Reel Talk: What Can Tony Romo Still Do? The Answers From His 2015 Tape ✭
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Reel Talk: What Can Tony Romo Still Do? The Answers From His 2015 Tape

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Reel Talk: What Can Tony Romo Still Do? The Answers From His 2015 Tape

The 2016 Dallas Cowboys prepared to enter their season on a path towards redemption from 2015, unleashing a once-again healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant on the league, along with Ezekiel Elliott, to recreate their 2014 success and make a run in the playoffs.

All it took was another Romo preseason injury, and suddenly this plan seemed to have gone to waste once again. Who was going to save the season for a team that won three games with Romo last year, and just one other with a backup quarterback?

That answer became Dak Prescott, a fourth round rookie bursting onto the scene with a profound amount of confidence, leadership ability, and most importantly skill. The young quarterback is taking the league by storm, leading the Cowboys stacked offense to the top of the league right now for a team that leads the NFC East at 5-1.

Cowboys Headlines - Reel Talk: What Can Tony Romo Still Do? The Answers From His 2015 Tape 1

All of this has made some fans forget about Tony Romo, who very well may still be the better option at quarterback over the hot-handed Prescott once Romo is fully ready to play. Dak has given him the advantage of time to rest, and the piece of mind that this team will be in good hands one day, and with that Romo deserves his fair chance to lead this team in 2016.

To understand what a Tony Romo led 2016 Cowboys could look like, I watched every drop back and throw from Romo in 2015. Taking this one game at a time, I’ll share my thoughts in this Reel Talk on the strengths and weaknesses I saw from Tony.

Week 1: Tony Romo Vs the New York Giants

Att Comp Pct Yds TD INT YPA
36 45 80% 356 3 2 7.9

In perhaps the signature game of the 2015 season for the Cowboys, Tony Romo came out on top in the opener against the Giants with a last second scoring strike to Jason Witten that put Dallas on the right end of a wild game.

Looking back at this game, it may now be remembered as a game where Romo was only able to dink and dunk the football down the field, never showing us the dominant quarterback play that we expected this season to bring us.

After watching the tape from this game, Romo was much more impressive. The Giants did a tremendous job of consistently taking away the deep throws with bracket coverage involving their two deep safeties. In the front seven, they tried to cover some of the conceded throws they were allowing underneath by disguising some twists and other pressure packages – but Romo was always ready for those.

✭ Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

1st drive of the game and 9 knew every blitz NY was throwing at him – wanted 83 underneath, forced to step up to 25. https://t.co/nmRMb1QFWg

The above play is a perfect example of Romo getting through his reads after diagnosing a blitz. He knows that the underneath throw to Terrance Williams will likely be taken away by the coverage before the snap, and checks Williams’ way before having to come back and deliver a strike to Lance Dunbar to move the chains.

 

 

After getting burnt on these blitzes to open the game, the Giants changed things up on the Cowboys’ second possession, attempting to bring a blitz from the secondary on this play and sitting in coverage elsewhere. Romo again sees it coming, gets the ball out of his hands before the rusher comes close, and hits Dez Bryant in the vacated area with a strong throw for another first down.

✭ Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Didn’t we talk about 9 throwing guys open. Another completion to 88. I’ll take this element back, @CowboysAddicts.

On almost all of his completions, #9 did his absolute best to place the football in a position where his receivers and backs could make a play with it in their hands afterwards. Here you see Romo fire a pass to a breaking Bryant, who gets his head around and secures this catch going up the field for some extra yards.

 

 

Tony Romo’s ability to hold defenders with his eyes and footwork in this game was still at an elite level. Before delivering this throw, Romo not only gets the Cowboys in the right protection, but he holds off a single high safety that was still backpedaling when Bryant extended for another catch over the middle – on a ball that Tony threw where only Dez could get it.

 

 

Yes, Romo did throw two interceptions in this game, and the above play was his first of the game. Escaping the pocket, he lets this short throw to Witten get away from him, as his tight end is merely able to reach behind him and leave the ball in the air for the pick.

