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Eatman: Better Late Than Never For Supporting Cast To Show Their Skills

IRVING, Texas – Earlier this week, Jason Garrett stood up at the podium and told reporters, "There's a lot of football left to be played this year."

He's right in that regard. Nearly a third of the season is still out there on the table.

Now, whether or not it's considered "meaningful football" is to be determined.

Maybe it's just me – someone who survived those three 5-11 seasons back in the early 2000s – but I'm one who thinks all 16 games are meaningful in their own right.

Yes, there's a chance for the playoffs still, but even talking about that seems silly because we're asking the Cowboys to do something they haven't done all year – win without Romo – and do it five straight times to end the year.

So what are they playing for?[embeddedad0]

It's easy to say these last five games are big for the young players. The guys that need to play and can gain valuable experience down the stretch. But I'll flip the script. I think this is a big time for the older players – the established veterans and even your Pro Bowlers who are considered the team leaders.

Hey, Dez Bryant … this is your time. Same for Tyron Smith and Zack Martin and even Jason Witten. That's just on the offensive side of the ball.

But this is the time when the Cowboys need to figure out what they are. Are they just a one-man team that can't even function without Romo under center? Or can they prove that they're great players no matter who is in the lineup.

Maybe lumping Witten into this category is a little much. He was a Pro Bowler long before Romo ever took his first snap. But my point is this offense has to go out there and show they can function regardless who the quarterback is.

We all know this is a quarterback league. Most teams will have some kind of drop-off when the starter goes down.

Still, a drop-off doesn't have to be a loss. Denver isn't winning the same way, but since Manning went down, the Broncos have found a way to win with Brock Osweiler running the show. Matt Hasselbeck is winning for Andrew Luck and Matt Schaub won a game for Joe Flacco earlier this week.

If those Matts can do it, why not this Matt here in Dallas?

Obviously, Cassel has to play better, but this guy has really been nothing more than average his entire career. He's supposed to go out and be solid.

Dez needs to be a star. I know he might not be 100 percent healthy, but they certainly need him to be the playmaker he's been the last few years. Smith needs to be the best left tackle in the league like he's been considered for years. Witten needs to be the stalwart he's been his entire career.

And the list goes on and on, even over to the defensive side as well.

You can say these five games don't mean a whole lot, but moving forward, I think we're going to find out exactly what kind of team the Cowboys have. If they can't win without their starting quarterback – at all – then this team has way more issues than we think.

Maybe the problems are far greater than just the quarterback. Maybe, just maybe, some of the guys we think are so talented around Romo, aren't really that talented or skilled.

Some of this is still up for debate. A debate we should have a better handle on after these last five games.

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