Dak Prescott and Tony Romo... these guys are taking over the news cycles lately. I thought about that, but I just don't see anyone saying the things I'm thinking. The so-called quarterback controversy in Dallas; the situation is nowhere near as convoluted as some would have you believe.
Dak Prescott said it best; This is Romo's team.
Like it or not, he's not wrong.
But there is a lot to like about Dak Prescott, and not nearly enough to like about Tony Romo lately. Romo has taken snaps in what, half a dozen games since the 2014 Divisional Round in Green Bay? Give or take a couple of preseason games. And what a heart breaker that was, and continues to be. It only serves to further exacerbate the issues with Romo's health. Tough to get the taste out of our mouths.
Dak Prescott has looked good -- great at times -- since he's been with the Cowboys. And very few deny it.
I'm as hitched to the Dak-mobile as anyone. But I've also been a fan of Tony Romo's since 2005. Yes, since before he took over for Drew Bledsoe. I've cheered and screamed, cursed and bit my nails... he's made some seriously boneheaded plays over the years. Like Joseph Randle extending an unprotected ball over the goal line again boneheaded, or Terrance Williams staying in-bounds and killing any chance to salvage the game boneheaded.
But I've seen what he could be, always. All the trash throws, poor decisions, and heart attacks I've endured at the hands of Tony Romo, and I never lost sight of what he's capable of. I've never lost faith.
Why? Because the man simply does what is needed.
He's become smarter, more accurate, he maybe even added a little to his arm. He is the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. But damn; just a few games and a twice-broken collarbone and broken back. I've shaken my head over this from the playoffs to the signing of Butt-Fumble. It just doesn't make sense for one man, in a sea of other men taking the same risks, to suffer so many injuries, does it?
There's an argument to be had that he's just old, that Tony has aged out of football. You could also say he's taken such a beating over the years, his body is just done. I couldn't tell you which is which, nobody could. His last three injuries were only highlight worthy because it was Tony Romo getting hurt. Nobody saw the hits and expected him to come up lame. But he did.
So now everyone is asking -- and by asking, I mean speculating wildly, of course -- what happens when Tony Romo returns?
Well, what does happen? Does Tony Romo take his job back, or has his absence done enough to warrant losing his job? I know if I don't show up to work more than 5% of the time for over a year, my ass is canned. But I don't work in the brutal environment of the NFL.
So when does Dak Prescott earn the right to boot Tony off the field?
The answer isn't complicated. I can ask the question over and over again, but that's just posturing for the medium here. Ask 100 Romo fans and they'll mostly all say the job is still his. Ask 100 Romo haters and they'll say he lost it when the Cowboys recorded a 4-12 season.
Right now, Tony Romo is the starting, franchise quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. It would take retirement to change that. Or death. Dak Prescott hasn't won anything, he's merely done better than expected for his position, his experience, and in the spotlight of the Dallas Cowboys football team.
I'm excited to see him play each week, and I explode in cheers for things I was just used to Tony Romo doing every week.
And therein lies the problem. Complacency.
We dismiss Romo's accomplishments out of complacency during the team's longest Super Bowl dry-spell. We dismiss his steady hand, and quick thinking for the spectacle of watching a rookie QB not suck.
But when Dak Prescott takes a snap, more than half the excitement we feel is just newness, and novelty. We just haven't seen him do these things before. That's no reason to place the little he has done over the volumes of highlight reels bearing Tony Romo's name.
No reason at all.
The fact of the matter is, Tony Romo was playing the best he's ever played in 2014, and was sidelined due to injury. Did Patriots fans call for Tom Brady to be benched when he busted his knee? No.
Did Pats fans praise Matt Cassel as the new savior of the franchise when he won games while Brady was injured? Nope.
Romo has barely missed more time than Brady that year, so it's a valid comparison. But maybe not. Brady suffered one injury, Romo suffered three. There's certainly something to be said about the sense of fragility inspired by that little nugget.
