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Tony Romo Injury: The Ripple Effect

Jess Haynie

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Tony Romo

Cowboys Headlines - Possible Waiver Wire Quarterbacks For Dallas CowboysWe all know by now that Tony Romo suffered a lower back fracture in Thursday night's game against the Seattle Seahawks. We also know that he won't be the Cowboys starting quarterback to begin the 2016 season.

What remains unknown is exactly how long Romo will be out. I've heard a timetable of 4-6 weeks but also one of 6-10 weeks. At this point, nobody is saying that Romo's done for the season.

Give that it's still two weeks until Dallas' first regular season game, that means Romo could come back far sooner into the year than perhaps was originally being discussed. Even the Cowboys third game is still on the table, though that would be the most optimistic projection.

Let's take a look at how Romo's status, and the wide range of possibilities, will impact the Cowboys' roster decisions as the NFL cut-down deadlines are just days away.

QB Depth Chart

After his first two brilliant preseason games, Dak Prescott seemed to have closed the discussion about the backup quarterback. Now Prescott will be Dallas' starter during Romo's recovery, bringing the rest of the depth chart back into question.

Cowboys Headlines - The Dak Prescott Hype: Why It's Completely Okay To Buy In 1My projection had been that Dallas would keep just Romo and Prescott on the roster and put Jameil Showers back on the practice squad. They had their backup and developmental player in a single roster spot with Prescott. However, now they will have to reassess.

There are two ways to look at Showers and having him be Dak's backup. On the one hand, you might want a veteran now. If Prescott gets injured or struggles against regular season competition, an experienced quarterback might be preferable to another young project player.

Showers hasn't looked great in the preseason, but he's also had the misfortune of playing with the least talent around him. What would he look like behind first-team offensive linemen and throwing to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten?

Another factor to consider is playing styles. Prescott and Showers are both mobile, athletic players. If the offense gets used to Prescott's style and plays are developed to take advantage of his running, could that give Showers more value? He might be able to bring a continuity factor as a backup that an older, slower pocket passer could not.

Romo's Return

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys 2016 Super Bowl Run Starts With Tony Romo 3

Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News

There is still the possibility that Tony Romo could be put on injured reserve with the option of being re-activated in the middle of the season. However, that would remove the option of an early return.

Let's say things go beautifully and Romo can play after four weeks from the injury. That means he could come back for the Cowboys' Week 3 game. This is highly idealistic, but do you really want to take it off the table?

More than likely, Romo will be carried on the 53-man roster and left inactive while he heals up. That preserves the team's options and maximizes flexibility in handling the position throughout the season.

Roster Math

If you look at my last 53-man roster projection then you'll see where I had Dallas going long at a few positions. One of those roster spots will be gone now with the changes at quarterback.

Where will the spot come from? Here are the most likely options:

  • Cowboys Headlines - Lance Dunbar Officially Cleared To Return To PracticeRunning Back - How badly do you really need Lance Dunbar? Given his own history, how much do you even trust him to stay healthy? Dallas could elect to cut Dunbar along with Darren McFadden and just keep Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, and Darius Jackson. They also could decide to risk Jackson on the practice squad if they'd rather hang on to one of the veterans.
  • Tight End - I had Dallas keeping five tight ends on the last roster projection. One of those was Rico Gathers, who made the team only as a developmental player to protect him from the practice squad. Dallas may now have to take that risk. Alternatively, they could be forced to make a decision between Geoff Swaim and Austin Traylor if they don't want to leave Gathers vulnerable.
  • Fullback - They may not keep a FB at all, instead using a tight end when they need someone to run block out of the backfield. They will likely be trying out Swaim and Traylor in that role during practice to see if that becomes an option.
  • Linebacker - I had the Cowboys keeping seven but they could just go with six; three starters and three backups. This is especially possible if Keith Smith, now at fullback after being converted from linebacker, is still around for emergency depth. Believe it or not, I think it could be Justin Durant who loses out in this scenario. Turning 31 next month, Durant has been showing his age so far since returning to Dallas and may not be the player they'd hoped for.

It's hard to say which of these is the most likely. Only the Cowboys know how much they value the individual players who would be impacted.

No matter where it comes from, though, it appears somebody is going to lose their job thanks to Romo's injury.

