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Dallas Cowboys: Backup Quarterback Still A Concern?

The 2015 season for the Dallas Cowboys was a complete disaster and the majority of the blame can be placed squarely on the backup quarterback situation. Once Tony Romo went down not once, but twice with a broken clavicle, we pretty much knew that the season was on the line. Who was actually comfortable knowing that Brandon Weeden was a backup behind Romo heading into the 2015 season? I know I wasn’t. I thought it was an absolute mistake by the organization.

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: Backup Quarterback Still A Concern?

The 2015 season for the Dallas Cowboys was a complete disaster and the majority of the blame can be placed squarely on the backup quarterback situation. Once Tony Romo went down not once, but twice with a broken clavicle, we pretty much knew that the season was on the line.

Who was actually comfortable knowing that Brandon Weeden was a backup behind Romo heading into the 2015 season? I know I wasn't. I thought it was an absolute mistake by the organization.

As it turns out, I was right. They did however try to remedy their failure and traded for Matt Cassel, but again that didn't work out either.

Finally, they turned to Kellen Moore, but only after the season was all but finished and they really had nothing left to play for.

Again, I'm getting that feeling like I had last year when I found out Weeden was the backup QB. Are the Cowboys really going to rely on Kellen Moore to back up Tony Romo?

Well, according to Rob Phillips, a Senior Writer for the Dallas Cowboys, that is exactly the plan so far.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

Jerry Jones on @1053thefan about his confidence in Kellen Moore backing up Romo at QB: "He's got the instincts. He's got the anticipation.

I can't say that I really agree or disagree at this point, but it does leave me a little worried considering the fact that Romo has had a hard time remaining healthy.

There is still a lot of time to analyze this position throughout the remainder of the off-season and I for one will be keeping a close eye on the progress of the QBs on the roster to see who is best suited to step in if needed.

Here is how I think the Cowboys see things right now…

Kellen Moore, QB (6'0", 200)

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: Backup Quarterback Still A Concern? 2If you believe Jerry Jones, then Kellen Moore is number two on the depth chart and would likely be the backup QB if the season was starting today.

In 2015, Moore played in three games and started two of those contests. He completed 61 of 104 passes for a completions percentage of 58.7. He threw for 779 passing yards, four touchdowns, and six interceptions.

His best game was against the Washington Redskins, the final game of the season, where he completed 33 of 48 passes for 435 yards. He also threw for three touchdowns and two interceptions.

A lot of the belief that Moore is capable of being the backup QB is based on the Washington game and that is understandable after suffering through porous play from the position the majority of the year.

I however am worried that it's a mistake. I'm not a big fan, even though he knows the offense having been with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan since entering a league.

He is a pocket passer with very limited mobility and limited arm strength to make all the throws. His size or lack of size, is worrisome. If he takes a big hit will he to be lost due to injury?

Despite my concerns though, it looks as if the Cowboys are willing to gamble that he is the best option at this time, but I don't think for a second that they won't be looking for a better option at some point.

Jameill Showers, QB (6'1", 230)

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: Backup Quarterback Still A Concern? 4Showers is someone that I'm really intrigued by. I think he showed a lot of poise last year during the preseason when he got the opportunity to play and I would like to see what he's able to do after a year of development in the Cowboys system.

In all honesty, I really wanted to see him get the chance to play at the end of the season last year when the Cowboys didn't have much to play for any more.

As of right now, I think the Cowboys have him third on the depth chart, but I think I actually like him just as much as Kellen Moore, if not a little more.

Showers showed during the preseason last year that he not only as the arm strength to make all the throws, but he has the poise to stand in the pocket and make a throw despite pressure being applied by the defense. He also shows the mobility to move the pocket and buy time to make a pass downfield and can also be a threat as a scrambling QB.

There are a lot of things that I like about Showers game and I hope that he gets the opportunity to display how much he has improved in a years time.

Dak Prescott, QB (6'2", 226)

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: Backup Quarterback Still A Concern? 3Dak Prescott is probably the low man on the totem pole right now despite being drafted in the fourth round. That's not to say that it will remain that way once he is able to learn the playbook and get up to speed with the way things are done in the NFL.

Prescott has all of the physical traits that you look for in a QB. He has the prototypical size that NFL teams look for in their QBs. He has the arm strength to make all the throws in the NFL and has the ability to extend plays, while also being a threat to scramble when things break down.

