispensable rating: 5/10
WR Patrick Crayton. Indispensable rating: 2/10
WR Sam Hurd. Indispensable rating: 1/10
WR Miles Austin. Indispensable rating: 1.5/10
If Roy goes down, we have some guys who I think can fill in. It will be tough, but not impossible to overcome. If Roy AND someone else goes down at the same time though, that would be very, very bad. 1 injured WR at a time (if any at all) this year, please. Crayton is very consistent, so I think losing him would drop our consistency a bit. Crayton is also consistent on the PR game as well, which is good. Hurd and Austin are capable fill-ins, but are not as dependable on the field. Austin gets a slightly higher rating than Hurd simply because he's a speed guy.
LT Flozell Adams. Indispensable rating: 4/10
LG Kyle Kosier. Indispensable rating: 5/10
C Andre Gurode. Indispensable rating: 6/10
RG Leonard Davis. Indispensable rating: 6/10
RT Marc Colombo. Indispensable rating: 3/10
I really like Doug Free, and I think he would be fine at LT or RT if he had to come in. Holland is ok at guard, and Davis is more valuable than Kosier, so that's how I got those guys' ratings. I'd be more confident in Free at LT (a harder and more valuable position) than Holland at either Guard. Gurode seems pretty valuable because I know it's either Procter or Preston behind him, and that is very scary. Gurode is not as good as Davis in my opinion but his backups are worse. Colombo is a good RT, I like him, but I think he can be replaced easiest out of all 5 guys.
FB Deon Anderson. Indispensable rating: .5/10
Julius Crosslin played well in my opinion, and we have his rights since he's on the practice squad. I think he would be a very good fill-in. And let's not forget that we can always resort to John Phillips if Anderson leaves early in a game. Anderson is not that impressive to me anyways. He might be missed on special teams though. I had this at 0/10 before I remembered special teams.
DE Igor Olshansky. Indispensable rating: 3/10
DE Marcus Spears. Indispensable rating: 3/10
I like our depth at DE with Hatcher and Bowen. I think both of those guys are capable backups. That said, Olshansky and Spears are good players, so they would still be missed somewhat.
NT Jay Ratliff. Indispensable rating: 10/10
Losing Ratliff would be one of those "nightmare scenarios" for me. Siavii is still very up-in-the-air as far as quality goes, and behind him we have nothing. If Ratliff went down, that would mean one of our DEs is now a backup NT/reliever for Siavii. Ratliff is such a beast and without him I think we are very bad against the run. He also is great in pass rush. What a beast. Please don't get hurt! If Ratliff tears his ACL Week 1, I say we miss the playoffs.
OLB DeMarcus Ware. Indispensable rating: 10/10
ILB Bradie James. Indispensable rating: 9/10
ILB Keith Brooking. Indispensable rating: 9/10
OLB Anthony Spencer. Indispensable rating: 9/10
Our LB depth is frightening. I would not be comfortable starting anyone beyond these front four guys. Carpenter could be ok as a starter, but his run support worries me still. I like him as a Nickel coverage/blitz LB, but on run downs I would be very worried. Losing one of these four guys for the season would almost certainly knock us out of Playoff contention in my opinion, and if Ware was that guy, it would definitely do so.
CB Terence Newman. Indispensable rating: 7.5/10
CB Mike Jenkins. Indispensable rating: 6/10
CB Orlando Scandrick. Indispensable rating: 6.5/10
I like our 3 starting corners (yes, 3). I really like them. That said, I don't think Alan Ball is the end of the world if he has to be the 3rd guy. Good depth here, but like at WR, we better hope injuries come one at a time here. Losing two guys at once would be pretty devastating.
SS Gerald Sensabaugh. Indispensable rating: 4.5/10
FS Ken Hamlin. Indispensable rating: 4.5/10
I find these guys tough to rate, so I'm not sure how accurate these are. Sensabaugh seems pretty good to me. Not great, but good. Hamlin is definitely a better player. That said, I think Scandrick could play FS in a pinch fairly well. FS is also a less-important position in my opinion. I think you can pretty much just gameplan with telling a guy to just keep everything in front of him and not worry about the run at all if you had to. SS is a tougher fill-in, as you have run responsibilities as well as coverage (not saying that FS doesn't have run responsibility, just that you can diminish those a lot easier in my opinion if necessary). Pat Watkins is an ok backup at SS so I guess I'll just stick with 4.5 for each.
K Nick Folk. Indispensable rating: 3/10
K David Buehler. Indispensable rating: 3/10
I think both guys are equally valuable at this point. Buehler will help a ton in field position which is VERY important, but if I had a 52-yarder in OT I want kicked, I'd be worried with him. Folk I trust. Both have fairly equal roles in my opinion, and both are fairly important roles, so I guess 3/10 seems fair.
P Matt McBriar. Indispensable rating: 2.5/10
I guess I'm in the minority amongst Cowboys fans in the fact that while I think McBriar is a good punter, I don't think he's a fantastic punter. I didn't think Sam Paulescu was that big of a difference last season. I know a lot of people totally trashed Paulescu, but I just didn't see it. Maybe I'm missing something. I'm sure multiple people will tell me I am definitely missing something in the comments.
Overall, I like our depth aside from at LB and NT. Those spots really worry me. Romo is a beast and if he goes down that's a problem, regardless of our backup QB (unless we somehow signed Peyton, Brady, Brees, or Rivers as a backup). This is not a perfect list so feel free to poke holes in the ratings, although I do think the commentary is pretty accurate. Putting the actual numbers was difficult at times though. Hopefully we have a healthy team that makes a good playoff run. I would hate to have another offseason of thinking "if only *insert vital player* didn't go down, we would've made the playoffs and won a playoff game!" Good luck to all the player health and I can't wait to see this team live Week 1 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa!