How long did it take you to finally appreciate Tony Romo?
Did it happen quickly? Did you immediately fall in love when he entered that game in 2006? Was it after his first playoff victory in 2009? Was it last year when he played as efficient as it gets leading the Cowboys to a 12-4 record with a playoff victory? Or was it this season, when you realized what life is like without number nine under center?
You don't know what you got 'til it's gone.
One of the most important sayings in this world holds true when it comes to Tony Romo.
The saddest part...the end may be sooner than any of us want to think it is...myself included.
While I have firmly believed the Cowboys should address the quarterback position via the draft for the past couple years, I have always thought it would be so that Romo could train the young player and we could have a seamless transition in a couple of years.
I always childishly thought that Romo would be my quarterback forever. As a 23-year-old Dallas Cowboys fan, Romo was the first great Cowboys quarterback I ever got to watch. I have several different versions of his jersey. I have his FatHead on the wall of my basement, with a signed picture of him accompanying it. My girlfriend painted a picture of Romo and Dez and that hangs in my bedroom. Tony Romo is that connection that I have from childhood to adulthood. Someone that will always be very important to me.
With that being said, it really hit a nerve this weekend when I heard about how the hit Romo took in week one against the Giants brought him back to where he was in week one against the 49ers in 2014.
Tony Romo played a large portion of 2014 and with an entire offseason, I thought we would see a Tony Romo as healthy as he's been in some time. The back should have been stronger. The aches and pains you get from playing such a physical sport your entire life should be lessened...and BOOM...one hit sends Romo right back to where he was.
Then there is the obvious, the fractured collarbone which he re-fractured just one week after returning.
All of this put together made me sit and think about this. One hit sent Romo back to where he was in week one of 2014? Someone so sparingly hit is getting hurt this often? Romo needed a day off on the Wednesday before his return against the Dolphins after sitting for all those weeks? What is really going on with my quarterback?
The reality is...Tony Romo is not what he used to be physically. I think we all tend to remove ourselves from the human aspect of pro sports and celebrities in general. Think about it, you play one game of football and I bet you wake up the next day as sore as could be. Yes, that is probably because you are doing something that your muscles aren't used to. So then imagine playing an entire season of football, or any sport for that matter. I bet you wake up everyday with some sort of ache or pain. You get that numb feeling in your shoulder or your knee, etc. where you just feel the fatigue.
Picture that...but magnify it across twenty or so years. Think back to the Tony Romo playing football and basketball in high school. Then the same guy playing in college...and so on and so forth. Think about all the hits he has taken. Think about all the days and nights he has felt sore or achy. Take into account the amount of serious injuries Romo has sustained over his career. It all starts to add up.
Yes, there have been plenty of players who have played much later into their careers. Look at Tom Brady still dominating at 38 and Peyton Manning finally starting to regress at 39. These are nice stories, but every player is different and father-time chooses to strike people at different times.
Tony Romo plays a much different type of football than Manning or Brady. Romo has made a living off of being athletic. No, he's not Russell Wilson or Michael Vick, but Romo would scramble, avoid pressure, take heavy hits...all while making big plays.
We know that Romo has taken Toradol a ton of times over his career.
Toradol is a heavy-duty anti-inflammatory drug. It reduces hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body. Toradol is a very controversial drug in sports today as the long-term effects of the drug are unknown.
His performance last season against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving can be attributed to lack of Toradol in some minds. With the quick turnaround, it would be unhealthy for Romo to have taken another dose of Toradol for that Thanksgiving game.
This made me think about Romo's performances on Thanksgiving as of late. In 2014, Romo was 18-29 for 199 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs, good for a 53.7 QB rating. In 2015, Romo was 11-21 for 106 yards with 0 TDs and 3 INTs, good for a 27.2 QB rating.
Since injuring his back, Romo has chucked up two of his worst career performances ever, on Thanksgiving. I wonder what we can expect from Romo on a short week in the future. Can both of these instances be attributed to lack of Toradol? Are the aches and pains from football so extreme that Romo can't play in a short week? If Romo needs to sit every Wednesday practice, and we see what he does when forced to play on a Thursday, what does that tell you?
Then there is this which I found in a New York Times article about Toradol:
"The limit I’m worried about is, does it dull the pain so much that it dulls the body part they’ve injured?" said Dr. Carla C. Keirns, a medical ethicist at Stony Brook University, adding that athletes could be prone to reinjury because the warning signs of pain are muted.
If all of that isn't enough to cause concern for Tony Romo, he is entering his age 36 season. To expect him to come back healthy and continue to be great would be expecting too much. Can he come back and play 16 games and lead this team to a great season? Of course he can. However, you have to consider some of the things that will happen to a quarterback who is 36 years old.
At ages 35-36, quarterbacks see a drop off in their play. Keep in mind, we didn't see Tony Romo play his age 35 season due to injury. We should see decreased arm strength. Will Romo be able to hit the deep ball like he did two years ago? Will he be able to throw an out route from the slot to the sideline with velocity? Will he have the same touch we expect? Will he be able to do some of the athletic pocket moves that make him so special?
More importantly, will Tony Romo be thinking about his back and shoulder when the defense is caving down on him? You can make an argument that protecting his back is why Romo has gone down like he has when injuring his collarbone. Not to mention the rib issues that he has had over his career.
I am as big a fan of Tony Romo as you will ever meet. It was hard coming to this realization. Part of me knew this was going to come, but I wanted to refuse the thought as long as I could. Unfortunately, this came quick during the 2015 season.
It is extremely important for the Dallas Cowboys to have a plan in place in case they have less of Tony Romo than they thought. I think you have Jerry Jones feeling the same way I do, and most fans do about Romo. We want to refuse the thought that we will ever see number 9 hang it up one day.
While we have that guy, it is extremely important to not only back him up, but to use the opportunity to have a young quarterback sit, watch and learn from Tony Romo. It could be a real luxury to not have to thrust someone into the fire so early. Don't make the mistake of waiting too long and not letting your young quarterback learn and be as ready as possible. Tony Romo is as good a player to learn from on-the-field and off-the-field.
Nobody wants the day when someone other than Tony Romo is behind center. It will hurt even more if they are not prepared when that day comes.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
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:
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.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
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.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
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
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
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.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
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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