Despite coming off a career season for Tony Romo, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys front office are faced with the difficult task of finding his successor.
The Cowboys all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns is under contract through the 2019 season, but due to his age and injury history it’s unlikely he’ll be the quarterback of America’s Team for four more seasons. Romo, who has already undergone two back surgeries, will turn 35 years of age in April. Dallas needs to find a quarterback who can develop under Romo’s wing and be ready to lead this offense when the time comes.
The only other quarterbacks on the roster are Brandon Weeden and Dustin Vaughan. Weeden is a former first round pick who boasts a lousy 5-16 career record. His underwhelming performance in a week 9 loss to the Cardinals left much to be desired.
Vaughan is a Texas native who signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent out of West Texas A&M. He currently holds school records for passing yards and touchdowns. Scouts at last year’s combine were impressed with his size (6’5”, 235 pounds) as well as his leadership qualities and intangibles.
Vaughan is an intriguing option and it’s clear the Cowboys see potential in him as they kept him on the roster throughout the season. Tony Romo proved to the world that an undrafted player can make a name for himself and Vaughan may be presented that opportunity as well.
The Cowboys staff will also look to the draft for a future quarterback. Dallas has more pressing needs to fulfill this draft, particularly on the defensive front and secondary, so look for them to spend one of their later picks (rounds 4-7) on a quarterback.
Last year the Cowboys were shopping for a quarterback and owner/general manager Jerry Jones had a strong interest in Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Dallas had the opportunity to grab him with the 16th overall pick but wisely chose offensive guard Zack Martin. Now Martin is an All-Pro offensive lineman and Manziel has checked himself into rehab.
The most important thing is for Dallas to draft smart, as they have in recent years. Never underestimate Jerry Jones’ propensity to trade up in the draft, but guys like Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are beyond their realm.
There are many talented quarterbacks in this year’s draft, such as Bryce Petty, Garrett Grayson and Blake Sims - among others - who could be an option for the Cowboys if they slip in the draft beyond their projection.
It’s difficult to imagine anybody other than #9 under center but that time will come eventually and Dallas must be prepared. Despite a playoff victory and MVP chatter for Romo in the 2014 season, there are no guarantees in the NFL. Tony Romo is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league but another injury to his back could be the end of a storybook career.
Just as Tom Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe, and Aaron Rodgers replaced Brett Favre, and Tony Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe, somebody will replace Tony Romo.
Life beyond Tony Romo is on the horizon for the Dallas Cowboys, and they must be prepared.
Previewing Tony Pollard’s Big Night as Cowboys Starting RB
With Ezekiel Elliiott still holding out for a new contract, Tony Pollard is currently playing with the Cowboys' first-team offense. After limited glimpses in the first two preseason games of 2019, Dallas fans hope to see much more of Pollard's potential in tonight's game against the Houston Texans.
The third preseason game has historically been dubbed the "dress rehearsal" game, where NFL teams generally play their starters for at least the first half or more. While there's still the vanilla play-calling and other typical issues of preseason football, it's our best chance to see the real Dallas Cowboys before the 2019 season begins.
Until something changes between Elliott and the Cowboys, Tony Pollard is the number-one RB. If Zeke's holdout lingers, we may be counting on the 4th-round rookie to help win important division games in the first two weeks of the regular season.
If last week's win over the Rams was any indication, the Cowboys offense may not suffer much with Pollard as RB1. He was able to get yards in chunks on the ground and as a receiver, then capped the drive with a tough bit of running for the touchdown.
Despite scouting reports that made him out to be a Darren Sproles or Lance Dunbar, Pollard looks like more than just a receiving RB. His pass-blocking could use some work, which may limit his usage on third downs, but otherwise he looks very capable of producing in Zeke's absence.
Without question, we're hoping that Elliott returns and gets his usual workload in Week One and beyond. But while his status remains unclear, increased confidence in Tony Pollard is good for all of us.
And if another big game helps the Cowboys' leverage in their negotiations with Zeke, that's also not a bad thing.
That's the added wrinkle to tonight's intrigue. Pollard's performance, good or bad, could impact these ongoing talks between Dallas and their franchise RB.
No, anything Pollard does tonight won't suddenly make Zeke decide he deserves less money than Todd Gurley. But it could bolster the Cowboys' resolve not to give in to Elliott's demands.
Without question, the Dallas offense is better with both Zeke and Pollard playing this season. But if the Cowboys are determined not to make Elliott the highest-paid RB in football, then anything the rookie can do to make that decision easier is important.
So yes, tonight is just another meaningless exhibition game in a lot of ways. But when it comes to the future of the running back position for the Dallas Cowboys, and how big a part of it Tony Pollard will be going forward, it may mean more than you think.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition
In the NFL, the third preseason week is often referred to as the "Dress Rehearsal." It's usually the week in which starters get the most playing time. That has changed lately, with plenty of teams deciding to take care of their key players instead of risking them on the field. However, the Dallas Cowboys have played their starters on their first two games and there's no reason to believe that will change versus the Texans today.