Tony Romo has been a good player for this team, and he was nearing the top of his career's mountain in 2014. Why else would we -- as a fan base -- take it so hard when he was first injured in 2015? Maybe we judge him a little harshly. Maybe we assign his credit to others too easily. Maybe we get too wrapped up in the excitement this rookie gives us by merely completing a pass.
And maybe Tony Romo's body is done letting him play Superman for four months out of the year. But we don't know that yet.
Dak Prescott has earned the right to be in the conversation, but Tony Romo has earned the right to end it. When he's healed, Tony Romo will take to the field once more and captain this team. He'll be given this shot because he's spilled more blood for this team than most, and is still capable of playing high quality football. Perhaps his body isn't capable of surviving the rigors of play, but he's still got what it takes.
So he'll be back, and we'll all finally be satisfied the team has secured his replacement. We'll be happy, overjoyed even, to see Dak training behind one of the modern era leaders at the quarterback position. For better or worse, Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett make that a virtual certainty.
I accept that. You should too. Dak may have the skills and the poise, but no one can argue he has the experience, and that's where Tony Romo beats him in this fictitious national competition we see each day. There is no competition. Knowing when to put the ball on a target still trumps being able to put it on the target.
But I will say this... If Tony Romo comes back and cannot last the remainder of the season without breaking a bone, his chances take a major blow.
If Tony Romo suffers another injury, misses any more games this season, in 2016, it is unlikely the team will continue to have confidence in his body to carry the weight of their investment. This team rests on his shoulders a little less this year, as long as Dak Prescott performs, but it's still on Romo's shoulders. That won't change as long as he is able to do the job.
And all you must do to understand why, whether you like him or not, is look at what the man has done over the years. Look at him, look at the things he has personally done. From the botched snap against Seattle a lifetime ago, to the pass Dez Bryant failed to secure, and every pass, hand-off, dive, spin, shuck, and jive in between.
Tony Romo is still the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, and I accept that.
Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch’s Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion
The Dallas Cowboys know what they're doing when it comes to the NFL Draft. Not to be outdone by Philadelphia, the Cowboys brought the 2018 Draft to AT&T Stadium, marking the first time the event's been held in an NFL stadium. This made Boise State Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch the first player to be drafted on the field he now calls home. Returning home this week after two straight interceptions against the Eagles and Falcons, Vander Esch is far from the controversial pick that drew jeers inside AT&T Stadium on draft night and every bit the star the Cowboys projected him to be.
The ascension of Leighton "Wolf Hunter" Vander Esch as one of the best young linebackers in the game has happened rapidly. LVE played eight man football in high school, tasked to do everything on both sides of the ball before settling into defense as a walk onto the blue turf.
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Cowboys have more than just a plan to play defense without Sean Lee. Thanks to their 19th overall pick they're thriving as one of the best units in the league, making Lee an afterthought.
Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have changed the entire makeup of the Cowboys defense, two young and athletic linebackers that should be roaming the middle of the field for a long time in Dallas.
This is exactly what LVE was able to do on his interceptions of both Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. Vander Esch defending well against the pass is probably the least surprising part of his development, as his coverage skills always overshadowed his strength against the run in college.
It just so happens that Vander Esch tallied 63 tackles in eight games before recording his first career interception, establishing himself as an all-around linebacker with no true weakness. Vander Esch has played with the power and block shedding ability that matches his sideline to sideline range and instincts, as opposing offenses have done little to slow the Cowboys new leader on defense.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
This is Vander Esch's first interception, which set up a Cowboys field goal against the Eagles. Watch as Leighton reads the eyes of Wentz through the play, first angling towards his check down throw and then gaining depth to intercept the pass.
The subtle yet effective movements from Vander Esch to undercut Wentz's throw is a fine example of how quickly LVE has picked up on Kris Richard's defense, as well as the next level game speed.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Sunday's interception from Vander Esch was the type of game breaking play the Cowboys needed to separate from the Falcons in hostile territory. Although the Falcons would rally to tie the game after this point, the Cowboys defense became the first to hold Atlanta under 20 points at home this season, thanks in large part to LVE as always.
The smoothness from Vander Esch on this play is exceptional, stepping up into coverage against the running back before sprinting back in position for the turnover. Calvin Ridley, drafted seven picks after Vander Esch, helps Leighton by letting Ryan's pass go through his hands.