However, he needs to get through his reads more quickly and like many other rookie QBs entering the NFL he needs to work on his mechanics. Cleaning up his mechanics might help with his accuracy for those intermediate and deep passes, which might be a concern if not addressed. He also needs to work on his anticipation. He tends to throw to a target instead of throwing a receiver open.

All in all, there are a lot of things to like about Prescott's game and his future with the Cowboys, but I don't think he's the answer to back up Romo yet.

Summary:

Tony Romo's health is a big concern and if he does indeed have to miss extended time again the backup QB situation leaves much to be desired.

The fact that Kellen Moore is the most experienced QB on the roster is concerning and his size indicates that he could be one hit away from a major injury himself.

Showers as a year in the system and should be up to speed with the playbook. To me, I think he has more upside than Moore and provides a skill set more similar to Romo's.

Prescott is a rookie and has to first learn the playbook, while also figuring out the speed of the NFL. It could be a huge cultural shock, resulting in him needing more time to be a valuable option as a backup QB.

Overall, the backup QB situation is still a concern and could possibly need to be addressed at some point.



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. George Johnson

    May 6, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Brian Martin: I am a big Kellen Moore fan and have followed him his whole career since he was a sophomore in high school. Let me see if I can persuade you to think more positively about K Moore as the 2nd team backup. I will start with the potential injury comment which seemed to be one of your biggest concerns. K Moore has never been significantly injured even though he has played a lot of football. Some people think he is just tough. I believe there is more to it than that. I think he falls away or collapses when about to be tackled. So far in his career he has not been injury prone even though he is not very big. He is not athletic or quick and does not normally try to run with the ball and would slide if about to get hit. Sure he could get hurt but probably not any more than any other QB and maybe less. Secondly you are right, K Moore cannot make all the throws in the playbook. He doesn't have the arm strength to make cannon type throws like some NFL QBs. However, he has been playing with limited arm strength his whole life and has learned to compensate for this. He seems to counter his limited arm with his accuracy, anticipation (e.g. throwing the receiver open), quick release and QB smarts/instincts. He seems to know his limitations and does not try to make throws his arm will not allow him to. He can also throw it long and accurately if defense try to cheat up, but has to put a little more air under the ball. He plays smartly and tries to find the optimum receiver and will also throw it away if necessary. A good data point for what I just said was he almost set a new NCAA record for fewest interceptions in college so his arm strength did not seem to cause interceptions at the college level. He also almost set a new NCAA record for completion percent for a four year career so again arm strength did not slow down his completion rate or cause him to throw the ball away a lot. His six interceptions in 2015 season play seemed to have little to do with his arm strength. I believe he threw three by not accounting for the safety coming across to intercept the ball. He has always played way better than anyone thinks he can play including coaches by looking at him. He does not look like a prototypical NFL QB and he does not have a real strong arm. He is able to play because his pocket passing skills other than the impact of his physical limitations are so outstanding. He was one of the best ever college QBs at pocket passing and an All-American and Heisman finalist. His college coach said and I quote," He is the best pocket passer I have ever seen." I assume he has seen P Manning, D Brees and T Brady, but maybe not. He could of easily been the number one pick in 2012 over A Luck and a star in the NFL by now had he had the prototypical size and a strong arm. The reason he is getting an opportunity at 2nd team QB is because his whole body of work in 2015 ( ten and one half quarters), if you factor in it was his first time playing against first team defenses and he had limited reps to get ready to play, was actually pretty good. It wasn't just the Washington game because Washington seem to back off once they got a big lead. He moved the ball well but made some mistakes. With a few better plays he could easily have won one game and possibly even two. His deficiencies ( i.e. too many interceptions, too few touchdown throws and not enough accuracy) are areas he has always excelled at so he is likely to improve/correct these deficiencies with more reps/experience. In college he threw 142 touchdowns and had 28 interceptions almost a new NCAA record. He also had a 73% completion rate his last two years of college, also almost a new NCAA record. The coaches seem to be high on him because 1) he is in his fifth year and seemed to have improved each year, 2) he has worked with S Linehan for two plus years and has S Linehan's confidence, 3) he knows the Dallas offense/playbook well, 4) he now has some starting experience in the Dallas offense, 5) they believe he can compensate or overcome his lack of a real strong arm and size with his outstanding pocket passing skills that are largely mental/instinctive and 6) as I stated above he actually played pretty well overall in 2015 and is likely to improve/correct his deficiencies. The coaches evidently think he can do the job and improve. I think he is likely to win some games and have good QB stats if T Romo was to go down. I thought they should have brought in a veteran QB to compete with him but now that they drafted a QB I doubt they will do that. They are not ready to have to cut K Moore from the roster and they are confident he can get the job done. They want to see more.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      May 6, 2016 at 4:21 pm

