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Tony Romo: When Will The Cowboys Move On?

Bryson Treece

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Dak Prescott, Tony Romo, Inside The Star

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.



Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter - @InsideTheStarDC

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Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder Stand Out in Cowboys Practices

John Williams

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Why Cowboys Rookie DE Dorance Armstrong is the Pass Rusher to Watch in Carolina

With Left Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, Defensive End Taco Charlton rehabbing a shoulder and foot injury, and Right Defensive End Randy Gregory currently suspended indefinitely, there have been plenty of snaps at defensive end for other players to make a name for themselves in the offseason training activities (OTAs) and this past week's minicamp. The two players that stood out above all others on the defense were defensive ends Dorance Armstrong and Kerry Hyder.

You might be asking yourself, "what does it matter? DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn are the starters. Why should we care about a couple of backups."

First, the backup defensive ends for the Dallas Cowboys will play. After DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford, the leaders in defensive end snaps in 2018, Randy Gregory got 44% of the snaps on defense and Taco Charlton saw 39%. Dorance Armstrong, who played sparingly as a rookie, saw 26% of the snaps. The defensive ends that make the 53-man roster are going to get playing time.

Secondly, there's no guarantee that DeMarcus Lawrence will be ready for week one. Tyrone Crawford, who was the starter at right defensive end in 2018, could miss week one if the NFL deems his offseason altercation is worthy of a suspension. That leaves a whole lot of potential snaps at the left defensive end spot if either of those two guys misses week one.

Dorance Armstrong, the Dallas Cowboys fourth-round pick from 2018, caught the eye of several observers from the media and finished his offseason with a strong minicamp.

"These coaches have to be happy with what they’ve seen from Dorance Armstrong during these practices. Armstrong has been mainly filling in for DeMarcus Lawrence on the left side, but on Wednesday he switched over to the right. There were several snaps where he was a handful for Cam Fleming to handle. Armstrong started off well last season before hitting the rookie wall. He physically looks bigger and is also now equipped with the knowledge of how he has to prepare to play at a high level the entire season. Keep an eye on Armstrong to make that jump from the first to second year."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Armstrong had a really nice training camp as a rookie and as Broaddus notes, tailed off during the regular season. Reports are that he's added size this offseason -- as most players do between their first and second year -- and if all the reports are correct, could be a breakout player in the making.

Kerry Hyder is another intriguing player and one of the more underrated offseason acquisitions by the Dallas Cowboys front office.

Coming from the Detroit Lions, where they used Hyder as a nose tackle in Matt Patricia's 3-4 alignment, he was played severely out of position. In 2016, playing primarily as a defensive end, Hyder recorded eight sacks for the Lions. In 2017, he suffered a torn achilles which kept him out all of that year.

Now with the Dallas Cowboys, he gets to return to his more natural defensive end position. And he's making some noise in these offseason practices.

David Helman on Twitter

D-Linemen never get any shine during OTAs, so today is for them. With Tyron Smith & La'el Collins sitting out today, Dorance Armstrong & Kerry Hyder absolutely wrecked practice. Murdered it. I legitimately don't think Dak would've gotten a single throw out if sacks were allowed.

Of course not playing against the starting tackles in Tyron Smith and La'el Collins will allow players to shine a bit more, but let's not forget that Cam Fleming started in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots before signing with the Dallas Cowboys. Connor Williams, who has been getting snaps at tackle as well, is no slouch as a former All-American for the Texas Longhorns.

Here's what Bryan Broaddus had to say about Kerry Hyder in one of the previous OTAs his "Scout's Notebook" from May 22nd.

"I have to be careful with my love for veteran defensive linemen, but Kerry Hyder looks like a different man playing at end instead of head-up tackle. The coaching change in Detroit did him no favors last season. Having to play in a spot where he had to fight blocks all day to now working on the edge in space is a good thing for him. It appears that Hyder has his quickness back, but he also has some pass rush moves in his tool belt. I thought maybe they were going to use him as an under-tackle, but putting him back at end might be his best shot at making the roster."

Bryan Broaddus - Dallas Cowboys.com

The Cowboys found a really good player in Kerry Hyder. He's capable of playing some 3-technique defensive tackle if needed as well as on the edge. He has a good motor and is able to make plays in the running game.

With the emergence of Kerry Hyder and Dorance Armstrong this offseason, it puts Taco Charlton behind the eight ball as the team heads to Oxnard. If they continue to play well, it's a real possibility that Charlton could be a gameday inactive during the regular season, especially if Randy Gregory is reinstated.

However they end up being deployed, this group of defensive ends will cause fits for opposing offensive lines. They've been aiming for waves of pass rushers for Rod Marinelli's defense and for the first time since becoming defensive coordinator, he looks to have just that.



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BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension

Jess Haynie

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Rico Gathers

Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.

Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.

The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.

While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.

The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.

Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.



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Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started

Matthew Lenix

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Antwaun Woods is just getting started

Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.

The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.

All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.

Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.

How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.

When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.

Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.

There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.

The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.



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