It's been more than a week since Tony Romo announced his retirement, and the tributes in his honor have been plenty. There have been tributes from fans, from his teammates, from the Dallas Cowboys organization, and even the Dallas Mavericks have paid tribute to Tony Romo. While it may be a bit late to the party, this is my little tribute to one of my favorite Cowboys ever, and the QB I watched growing up.
Here's to you Tony, thank you for the memories!
There were more moments I wanted to include in the list, but left out, so make sure to comment with your favorite Tony Romo moments. Here are mine, I hope you enjoy them, #CowboysNation.
#10 The J.J. Watt Spin
I mention this spin specifically because it was against one of the greatest defensive players of all-time.
On second down and four to go, Tony Romo snapped the ball. J.J. Watt did something few can by bullying Tyron Smith with a speed rush to get to number 9. Romo, with Watt just a few steps way, executed a perfect spin.
Watt ended up on the ground while Romo threw a 43-yard TD pass to Terrance Williams. This is an honorable mention to Tony Romo's signature spin move. While there were many, this might have been the best one.
#9 Fighting for 4 Yards
"Wow, what a four yard run!"
That's something you don't hear every Sunday. But if you watched the Dallas Cowboys play the then St. Louis Rams in 2007, you probably said something similar.
After a high snap on third and three, Romo chased the ball 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage (he kicked the ball, too).
When he finally picked it up he managed to get back to the line of scrimmage and four more yards, including the first down.
We all knew
Superman Tony Romo was in the house.
#8 Breaking the Cowboys' All-Time Passing Yards Record
When the Cowboys played the Indianapolis Colts in 2014, they had fun and secured the NFC East title by beating the Colts 42-7.
But Tony Romo was on fire that day. He ended the day with four touchdowns and a new Cowboys franchise record. He became the QB with the most passing yards in the history of the franchise.
While maybe it wasn't one of the most exciting games in Romo's career, I loved this moment. He broke the record by throwing a 25-yard TD pass to Jason Witten... my two favorite Cowboys making history.
#7 His Last Comeback
Week 1, 2015: Sunday Night versus the New York Giants.
The Cowboys started off with a couple of turnovers; Dez Bryant went down injured and Dallas was facing adversity. With the score at 26-20, 1:29 on the clock with no timeouts, Tony Romo settled in and drove Dallas down the field.
With under 15 seconds to go, on third and two from the 11 yard line, the Cowboys snapped the ball. After dropping the ball and picking it up, he threw the TD pass to Jason Witten and won the game.
We never expected that game would become Tony Romo's last comeback win in his career.
#6 One Last Drive
I can't remember being as excited about a meaningless game as I was for last season's week 17 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Dak Prescott and the Cowboys had already clinched the number one seed in the NFC and had nothing left to play for. They were visiting Philly and there was nothing to be excited about that week... except that Tony Romo was going to play some football.
During the second quarter, he led a TD drive. Cowboys Nation went completely crazy rooting for Tony, our QB, one last time. Seeing Tony walk back to the sidelines, smiling after his last play as a Dallas Cowboy was, for sure, something special.
#5 Football is a Meritocracy: Tony Romo's Press Conference
Wild Card alert! For my number five spot, I'm picking a moment which doesn't involve a football field.
Tony Romo spoke in a press conference last November. After asking for a chance to compete with Dak for the starting role and being denied, he decided not to be a distraction and spoke about what many already knew about Dak Prescott: "He's earned the right to be our quarterback."
Romo was a class act. He stood in front of the media at The Star in Frisco and put the final point on the debate everyone was talking about. Romo did what was best for this football team. One of a million reasons to thank Tony.
#4 Beating the Lions in the Playoffs
I remember this day like it was yesterday. I watched the first half of this game in a restaurant. I was out with my family for a New Year's trip to Las Vegas. Behind me, an annoying Lions fan was making fun of the Cowboys.
You can imagine my frustration.
When halftime came, I ran to the hotel room. Little did I know, I was about to witness an epic comeback, engineered by none other than Tony Romo.
With all the time in the world to throw, he stood patiently in the pocket and threw a perfect pass to T-Will, and walked away with a win in the playoffs.