Mistakes like these are heightened by the fact that Prescott has thrown just one interception through six games, but the rookie has put himself in position for more interceptions compared to Romo in games like these – where two interceptions ended up not costing him a chance to lead the game winning drive that he did.

✭ Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

This was a TD to 89.

Dak Prescott has also shown the ability to make big plays with his feet, an element to his game that is new and exciting from his position in Dallas. Romo, however, is able to do his damage through pocket mobility and awareness.

The above picture is amazing when I roll the play forward for you below. Gavin Escobar is to the right of the picture in double coverage in the end zone. A defender has a clear run at Romo, who eventually gets this ball to the patient Escobar finishing his route in the back of the end zone.

✭ Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Knows this pressure is coming, slides, waits, throws 89 open brilliantly. This is my quarterback. https://t.co/PzjBHN9oTD

It is hard to compare the impact of plays like these from Romo and running plays from Prescott, as long as they are both taking care of the ball and putting up points. If Romo is still capable of what we see here though, the Cowboys and Scott Linehan need to play the veteran and try to take this offense to an even higher level.

Before we look at the final play from Romo in this game, below is his second interception, a clear mistake from now-Patriot Devin Street, who allows the ball to bounce off of his hands and pinball to a Giants’ defender who returns the ball to the one.

 

 

On a much brighter note, Romo’s game winning touchdown to Witten later in this game was supposed to be a moment that sparked something special for the Cowboys. Instead, hope was lost when Romo went down in the following week’s game against the Eagles (which we’ll break down next).

This play can still serve as an example of the all around high level of quarterback play that Tony is still capable of though, as he recognizes the single coverage across the board – bad snap and all. When he picks it up and looks around, Jason Witten in front of him is the only and best option, as he patiently waits for Witten to work his defender at the goal line.

Tony ensures that this play would end in jubilation for Cowboys Nation, waiting an extra beat to hold that linebacker on the goal line, before hitting Witten for the win.

 

Week 2: Tony Romo at the Philadelphia Eagles

Att Comp Pct Yds TD INT YPA
18 27 66.7% 195 0 0 7.2

We all know how this game ended for Tony Romo, but he did do enough to secure the win as Brandon Weeden held on in this defensive contest against the rival Eagles on the road. To do so, Romo had to once again fight through some sloppy play around him, including (surprisingly) from his offensive line.

Romo made big touch throws to the likes of Terrance Williams and Lance Dunbar in this game – making up for the absence of Dez Bryant. In this first clip, Williams does a great job of gaining inside leverage off the snap to run his deep slant route. After Tony executes his play fake, he sees Williams running free over the middle, and delivers him an absolute dart.

 


The windows were consistently tight for Romo in this game, and Scott Linehan ran a ton of plays out of his typical 11 personnel. This meant that Romo did not have the luxury of scanning the field with four or five targets like he did so well against the Giants, instead having to sometimes rely on clean pockets like this to allow him to look towards his target and place the pass perfectly.

You’ll see all of that best on another big gain to Terrance Williams.

 

 

Even his last throw before exiting to injury for Brandon Weeden was an absolute dime to Lance Dunbar down the sideline, proving further that throws like these need to return to the 2016 Cowboys offense with Tony Romo.

 

 

Week 11: Tony Romo at the Miami Dolphins

Comp Att Pct Yds TD INT YPA
18 28 64.3% 227 2 2 8.1

In his first game back from injury, we saw some expected rust  from Tony Romo against the Dolphins. Fighting through this, Romo was forced into his highest yards-per-attempt of the season by some tough Miami defense, and still made the big touch throws in clutch situations to eventually snap a seven game losing streak for Dallas.

 

Romo was truly a commander of his offense in his first game back on the road, consistently changing things up at the line of scrimmage and getting his line in the right protections to give him time to throw against the Dolphins’ zone coverage.

Along with this, patience was an important element of Romo’s game from the pocket here, something that we have not necessarily seen from Dak Prescott. In the above play, Romo understands that his route concept will open up over the middle, and with a clean pocket he waits to thread the needle to Gavin Escobar.

