Last year I penned a FanPost entitled "Show-me" players for 2010. The premise was picking out players on the Cowboys roster who needed to "show-me" they belonged on one of the premier franchises in the NFL.
There are several show-me players on the roster again this year, but first let's take a look back before looking forward.
As a reminder, a player can be a show-me player for a multitude of reasons, he may be coming off an injury, a young player who needs to step up, a player in the final year of his contract or a player who has underperformed.
Of the 14 players listed only seven remain with the team, and a few still qualify as a show me player.
Here are some guys who I think qualify as players who need to step up or step out.
Martellus Bennett: Bennett makes a return to the show me list in 2011. Last year I wrote Bennett had all the talent to succeed but was Dallas' version of Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh - million dollar arm with a 10 cent head. When John Phillips went down with an injury last year, MartyB was being counted on to shine. Bennett finished the season with 33 receptions for 260 yards and no touchdowns. He is an excellent blocker, but will be a free agent in 2012. If he wants to the successor to Jason Witten (and get the contract that comes with the title) he'll have to produce in 2011. Bennett's recent marriage seems to have matured him some, let's see if he can put a full season together.
Tashard Choice: Choice has been a divisive player for many fans. Some want him to start, some think he is a JAG and others want him traded. Choice will be a free agent in 2012 and may be looking for greener pastures. To get playing time this year Choice will have to beat out DeMarco Murray and he may also be pushed by Lonyae Miller and Philip Tanner. Choice does not play special teams and this could put his roster spot in jeopardy.
Montrae Holland: With the release of Leonard Davis, Holland is penciled in as the starter at right guard. Holland is cheap, playing for $1 million in 2011, but will be a free agent in 2012. If he wants to stay a Cowboy he will have to be an upgrade over Davis and hold off rookie David Arkin.
John Phillips: Phillips is a fan favorite and his versatility as H-back makes him an important cog in the Garrett offensive machine. Phillips is under contract until 2013 but is returning from injury this year. If Bennett does not prove himself worthy of a contract extension, Phillips must show he is ready to be the back-up to Jason Witten.
Kevin Ogletree: ‘Tree showed promise as a rookie before a disappointing sophomore campaign. The ‘Boys released wide receiver Roy Williams, which gives Ogletree a perfect opportunity to claim the third receiver spot this year. Reports from camp have been good on Ogletree, but he will have to prove he can handle an expanded role in this offense; he will be a restricted free agent in 2012.
Anthony Spencer: "Almost Anthony" is in the final year of his contract. He is playing opposite one of the most feared pass rushers in the league, he will be playing in an aggressive scheme and he has a young player breathing down his neck for more playing time. Excuses are out the window for Spencer; it is a put up or shut up year for him.
Bradie James: James makes this list only because he will be a free agent in 2012. How much does James have left in the tank? Sean Lee looks like future starter, but he will probably replace Keith Brooking who is in his last year. James will be on the wrong side of 30, but if he can prove to be a productive player this year it may be worth letting James finish his career as a Cowboy.
Orlando Scandrick: Scandrick has spent his entire career in the slot, one of the more difficult positions in the NFL. He has had his ups and had his downs. Scandrick is making $1.2 million this year and will be a free agent in 2012, he will be looking for a pay raise and possibly a chance to start. How he plays this year will determine if he gets his next contract in Dallas.
Gerald Sensabaugh: Sensabaugh has played for Dallas for essentially three one-year deals. He tested the free agency this year, but did not find the waters to his liking. If he is able to have a good year he could finally get the long-term deal he has been waiting for. He is still fairly young at 28 years old.
AOA/Barry Church/Danny McCray: One of these young safeties needs to step up and show they can man the safety position for the foreseeable future. I do not see the Cowboys keeping five safeties on the roster this year so one of this trio will not survive camp cuts.
Terence Newman: In 2008 Jerry Jones rewarded T-New a six-year $50 million dollar contract. Many questioned the wisdom of giving a player such a long contract when most of those years would be spent on the wrong side of 30. Age and injuries have sapped Newman's effectiveness. When he is on the field he is a productive player, but lately he seems to spend more time in the training room rather than the playing field. Newman still has $30 million dollars left on his contract which ends after the 2014 season. It is very hard to justify paying a 33 year old corner $8 million in 2011 (are you listening Philadelphia?). No one should question Newman's ability when healthy, or his desire to play through pain; but he will have to prove on the field he still deserves to be the best paid player in the secondary.
David Buehler/Dan Bailey/Kai Forbath: Kicker will be one of the better camp battles this year. I am sure Dallas would love to be able to carry only one kicker on this roster. Buehler must improve his accuracy in field goals, Bailey and Forbath must prove they can handle kickoff duties.
These are the players who need to show me for 2011, who are your show me players?
Matt Eberflus - LB Coach: Rob Ryan wants to be a head coach, and if the defense begins to perform under his tutelage it may happen sooner rather than later. At some point the Cowboys will have to replace Ryan, and it would be nice to have some scheme continuity. Eberflus has had two years under Ryan in Cleveland and was defensive coordinator for the University of Missouri from 2001-2008 .Good articles on Eberflus here and here.
If Eberflus can show himself capable of replacing Ryan when/if he leaves the 'Boys could have a young coaching tandem in place. Garrett is 45 and Eberflus is 40.