#3 Losing to the Denver Broncos
Yeah, I included a loss in this list, but this game describes Romo's career perfectly. Facing the 2013 record-breaking Denver Broncos, led by Peyton Manning, Tony stood up.
He threw for 506 yards and five touchdowns. Tony played at the level of All-Time great Peyton Manning.
Unfortunately, the defense did not step up. Denver didn't punt once that day.
Why does it describe his career perfectly? Because everyone remembers the interception Romo threw at the end of the game. Not the five touchdowns.
People don't remember Tyron Smith stepping on Tony's foot right before that INT. And nobody remembers 9's incredible performance in this game. But we do.
#2 Through a Punctured Lung
Yes, the Punctured Lung Game.
In 2011, when the Cowboys visited the San Francisco 49ers, Romo punctured a lung and a fractured rib in the third play of the game. At one point after halftime, Tony looked to be done for the day, but he wasn't.
He came back to the field and led the Cowboys to an OT win, throwing for 345 yards and two touchdowns.
Tony Romo was a hero once again.
#1 Beating the Redskins With an Injured Back
Week 16, 2013: The Cowboys visit the Redskins.
Dallas had to win their next two games if they wanted to play in January, and Romo was playing with an injured back. With 3:39 left on the clock, the Cowboys were trailing by six.
Tony engineered a comeback drive and it was something that I'll never forget. After every single play, Tony Romo looked to be in pain. On one play in particular, he ran out of the pocket and you just knew every single step he took hurt him.
He didn't care though, that play resulted in a 51-yard pass to Terrence Williams.
I thought, "No way he can do that again..." but on the final play, he scrambled in the pocket again before tossing the ball to DeMarco Murray. Murray caught it, and scored the game winning touchdown.
That's my favorite memory of Tony Romo. What he pulled off, can be described in one word: heroic.
What are your favorite moments?
Could NY Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?
The NFC East is a wild, wild division. Since 2004, the division that hosts some of the most popular franchises in the NFL hasn't seen the same team winning the NFC East title two years in a row. It's crazy! Who expected the Dallas Cowboys to become the #1 seed in the conference in 2016 after seeing Tony Romo go down during the preseason? Who was able to predict the Philadelphia Eagles' amazing run for the Super Bowl last year?
It's an unpredictable league, but the NFC East side of things can really amaze you on a yearly basis.
Heading into 2018, it all seems to be about the Eagles and the Cowboys. Being the last two teams to win the title, it's only logical to expect them to be the only teams in the division that have what it takes to own the NFC East crown.
But maybe, just maybe, we are overlooking the New York Giants.
Coming from a 3-13 record in 2017, the Giants have quite a bit to prove if they want to become a winning team once again and return to playoff contention. With Odell Beckham missing most of the season and with good ol' Ben McAdoo calling the shots, the team was never able to get a break.
Listen, we all know Eli Manning has been struggling lately. Many thought the Giants should've drafted a quarterback when they held the #2 overall pick back in April. But whether we like it or not, New York seems to have a plan: take advantage of Manning's last years on the field.
Instead of taking a young QB for the future, they drafted the best player available to take the load off Manning's shoulders. Saquon Barkley will probably be able to do what Ezekiel Elliott was able to do in 2016: lead the offense by running the football 20 times a game and have several 100-yard performances.
Not only that, but the front office did make an effort to re-build a disastrous offensive line by bringing in a talented left tackle in Nate Solder and by stealing the UTEP product, Will Hernandez in the second round of the draft. If the Giants are able to finally groom Ereck Flowers into a decent starter at right tackle, this could be a pretty solid offensive line.
Of course, Manning will not only be benefited from the running game, but his superstar wide receiver will be back on the field. Beckham is one of the NFL's best wide receivers and will surely be back at terrifying opposing secondaries week in and week out.
The Giants are bringing in Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher, who did a nice job for the Arizona Cardinals' defense over the last few years. With some talented defensive players, the team might not have the best squad in the league, but it doesn't seem like a defense that will struggle throughout the season.
Last but not least, the Giants will have a new head coach in form of Pat Shurmur. He's had some success in the league, lately as an offensive coordinator for a Minnesota Vikings team that managed to get to the NFC Championship with Case Keenum at QB. It was a good hire for the team, and I'm pretty sure it will be easy to do a better job than McAdoo's work with the Giants.