 

Romo did get the win despite two interceptions, and his first turnover here was simply a bad decision and throw. Under unexpected heavy pressure, Romo quickly tries to stand in and beat the Dolphins over the top to Bryant, but the execution was poor as this throw hangs up and is lead too far inside.

 

Throwing again to Bryant under pressure in our next example, Romo uses his quick release to sling this ball perfectly to Dez out of his break. As we’ve noted throughout this study, this pass was put where only Bryant would catch it, and it serves as another example of the big “veteran-like” throws that Tony can bring back to the 2016 Cowboys.

 

Along with that, here is a vintage Tony Romo scramble and completion from this game. It is fair to say the Cowboys have not needed whatever Romo can bring to this team so far this season, winning 5 games with Prescott, but savvy plays like these would certainly continue to help this team win – just in a different way.

 

We’ve also already discussed the debate circulating around Romo bringing the deep passing element back into Scott Linehan’s arsenal with the Cowboys. In this game, the Dolphins gave Romo some contested throws deep, and he was able to hit on key ones like this Terrance Williams touchdown strike. Tony climbs the pocket and rips this ball over the top to Williams, who adjusts to make a great play for the score.

The last two plays I’ll show from this game are Romo’s second interception followed by his second touchdown pass. On the interception below, Romo again tries to check the ball underneath but is inaccurate looking for Robert Turbin. The play is similar to the above interception from week 1 against the Giants, where Romo threw behind Jason Witten.

 

A mistake like this from a veteran player can only be made up for with individual effort, and Romo certainly gave Dallas plenty of that later in the game by responding with plays like this Dez Bryant touchdown. Below, you’ll see Romo recognize another blitz, which is picked up by Zack Martin. Once he has time to get through his reads, Romo looks for Bryant to vacate the open area working out of the slot left by the blitzing defender, and drops this throw in the bucket once he does for a pivotal score.

 

Week 12: Tony Romo Vs the Carolina Panthers

Comp Att Pct Yds TD INT YPA
11 21 52.4% 106 0 3 5

We’ve reached this game. Thanksgiving 2015 is the last time we saw Tony Romo in the regular season, and still shaking off rust after Sunday’s return in Miami, Romo played what was likely the worst game of his career on the short week. Against the eventual NFC Champion Carolina Panthers, Romo was never able to get a step ahead, constantly being beaten by the speed of this defense – eventually succumbing to some indecisiveness and second-guessing that showed on the tape via missed easy throws into closing windows.

Romo’s first interception came on just his second passing attempt, as he never sees this safety breaking on what would otherwise be an open second read after Beasley was covered.

 

The same can be said about Romo’s second interception to all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly (who actually picked off Romo on consecutive plays following this to complete the hat trick of turnovers for Tony prior to his season-ending injury).

Romo thinks that he has Kuechly committed to carrying Jason Witten up the seam, and if he was any other linebacker, Romo is likely correct. Instead, he is able to range over to pick off this pass at the hashes and return it for a score.

In between these disastrous plays from Romo, there was some good to take away from this game. The two rhythm throws to Cole Beasley below can serve as reasons for excitement if Romo returns to a 2016 team that is seeing Beasley thrive under Dak Prescott – mostly in the absence of Dez Bryant.

 

In the end, Dak Prescott supporters will still quickly cite this game in an attempt to strengthen their case for sticking with the rookie by degrading the veteran Romo. Specifically, they’ll likely bring up this third and final interception from Romo into the hands of Kuechly. #9 simply forced this throw, and tested a player that should not have been, one that was able to make him pay.

 

Final Thoughts on Tony Romo in 2015

Getting a chance to closely study Tony Romo from the previous season was really a fascinating exercise. Let’s be real, the first takeaway I had was that Romo is a slightly lesser player than he was in 2014. 

With that said, the simple things that Romo was able to execute in 2015 were impressive, as well as good enough to reasonably believe he could have the 2016 version of the Cowboys offense playing at the same level they are currently.