Cowboys Headlines - 2016 Breakout Candidates: Brice Butler 1Changing Roles

Even for guys who were going to make the team in any scenario, their roles and playing time could be impacted. This was discussed in detail by fellow staff writer RJ Ochoa earlier today, who showed how Brice Butler's value may have just increased in a Dak Prescott-led offense.

A move from Romo to Prescott also puts even more emphasis on the Cowboys running game and the importance of the offensive line. It could have just taken Ronald Leary off the trade block; does Dallas really want to risk not having him now?

~ ~ ~

The immediate response to Tony Romo's injury was probably more extreme than the reality of the consequences. He may not be out as long as we first thought, though you do have to wonder what sort of player he'll be upon return.

It's important to remember that Romo's been here before. He played all of 2014 with two small back fractures and still led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record, division title, and playoff win. We may be overrating how much this changes our season.

One thing is clear; we have Dak Prescott now and way more hope as a result. If Dak's preseason play is any indication of what he'll do in September, then the big question may not be about when Romo comes back or how he'll play when he does.

At that point, we may be asking if Romo will ever get his job back at all.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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2 Comments
  • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/759713857/ John Angell

    I don’s see Dunbar making the roster given his injury history and our backfield. I’d much rather see what Action Jackson can do as a KR and 3rd RB than keep the brittle Dunbar. Also, it would be pretty shocking if Geoff Swaim didn’t make the roster. Minus game 1 with the dropsies, he’s been very solid. Haven’t seen much to do with his pass protection, but the few times I’ve noticed it he’s been solid. There’s a pretty good chance Gathers won’t make the practice squad though, and he has potential. Couple of good conundrums.

    • http://www.PigskinHub.com/ Jess Haynie

      You and I are thinking the same way in Dunbar. Right now I’d probably bet on him being the big loser in the Romo injury.

      Good points on Swaim, too. If they like his blocking enough then they probably don’t have to keep Traylor.

Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Prescott’s Legs Give Offense a Much Needed Spark

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Prescott's Legs Give Offense a Much Needed Spark

When the Dallas Cowboys took the field last Sunday against the New York Giants, they did so very differently than last week, starting with a 64-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to connect with WR Tavon Austin in the third play of the game. Although there are still many things this team must continue to work on, they looked like a very improved unit in week 2.

Here are my main takeaways from the Dallas Cowboys' first win of the year. Let me know what yours are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL and let's talk football!

Cowboys' Secondary Capable of Holding Top WR

If there was one player who could've changed the outcome for the New York Giants, it was WR Odell Beckham Jr. Widely recognized as one of the best wideouts in the nation, Beckham was the biggest challenge the cornerbacks, led by Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie, have had in the first two weeks.

None of them followed Beckham all over the field, each stayed on their side of the field and still managed to limit him to four receptions for 51 yards in nine targets. The Giant's offense is not known for being one of the best in the league, but it's the fact that this defense was able to limit exactly the player they needed to. They did their job.

Also, props to the defensive line for keeping the pressure on Eli Manning.

Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Bounce Back Against Giants

Taco Charlton Was Dominant VS Nate Solder

With Randy Gregory ruled out for the game, Taco Charlton had a golden opportunity to stay on the field for more snaps. He took advantage of this, as he finished the night with three tackles, one for a loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.

Charlton still has a long way to go in order to prove he was worthy of a first round pick, but we can't deny he hasn't stopped developing. It will be interesting to see how he does now that Gregory is expected to return for week 3.

Dak Prescott's Legs Give Offense a Needed Spark

One of the things I liked the most about the Cowboys' game versus the Giants was how Dak Prescott was utilized. Criticized after a poor performance in Carolina, Prescott came out with a chip on his shoulder.

We've been talking a lot about how Scott Linehan must play Prescott to his strengths and that's precisely what he did by letting Dak run for 45 yards in seven carries. It's completely understandable if the Cowboys don't want to run him as much as the Panthers do with Cam Newton, but the truth is, if #4 hurts defenses with his leg, Ezekiel Elliott won't receiver all of the defense's attention.

Also, shoutout to how they used Tavon Austin. With Elliott, Prescott and Austin being a threat on option plays, this offense could take a step on the right direction.

If Activated, Where Does Rico Gathers Fit Offensively?

Rico Gathers Will Be Used

The Cowboys' Rico Gathers project is moving in the right direction. The 2016 sixth-round pick was active for the first time in his career last Sunday. The first question that popped into our heads was whether or not he'd be actually used in the game. He was.