If I was to make a prediction, I'd say the Giants will have a handful of wins in 2018. However, I don't see them getting back into the postseason just yet. An 8-8 record sounds about right. Having said that, though, it really seems like a team that could surprise everyone and emerge as a surprise contender in the NFC East.
Do you think the New York Giants could be a surprise threat in 2018?
Where Cowboys CB Marquez White Fits In 2018
In the 2017 NFL Draft the Dallas Cowboys selected four new defensive backs, three of which saw significant playing time during their rookie season.
Those three, of course, are Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Xavier Woods. That fourth defensive back, however, should not be forgotten about as we enter the beginning stages of the 2018 season. That player is former Florida State cornerback Marquez White.
Rather than playing alongside his rookie counterparts in the secondary, White spent time on the Cowboys practice squad in 2017. The former sixth round pick was signed to a futures contract at the end of 2017, however, and now has a chance to compete in camp once again.
Entering their sophomore seasons the starting secondary already appears to be taking shape. Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones are just about locked in to the outside cornerback jobs, Xavier Woods is expected to start at safety beside Jeff Heath, and Jourdan Lewis is battling with now third year player Anthony Brown for the slot corner role.
So where does Marquez White fit into all of this?
Well, the aforementioned players are locks to make the 53-man roster, but Marquez White should be the favorite to win the 5th cornerback spot going forward. White's raw talent is undeniable, and he has the ability to play under both man and zone responsibilities.
The main reason we should be optimistic about Marquez White's chances to land on the final roster, however, is his athletic profile. At 6'0" tall, just under 200 pounds, and long arms White fits the mold for what new secondary coach and passing game coordinator Kris Richard tends to look for in his cornerbacks.
And, for better or for worse, Richard clearly values these measureables highly. This is evident in how second year corner Jourdan Lewis has been used thus far in mini camp and offseason activities; being relegated to second team and the slot rather than allowed to compete for an outside cornerback job with Awuzie and Jones.
So with the arrival of Kris Richard, the departure of Orlando Scandrick, the underwhelming play of Anthony Brown, and the raw talent he already possesses, Marquez White has a very strong chance of making the final 53-man roster in Dallas.
Can Jaylon Smith Challenge Vander Esch For Starting MIKE Role?
When the Dallas Cowboys selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with their first round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the whole world basically assumed he would be the starting MIKE linebacker week one of the upcoming season.
After all, the Cowboys lost Anthony Hitchens to free agency and none of the injury replacements had much success during the 2017 season.
Now just a couple of months shy of that week one match up with the Carolina Panthers, a battle for that middle linebacker spot appears to be occurring.
Former 2016 second round pick Jaylon Smith has seemed to find his health, and his movement skills and agility look like they did back when he was at Notre Dame. Whether or not these offseason hype videos will actually mean anything on the field remains to be seen, but just the fact that Smith is working out and playing without the knee brace is obviously a good sign.
Unlike Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith did play for the Dallas Cowboys a year ago. Sure Smith had his share of growing pains, but he seemed to find his groove late in the season. It probably isn't a coincidence, though, that Smith's best games came when coming off the bench in a limited role and when playing beside veteran Sean Lee.
During the offseason activity thus far Jaylon Smith has gotten the majority of snaps at middle linebacker, but Vander Esch has also been sidelined with an injured ankle. Leighton Vander Esch clearly fits the mold of a MIKE both physically and athletically, but at his best Jaylon Smith does as well.
Despite the resurgence of Jaylon Smith and the injury to Leighton Vander Esch, I still do expect Vander Esch to snag that MIKE role moving forward. While showing glimpses of productive play, Smith did not impress enough to earn him the unquestioned starting job last season, and may best fit as a SAM backer and situational pass rusher/blitzer in the current scheme.
Allowing Jaylon Smith to conserve his energy and provide a boost off the bench is the best way for the Cowboys to structure their defense. Of course, this is only true as long as Vander Esch becomes the player they expect him to be, though.
If Jaylon Smith does return to the player he was at Notre Dame prior to his horrific injury, the Cowboys will possess three incredibly rangy, athletic, and talented linebackers on their roster.
Of course, that if is a very big if at this point, however.
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