Tony Romo does not have much time left, and I love everything that Dak Prescott has been able to do (with ease) through six games under center for the Dallas Cowboys. It may not be as clean when Romo gets his chance to step in, but I still believe he needs that chance, and that with it he will simply get the job done as always.

Dallas’ running game will thrive with Romo and his experience – allowing him to get the ball to Ezekiel Elliott in the perfect opportunities. Dez Bryant is going to be ready to go, and suddenly the 2016 Cowboys may resemble a super-charged 2014 team.

Not only will they have a chance to be the 2014 team that made a playoff run with Tony Romo once again at quarterback, but they will be a team with a present and a future – with that future waiting on the sidelines being Dak Prescott.

Let’s all enjoy the fact that Dallas should be on the brink of a special run over the next few years. If that run starts in 2016, this lengthy film study has me believing that it starts and ends with Antonio Ramiro Romo.

 

For much more on this topic, check out my case for Tony Romo on the RJ Ochoa Show. Fellow Staff Writer Jess Haynie made his case for Dak Prescott, with Staff Writer RJ Ochoa serving as the host and moderator.

To view all of these clips, along with more analysis that did not make this article, check me out on Twitter @ShoreSportsNJ! 

You can also use the comments section below to share your thoughts on this film study, and if Romo or Prescott should start. I can also be reached via email at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com.

Tell us what you think about “Reel Talk: What Can Tony Romo Still Do? The Answers From His 2015 Tape” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

Sean Martin

Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we're not how you think we are. Host of "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

5 Comments
  • https://kevinrobertbrady.wordpress.com Kevin Brady

    Good stuff, Sean. I want to be Team Romo so bad, and being reminded of just how great he can look from your clips and some others over the past few days has been nice. At the very least I think he has earned the benefit of the doubt from this franchise to get another chance at being the QB no matter how well Dak has looked.

    • http://wmscradio.com/show/upon-further-review/ Sean Martin

      Thanks for checking it out, Kevin. I agree with all of this completely, this film reassured to me that he can still play dominant football and go out there with Bryant, Elliott, Beasley, and everyone else and lead this offense to great things. Guess we’ll have to wait a bit longer and see.

  • Mike Young

    Week 1: Just maybe without Romo’s two interceptions we wouldn’t have needed a last minute scoring drive. Overall, sure Romo recognizes defenses and makes throws but honestly I don’t see in these clips anymore than Dak is doing. Yes, and Dak is 5-1 on top of the NFC as of now. Lastly, last three games, three bones broken. Let’s end this debate. Romo has lost his job due to injury and more importantly the play of Prescott among of things.

    • Jared

      I’d concur that the 1st pick thrown by Romo was on him, but that second one was one hundred percent on Devin Street. He was too weak to hang on to the ball (strength seems to be one of his bigger issues) and thus he pops the ball to the defense who return it for a score. If Street hangs on to the ball like an NFL receiver, that TD isn’t scored.

      Pointing out Romo’s injury history is pointless, the whole purpose to this analysis is to prove why he’s earned a chance to play again despite his injuries. Obviously Dak is 5-1, but that’s largely because just about everything has gone perfect for him. Aaron Rodgers is bad all of a sudden, the o-line is playing better than they ever have, and they have a back who’s running for 140 yards every game. His mediocre receivers are surprisingly creating separation (Terrance has clearly improved due to his experience last year). I can’t think of a time Dak has had to deal with the pressure Romo did against Miami.

      The whole point is that you want to have the best chance you can at winning a SB, right? Well, Romo has proven that if everything else is failing, he can put the team on his back and win for you. Dak has not shown the ability to do that yet. He’s faced minor adversities, but nothing like a 10 year veteran.

      Romo might not have it anymore, but you need to find out. If not for a chance to win this year, then to find out what your best course of action is to do with him for the future. You have a very good QB with a lot of potential in Dak, who’s on a low-cost rookie deal for 4 years, and the majority of your core players are going to be here for at least as long as he is, meaning you have the luxury to try to maximize your team this year by playing Tony.

  • Mike Young

    Dak brings so much more juice than Tony. Hard for teams to keep up.

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