He even managed to get open in the end zone in a play that could've been TD but Prescott didn't throw a good pass. However, the mere fact that he was able to get open and that the coaches actually put him on the field told us a lot about his future. Cowboys Nation should be excited to see him involved.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Prescott’s Legs Give Offense a Much Needed Spark" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys vs the New York Giants: Stock Up and Stock Down

John Williams

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The Jaylon Smith We've Been Expecting Is Finally Here

The Dallas Cowboys bounced back in a big way against the New York Giants in week two. Several players bounced back as well after struggling a bit in week one against the Carolina Panthers. Other players continued to struggle or saw a drop in play from week one to week two.

Here are the Dallas Cowboys who saw their stock rise and some who saw their stock fall this week.

Stock Up

Jaylon Smith, Linebacker

Jaylon Smith has been really good to start the season and had an excellent game against the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football. Every day Smith is removed from the devastating knee injury he suffered in his final game at Notre Dame is a day closer to realizing the elite play that many expected of him before the injury.

Pro Football Reference credited the starting middle linebacker with seven solo tackles and three assists. Pro Football Focus had Jaylon Smith with 3 stops -- plays that were a "loss" for the offense -- while becoming a stabilizing force for the linebacker position.

Byron Jones, Cornerback

The fourth year player who has made a successful move from safety to cornerback, Byron Jones has been everything the Dallas Cowboys hoped he'd be when they made him their first round pick back in 2015.

Shame that it took so long to get him to cornerback.

Against a potent New York Giants receiving corp, Jones only allowed one reception on five targets on Sunday night. He also had six solo tackles and three stops, per Pro Football Focus.

The one reception that Pro Football Focus credited to Byron Jones was by Running Back Saquon Barkley and that catch went for zero yards.

So on the night, Byron Jones allowed zero yards into his coverage areas. He's really good at cornerback and is taking to Kris Richard's coaching quite nicely.

Dak Prescott, Quarterback

After much gnashing of teeth after the week one loss to the Carolina Panthers, Dak Prescott rebounded with a strong, confident performance in the Dallas Cowboys week two win over the Giants.

He completed 64% of his passes for 160 yards and ran for 45 yards on seven carries. The passing yardage isn't huge, but on a night in which the defense was absolutely dominant, Dak Prescott made the plays that needed to be made for the Dallas Cowboys to win the game.

He was great in the read-option on Sunday night, perfectly executing it for several really good runs.

The throw to Tavon Austin on the third offensive play from scrimmage was a great throw that set the tone for the Dallas Cowboys the rest of the night. His yards per attempt and passer rating were both improved from week one and he just looked better.

If Dak Prescott can continue to put together performances like this, the Dallas Cowboys will win a lot of games this season.

Connor Williams, Left Guard

After getting pushed around for much of last week's game by Kawann Short, rookie Connor Williams rebounded with a really nice game.

Williams didn't allow a pressure all night and the offensive line was much better as a whole. The unit didn't allow a sack against the New York Giants.

According to Pro Football Focus, Elliott's biggest run of the night came behind Connor Williams at left guard.

Williams is an important piece to the puzzle and if he's playing well, it will provide better pockets for Dak Prescott.

Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver

After seeing only 10 snaps in week one, Tavon Austin was on the field for nearly twice as many and made them count as he ended with two receptions for 79 yards and had one rush for 15 yards.

That's 94 total yards on three touches. The "Tavon Effect" was in full force last night as the team used his speed to their advantage. Even when the ball didn't go his direction he had an effect on the game.

Damien Wilson, Linebacker

Seemingly the odd man out after the Dallas Cowboys selected Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Damien Wilson had an excellent game in his limited playing time.

Wilson played 17 defensive snaps and 22 snaps on special teams and was credited with three solo tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. He's was excellent on Sunday night in the snaps he was given.

It's unlikely that we'll see a big snap increase for him with the talent ahead of him on the depth chart, but he provided very valuable snaps when given the opportunity.

Stock Down

Terrance Williams, Wide Receiver

Terrance Williams who has been a starter for several years now with the Dallas Cowboys, and even started week one, saw his snap count drop from week one to week two. After seeing 19 snaps against the Carolina Panthers, he was onlyon the field for 10 snaps in week two.

There's been speculation as the Dallas Cowboys have resigned former Wide Receiver Brice Butler that Terrance Williams could be the odd man out of the wide receiver room. That snap count is either an indication of his status on the team or the game plan they had against the New York Giants.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Williams moving forward.

