IRVING -- Dallas Cowboys kicker David Buehler has had a bull's eye on his back since the beginning of training camp.
And with the Cowboys now having enough kickers on the roster to form a basketball team, thanks to Tuesday's addition of Dave Rayner, it's now or never for Buehler.
If he doesn't do something special in Thursday's preseason finale against Miami to solidify his spot on the roster, the former fifth-round pick of the 2009 draft knows he will be gone.
"Competition is competition," Buehler said. "Who knew [center Andre Gurode] would get cut? I'm used to it now. I just got to put it through the uprights. That's all I can control. I'm thinking I'm Dallas Cowboys all the way. But there are 31 other ones that could want me. I have to go perform my best."
Never miss a local story.
Buehler is among five former draft picks or former starters who find themselves on the brink of being cut following the Dolphins' game.
The Cowboys must pare the roster down from 80 to 53 by Saturday.
Here are five players on the roster bubble:
Buehler was a kickoff specialist as a rookie before earning the primary kicker role last season. He was great on kickoffs, but was inconsistent on field goals. After initially opening camp with Buehler and rookie draft pick Dan Bailey, the Cowboys have added three more kickers to the mix -- Kai Forbath, Shayne Graham and the newly signed Dave Rayner. Rayner summed it up perfectly when he said he wouldn't be here if the Cowboys liked the guys they already had. The five-year veteran made 13 of 16 kicks last year with Detroit and is probably the leader in the clubhouse to open the season as the kicker. But Buehler has one last chance to prove himself against the Dolphins.
Owusu-Ansah was a surprise pick in the fourth round last year. He had all the measurables, but he played at Indiana (Pa.) against questionable competition and came to camp injured. He missed minicamps and the majority of training camp, slowing his transition from small college football to the NFL. He was used primarily on kickoff returns as rookie before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. The lockout was another setback in Owusu-Ansah's development, resulting in a disappointing camp. He needs a big game to make the roster. He could be a practice squad candidate to give him more time to learn the NFL game.
Gronkowski, an undrafted free agent in 2010, was the talk of camp last year. Owner Jerry Jones compared him to a young Daryl Johnston. Gronkowski eventually won the starting job at fullback. But the fairy tale story turned into a nightmare five games into the season when a missed block by Gronkowski resulted in a season-ending broken clavicle for quarterback Tony Romo. The Cowboys drafted rookie Shaun Chapas in the seventh round to compete with Gronkowski. They also moved Jason Pociask from tight end and Isaiah Greenhouse from linebacker to compete for his spot. The problem for the Cowboys is that no one has won the job.
Williams has played in only six games since being picked in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. He missed his entire rookie year with a knee injury. He was slow to return in 2010 and was inactive for 10 games. He made three tackles in six games. In his third season, the Fort Worth South Hills graduate has again been slowed in camp by injury. He has yet to show the pass rush potential that had former coach Wade Phillips comparing him to Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware. Rookie Alex Albright has impressed in camp and is making a bid for his roster spot.
Olshansky started at right end the past two years since being brought in by Wade Phillips from San Diego. He has been moved to left end and demoted to second string behind Kenyon Coleman. Olshansky was ideal for the scheme employed by Phillips and is trying to learn responsibilities under new coach Rob Ryan. He is being paid $3.34 million in 2011, a lot for a backup end with no pass rush skills. He is coming off his worst season in the past six years with just 48 tackles, no sacks and one tackle for loss. The latter two were career-lows.
Clarence E. Hill Jr.