Precisely 352 days ago, things were looking up for the Dallas Cowboys. The quarterback of America's Team - Tony Romo - had marched his offense to yet another game winning drive, as the Cowboys began their path towards redemption in 2015 with a divisional win against the Giants.
Redemption may have fit well into the agenda of the Dallas Cowboys a year ago, but not for Father Time, who sets his schedule as purely as the days go by. He made his first appearance just seven days after the Dallas Cowboys' spirited 2015 opening win, as Tony Romo was knocked out on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles with a broken collarbone.
Time healed all wounds, but don't tell that to Cowboys Nation, who passed the time waiting for Romo's return by watching their team drop seven straight games with the likes of Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel "commanding" the offense.
All of the losing made Romo's return all the more refreshing, as the Cowboys were functional once again with their leader on the field in Miami during a win over the Dolphins. That is, until later in the week when Thanksgiving night and Father Time would spell the end of Tony Romo's 2015 season with a second collarbone break.
At the time, we didn't think about the long-term future for Romo and his football team.
In fact, it was almost slightly reassuring, knowing that the collective eyes of the team and its fans could turn towards 2016 - where the calendar would be flipped, talent would be added, and the revenge would finally come for the silver and blue.
Poetically, the 2016 season took a great turn 11 short days ago, as Romo made his debut against the Dolphins at home, and played in two series while going unscathed. The winning ways of the Cowboys were back, until they weren't.
Father Time came back to greet #9 with a scary back injury the following week in Seattle on just the third play of the game. For the second time in his last three games, Tony Romo was down on the field in a helpless amount of pain. As he has done countless times, Tony fought back to walk off the field on his own power, before being forced to sit out for the remainder of the action by his Head Coach Jason Garrett.
Romo even took a shot back at Father Time. His post game comments about feeling good about being able to survive a real hit like this allowed Cowboys Nation to begin their slow exhale - until our breaths were taken away completely all at once again.
Now it was time to talk about the end of an era. Now was the time for Romo to consider retirement. Now was the time for the Cowboys to plan for a future without one of their franchises' best ever quarterbacks and never look back. These were all things we heard after learning three days ago that Romo had broken his L1 vertebrae, and that his regular season return would not be happening anytime soon.
What we do know is that Romo's return will indeed happen. While it will be ignored by the masses, multiple doctors have assessed Romo's injury as one that should absolutely not force retirement.
Monday Morning MD: No medical reason for Tony Romo to retire https://t.co/qFUkzlDvG1 via @footballpost
Yet another significant injury setback is certainly not great for Romo at this stage in his career, but that is not to say that the veteran does not have some winning football - or "Romo magic" - left in him.
Playing 16 games in 2016 was always going to be a long shot for Tony Romo, and now that is already guaranteed to not happen. Instead, the Cowboys can wholeheartedly expect a fired up Romo to come back at some point in the season where the games will mean more, and the big wins need to be delivered.
I'm here to say that Romo still has those wins in him, at least through the end of this season. The Cowboys' offense is loaded with talent outside of Romo, enough to instill confidence in rookie Dak Prescott to handle the burden of being thrown into starting.
A big reason for Dak's success so far has been his teammates helping him out with some big plays. While it will be great to see more of that from Dak and his pass catchers in the regular season, imagine the spark that players like Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, and Ezekiel Elliott will play with once Romo is under center.
Nine wins was all it took to win the NFC East last year, and the division appears wide open once again. It is wide open for a Tony Romo amount of wins to bring a team to the playoffs in 2016, where anything is possible.
Tony Romo's story is winding to a close, but he will write his final chapters on the field where he belongs. The ultimate competitor that he is, Romo has some big things in store for us in 2016.
Until then, let's appreciate Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and the entirety of this Cowboys team - all of whom understand what Romo means to their chances at success.
We won't be able to say this at some point. That is an objective fact. Father Time will make sure of this. Until then though, Tony Romo is my quarterback - and your quarterback as well.
Our quarterback hasn't quit. Next man up.
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.
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Should Tavon Austin’s Role Get Expanded Against His Former Team?
Dallas Cowboys3 days ago
5 Potential Candidates Cowboys Could Target to Replace OC Scott Linehan
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Texas Forever? Kris Richard Appears Closer to Staying with Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
Dallas Cowboys7 days ago
What’s Next for Cowboys Coaching Staff After Divisional Round Loss?
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
Top 5 Offseason Priorities for the Dallas Cowboys
Player News2 weeks ago
Allen Hurns Injury: Status, 2019 Prospects, Teammate Reactions
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
It’s Time To Stop Doubting the Dallas Cowboys