      Well George, you weren't kidding when you said you were a huge Kellen Moore fan. I would love to be proven wrong, but he worries me if he has to step in and play for an expanded amount of time. Yes, he does have good football IQ and anticipation, but being left-handed his blindside protector is the worst Cowboys offensive lineman, Doug Free. Teams are going to switch up and play their best pass rusher against Free and I'm not sure Moore can handle a blindside hit. You stated that he hasn't been injured much during his career, but playing in college and playing in the NFL are two entirely different monsters. Also, he is a completely different type of QB than Romo and the offense would have to change up the entire game plan to accommodate him. Showers and Prescott are much more similar to Romo and could come in and possibly run the same game plan or something somewhat similar. Yes, Moore has the experience in Linehan's offense, but Showers has a year in the system and should be up to speed. I really like what I saw out of Showers last year during the preseason and I think if given the opportunity he could possibly beat out Moore and win the backup position. Prescott needs time to get accustomed to the speed of the NFL and learn the playbook, but I believe he has a chance to push everybody and compete for the backup QB position as well. We can probably argue this topic back and forth and not convince either one of us what the right direction is the team to go, but that's part of the fun of the off-season and speculating what we believe is the right course of action that the Cowboys should take.

      • George Johnson

        May 7, 2016 at 3:07 pm

        I agree we can argue back and forth and not convince either one. I don't see Showers ever being as good as K Moore overall and I will explain why. K Moore has physical limitations (i.e. small size, not athletic and not having a real strong arm) and why you are likely not high on him. Showers has the physical abilities (i.e. size, arm strength, running/scrambling ability, athleticism) to be a dual purpose NFL QB and probably the reason you are high on him. If you name almost any other factor or data point especially the cerebral aspects, K Moore is better than Showers. I think the draft experts have oversold the prototypical size and arm strength to play in the NFL and undersold skills/abilities like judgment, decision making, accuracy, anticipation, knowledge of being a QB, instincts, etc. I will name a lot of the factors/data point differences between Moore and Showers; 1) Moore was undrafted but based on his play to date should have been drafted- Showers was undrafted, 2) Moore was one of the all time best pocket passers in college history- Showers was just one of hundreds of good QBs in college history, but not good enough to get drafted. Moore was an All-American and Heisman finalist and set two NCAA records but came close to many more records. – I don't remember reading where Showers was close to breaking any records, 3) Moore was nicknamed Mr. August in Detroit because of his outstanding preseason play. As examples, In 2013 he subbed for Hill at 2nd team against New England and he had a high QB rating, and two touchdowns, no interceptions and pulled out the win. Some sports writers at this time said K Moore proved he could play in the NFL with this game. In 2014 he had a 108 QB rating for the preseason and threw three touchdowns and no interceptions. Caldwell the Detroit head coach said after the preseason, he is accurate and plays with composure, consistency and moxie.- Since last year was Showers rookie year, it doesn't mean much so we will see how he does in 2016 preseason but he is not likely to be as good or better than Moore. If he is he could be T Romo's replacement some day. 4) Moore is known for the cerebral aspects of being a QB and his accuracy and quick release. Most of the skills to be a good pocket passer are cerebral such as anticipation, vision down field, reading defenses, finding the optimum receiver, poise, knowledge of being a pocket passer, knowing where to step or move, knowing when and who to throw to, instincts as to what to do, making good decisions, minimizing mistakes, etc. From what I have read the cerebral aspects are way more important than the physical aspects and why K Moore has gotten this far without being drafted and starting at the bottom. Many of these were learned by Moore from being around football/quarterbacking constantly while he was growing up as his dad was a coach and he evidently was obsessed with studying, practicing and playing quarterback. – Showers is not known for being a top cerebral QB as far as I know. The prototypical size and physical abilities will only get you so far. He can learn, develop and improve but he most likely didn't have the constant football environment since he could walk like Moore had and what makes Moore so good even with his physical limitations.