La'el Collins, Right Tackle

A week after allowing four pressures, most along the offensive line, La'el Collins allowed three more pressures on Sunday night against the New York Giants. He was the only offensive lineman to allow multiple pressures and appeared to struggle with the Giants blitz and stunt schemes.

The New York Giants had rushers go unblocked at times on Sunday night.

Dak Prescott wasn't sacked against the Giants, but he had to avoid some pressure on that side to throw the ball away.

Collins has to be better against the pass rush going forward to keep Dak Prescott clean and able to play better.

Dallas Cowboys Tight Ends

The Dallas Cowboys' tight end group of Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, and Rico Gathers did not have a single catch to their name on Sunday night. There were opportunities that were missed, like the Dak Prescott overthrow to Rico Gathers in the end zone. However, not being able to come up with a single catch against the Giants is a bit surprising.

Speaking frankly, their isn't a receiving threat on the TE depth chart. They need to become a factor at some point to help take pressure of Dak Prescott and give him another option in the passing game. The Dallas Cowboys prefer to run most of their formations with a tight end on the field. They need to be a factor

The Cowboys Nation Twitter account asked David Helman from DallasCowboys.com to look up when the last time the Dallas Cowboys tight ends finished a game without a reception.

Mark Lane from WFAA.com and the Texans Wire found the information.

Mark Lane on Twitter

@HelmanDC @CowboysNation @SullyBaldHead @Marcus_Mosher @CHQ_Jordan @FO_ScottKacsmar When you do, Dave, tell them that Mark Lane found it at 1:15 a.m. Central Time. It was Dec. 1, 2016 at the #Vikings. https://t.co/XS3FVrWhT8

It's unbelievable that there was a game played in which Jason Witten was around for that he didn't have a reception, and yet, there it is.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Were there any players that moved the needle in either direction for you?

Let us know in the comment section. 

 



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Dallas Cowboys

Will Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods Return This Week?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Have Their Version of Tryann Mathieu in Xavier Woods?

The Dallas Cowboys have been without one of their defensive starters for the first two weeks of 2018; safety Xavier Woods. A preseason hamstring injury has kept him in street clothes so far, but Woods could make his season debut this week against the Seattle Seahawks.

The positive update on Woods' status was provided by Owner Jerry Jones in his regular radio appearance this morning.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Jerry Jones on @1053thefan said it appears Randy Gregory (concussion) will be available to play Sunday at Seattle. Jones also thinks Xavier Woods (hamstring) has a chance to play this week after missing the first two games

Gregory has already played this year, suffering his concussion and leaving the season opener against the Carolina Panthers. Even in his absence last week, the Cowboys got six sacks on Eli Manning in their victory over the Giants.

That's not to say getting Randy back isn't noteworthy, but the real news here is the potential for Xavier Woods to take his place as the team's starting free safety.

While Woods has been out, Jeff Heath has been the free safety while Kavon Frazier has started at strong. The plan going into 2018 was for Heath to play strong safety, putting him closer to the line of scrimmage where his skills are best suited.

Xavier was one of the team's most exciting rookies last year, flashing the potential to be a game-changing presence.

Woods' upside is one of the reasons some fans haven't been as desperate about the Earl Thomas situation. While Thomas would be an upgrade in almost any defense, including the Cowboys, the chance to see what Xavier has mitigated disappointment over not acquiring the All-Pro safety.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods

If Woods can provide what the team hopes for at free safety, it has a positive ripple effect for the roster. Not only do you upgrade at FS, but Heath moving to his ideal role at SS is another improvement.

It also moves Frazier, who's been solid in his playing time, into a valuable bench role. It gives Dallas depth at safety which, up til now, they've lacked in Xavier's absence.

The loser in this deal would likely be either veteran backup Ibraheim Campbell, who Dallas signed two weeks ago to deal with their depth issues, or undrafted rookie Tyree Robinson. Robinson has been with the team since they signed him immediately after the 2018 NFL Draft.

With talk that the Cowboys are looking to bring back WR Brice Butler, a roster spot will be needed. Xavier Woods' return could allow for that spot to come from safety rather than receiver, where Dallas is hesitant to part with any of its current players.

In the end, all we have right now is a "maybe" about Woods' status. But with Dallas' defense already performing well this year, the thought of getting even better is enticing. With the tough road environment of Seattle and Russell Wilson coming up this Sunday, getting Xavier back could be timely.



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