Give Vander Esch credit for being in the right place at the right time and finishing the play. Every week, the rookie finds a way to do something memorable, and in helping the Cowboys earn their first two road wins of 2018 he finally flashed in pass coverage.
The next challenge for the Cowboys defense comes on a short week, against the division leading Washington Redskins. Though they lost starting Quarterback Alex Smith for the season on Sunday, expected to start Colt McCoy on Thanksgiving, it was Running Back Adrian Peterson that gashed the Cowboys for 4.13 yards a carry and 99 total yards in the Redskins week six win over Dallas.
Given what not only Leighton Vander Esch but the rest of the Cowboys defense has shown against the run in recent weeks, all without David Irving and most recently without either Antwaun Woods or Daniel Ross, the Cowboys should certainly be prepared to play for first place in the NFC East on Thursday.
Sean Lee: Time for the General to Surrender
“Football is a meritocracy,” said Tony Romo about this time two years ago. He’d just been told that Dak Prescott would remain the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, though Romo was deemed healthy enough to return to action. Well, the Cowboys face a similar situation with another rookie playing excellent football with a veteran on the sideline. The rookie is Leighton Vander Esch and the veteran is Sean Lee.
When Romo stepped aside he issued the words that have become synonymous with who Tony Romo is, “Football is a meritocracy.” As sad as it is when it comes to the end of a player’s career, the time has come for General Lee to wave that white flag as a full-time player in the NFL.
Lee has been one of the best linebackers in the game during his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, but has always been limited by his body’s inability to stay healthy. In most seasons, the Cowboys haven’t had an adequate replacement for Lee on the depth chart and that led to disastrous outcomes like the Green Bay and Los Angeles games in 2017. Most years, we’d sit around for weeks telling ourselves, “if the Cowboys can hang in there until Sean Lee gets back, then they’ll be alright.”
That all seems to be over now. The Dallas Cowboys finally have a player on the depth chart who can adequately, and perhaps more than adequately, replace Sean Lee’s production at the weak side linebacker position in Vander Esch. You don’t have to be a film grinder to see that the 19th overall pick has become a difference maker for the Cowboys and someone you can’t take off the field. He’s the future, but he’s also proving to be the now at WILL for the Dallas Cowboys and the coaching staff as well as Sean Lee need to recognize that.
Vander Esch has two interceptions in the last two games, won defensive player of the week for his play against the Philadelphia Eagles. Per Pro Football Focus, Vander Esch is second in the NFL among linebackers in tackles and fourth in the NFL in stops.
He’s been one of the best players on the team this season and shouldn’t come off the field, even for an All-Pro like Sean Lee.
So the coaches have a difficult decision to make, but with the Dak Prescott-Tony Romo decision as a template, it’s not really a difficult decision.
It’s time for Sean Lee to take a step back. He’s a leader on the defense whether he’s on the field or on the sideline. He’s a huge asset to the linebacker room in-game preparation, and he can still make plays for you when asked to do so. Lee, however, doesn’t need to see a full-time compliment of snaps when he returns unless we see a drop off in play for Leighton Vander Esch. Vander Esch’s play and Lee’s body are telling us that the time is now to make the transition to life on defense beyond Sean Lee.
Lee is still an important player to have around and he’ll get some snaps, but the WILL linebacker spot needs to be Leighton Vander Esch’s moving forward.
Because, after all, “football is a meritocracy.”
Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.
Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line
The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.
Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.
Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.
Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp
What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.
The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.
Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.
To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.
Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.
If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.
Star Blog5 days ago
Should Cowboys Stick With Xavier Su’a-Filo at Left Guard?
Star Blog5 days ago
How Cowboys Could Regain a 2019 1st-Round Draft Pick
Player News1 week ago
Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys2 days ago
4 Best Candidates for Cowboys’ Next Offensive Coordinator
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Next Day Rant: Dak Prescott Shows Big Flaws in Big Win
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Is Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones to be Trusted?
Player News4 days ago
Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room
Star Blog1 week ago
Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time