Here is my wishlist for the Cowboys vs Texans "Dress Rehearsal!" Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Justin Phillips Locks Up a Roster Spot
Phillips has been one of the most surprising players this offseason and preseason. The Cowboys are set at linebacker, but Phillips has made sure to be a tough guy to cut. Last week, he had a remarkable interception against the Rams. Despite making a first step toward the line, he managed to adjust and made the play. He has followed it up with more plays in practice.
If he keeps it up, the Cowboys won't be able to cut him. He has the potential to be a force on special teams and a quality backup.
Wish #2: Devin Smith Makes Things Interesting
The battle for the final wide receiver spots is at full-go. Devin Smith has shined lately, and has risen as a serious candidate to make the roster. However, it seems like other wide receivers have the upper-hand as of now. Earlier this week, I made my Cowboys WR Power Rankings and had Devin Smith at #7.
His TD catch versus the Rams last week was pretty impressive, and I wish he makes a few more plays to make the debate all the more interesting.
Wish #3: Tony Pollard Does It Again
Fifth-round rookie Tony Pollard
stole was the show last weekend as he racked up 51 total yards (five carries, one catch) and a touchdown on Dallas' first offensive drive. He looked impressive as the starting running back, giving us just what we wanted to see.
While many have advertised him as a gadget player, Pollard proved he can actually be a "standard" RB. He ran between the tackles, showed power, balance and great vision. I'm ready to watch it again, this time versus the Texans.
Wish #4: Taco Charlton Shines Rushing The Passer
Taco Charlton has made a couple of plays in preseason on his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Rams, he batted down two passes and looked good separating from opposing offensive linemen. Charlton has gotten praise from some analysts during these first two preseason weeks.
But I want to watch some quality pass rush from his part. Right now, the Cowboys' roster counts with some promising players, including rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson. While they're currently below Taco, he must prove he belongs on the roster.
Cowboys’ Tight End Marcus Lucas with Huge Opportunity vs the Houston Texans
With only two preseason games remaining, opportunities to make a statement are growing thin. The Dallas Cowboys have very few spots on the roster available, especially at the tight end position where Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz appear to have the depth chart locked down. The problem is, Jarwin and Schultz have been dealing with injuries and missed the second preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams and probably won't play against the Houston Texans tonight.
Enter Marcus Lucas.
Marcus Lucas hasn't been a member of the Dallas Cowboys for very long, but he's already made an impact.
In his first preseason game with the Dallas Cowboys, Lucas caught four passes on four targets for 20 yards. His receptions went for two, seven, five, and six yards for an average of five yards per reception. He did have a holding penalty that cost the Dallas Cowboys 10 yards on a first down play that didn't go anywhere anyway.
Though Lucas has bounced around NFL practice squads, he's never really found a home. After going undrafted in 2014, Lucas was signed by the Carolina Panthers in May of that year but wasn't able to stick on the 53-man roster and was released and placed on the practice squad. In 2015, he was on the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears practice squads. In 2016, the Panthers brought him back in the summer after the Bears released him from their 90-man roster. That September after cut-down day, the Seattle Seahawks signed Lucas to their practice squad where he spent all of 2016. From 2017 to the end of 2018, Lucas spent time with the Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, the Seattle Seahawks again, and the San Francisco 49ers. He was with the 49ers in 2019 before joining the Dallas Cowboys about two weeks ago and will get an extended run in these final two preseason games.
At Thursday's practice, Lucas was the only tight end available with Jason Witten getting a rest day and Jarwin, Schultz, and fellow Tight End Cody McElroy dealing with injuries.
With Jason Witten getting a day of rest, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Codey McElroy injured, the Cowboys have one tight end practicing today: Marcus Lucas, who has been with the team for about two weeks.
It's possible that Lucas may get an extended amount of playing time tonight with an opportunity to show the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL that he's ready to land on a 53-man roster. With likely only Jason Witten being the only other tight end active for the game against the Houston Texans, Lucas will get a lot of playing time. If his last preseason exposure is any indication, he'll get the chance to display his receiving prowess.
At 27, Lucas likely has few opportunities left to make his mark for an NFL franchise. On a team that proclaims the "next man up" as a battle cry, after Witten, Lucas is the next man up for tonight and depending on his performance could make the Dallas Cowboys front office or another front office around the league take notice.
Depending on the long-term health of the Dallas Cowboys' tight end position, Lucas may find his path to a roster spot simply dependent upon the health of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. Though a job may not come with the Dallas Cowboys, tonight is an extremely important audition for his next suitor. How he performs tonight could land Marcus Lucas a job after the Dallas Cowboys trim the roster to 53 next week.
They say "preseason games don't matter," but to Marcus Lucas, this might be the most important game of his career.
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Zeke Holdout: Remember, Owners Agreed to Renegotiating Contracts
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Michael Gallup Showing WR1 Talent in Amari Cooper’s Absence
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
5 Dallas Cowboys Backups Who Have Earned More Playing Time
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Line Looking Absolutely Stacked
Player News2 days ago
Report: Cowboys Offer Ezekiel Elliott a Contract to Make him the NFL’s Second Highest-Paid RB
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 3
Game Notes2 weeks ago
3 Studs and Duds From Dallas Cowboys Preseason Week 1 Matchup
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 2