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          May 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm

          George, you are obviously a HUGE Kellen Moore fan, but if you really look at the type of QB the Cowboys prefer then he really doesn't fit the mold. Like you said, Moore is a pocket passer that relies on his football intelligence to read defenses and anticipate the right receiver to go to, but the Cowboys seem to like a little more athletic QB (Showers & Prescott). I'm not trying to take anything away from Kellen Moore, I just don't think he really fits their philosophy in what they want in a QB. Tony Romo probably doesn't get quite recognition he deserves for his athleticism, but it is one of his better traits that he uses to buy a little extra time and allow his receivers to work themselves open. That's not something we are very likely to see out of Kellen Moore.

          • George Johnson

            May 8, 2016 at 8:34 pm

            Brian Martin: I agree with everything you said and that K Moore doesn't really fit the mold. However, S Linehan seems to be high on K Moore and probably understands his strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else as he brought him to Detroit as an undrafted signee and then Dallas and has worked with him for two plus years and is also a QB expert as he played and coached the QB position. S Linehan is more likely to develop a game plan and call plays that Kellen Moore can handle or is more likely to be successful with. Also, one thing K Moore can do that helps, even though he is not very athletic and is not a runner, is roll out from the pocket and throw accurately on the run. He is not a scrambler but seems to know where to step in the pocket to maximize his time to throw the ball. He is also poised in the pocket and does not get rattled easily from the pressure. His quick release also allows him to throw at the last second. He is a pure pocket passer. If the receivers are always covered K Moore is not going to have much success. One of the reasons Russell Wilson is so good is that if all the receivers are covered he can scramble or move around until one of them gets open or he can take off with the ball for a QB run because he is so fast. K Moore can't do either. He has to play with pure pocket passing skills/abilities. I don't know my NFL football offenses that well but it seems like K Moore needs to be in a very west coast type offense with mostly short to intermediate passes and a solid running game.

  2. Mark Matthews

    May 6, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Being a Cowboy's die-hard Fan, I say one season isn't going to make a star out of anyone that backs Tony Romo up…but as time goes by during this upcoming season the more his backups are able to do what they were brought in to do,hopefully the better they will have the opportunity to make things better for the TEAM…let's not forget about Troy Aikman❤ #GO COWBOYS ❗

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      May 6, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      I agree. This will be interesting position battle to keep track of heading into the season.

  3. steve nichols

    May 7, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Dont underestimate Kellen.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      May 7, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      I'm not underestimating him, but I really haven't seen anything that would suggest that his job is secure. I didn't really see anything last year that leaves me feeling comfortable about him backing up Romo in 2016. Hopefully, Romo remains healthy and all of this talk about a backup QB will come to nothing.

  4. George Johnson

    May 8, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    When I was writing the last blog I thought about something I usually don't bring up about K Moore that is a very positive skill/ability that helps him be successful even though he has physical limitations. K Moore seems to spread the ball around to lots of different receivers and also throws a real catchable ball. I think you saw this in the Washington game and I remember seeing it in preseason games in Detroit. It may of even helped a receiver make the team in Detroit that would not have otherwise. I think this spreading the ball around, might be because of his ability to read defenses and cover-ages and look for and find the optimum receiver. One receiver in Detroit described K Moore as having almost a sixth sense about where the receiver is going to be. If you can get open he can get you the ball. Mathew Stafford made several comments after watching K Moore such as "he has a knack to always find the open receiver" What I really wanted to comment about is what I think the effect this skill/ability has on the team. The receivers want to play for him especially if they are not the stars of the team. If they work hard to get open he can get them the ball and does not focus on just one or two key receivers. This allows them to be more successful and they therefore like playing with Kellen Moore. He also makes the ball easier to catch which also makes them more successful. If the team is moving the ball the stars don't start complaining because of not getting enough passes and therefore the offense team morale is better overall. The defense has more to contend with. If they try to put two guys on the stars then someone else is likely to be more open and K Moore can get them the ball.

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Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick

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Devin Smith

The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.

Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:

Jason Bernstein on Twitter

Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh

Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.

Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.

The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.

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Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.

Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.

One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.

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ig: josinaanderson on Twitter

ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t

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John Williams

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Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.

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During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...

...of his offensive lineman.

During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.

As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.

It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.

With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.



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