Let's flashback for a moment.
The date is August 19th, 2016 and the Dallas Cowboys are about to play their preseason home opener against the Miami Dolphins. Tony Romo is the starting quarterback and he is playing in his first live game action since Thanksgiving Day of 2015.
In just two series, Romo completes 4 of his 5 passes for 49 yards and has a passer rating of 107.5. On his second drive, he leads the Cowboys down the field with ease, and Alfred Morris caps off the series with a touchdown. Romo looks efficient, and the Cowboys offense looks like an absolute machine.
Since then, a lot has changed.
Now at 13-2 behind a Dak Prescott-led offense, the Cowboys have everything in the NFC locked up going into their season finale. Since his performance against Miami, Romo has barely gotten any action, and he has yet to play in the regular season.
With just the season finale in Philadelphia to go, the debate over whether Romo should be given a chance to "knock off the rust" this week is in full swing. Many believe that Tony needs to see the field this week, in order to be ready just in case of a Prescott injury in the playoffs. Others believe that there is nothing to gain from playing Romo in this meaningless finale, and the possibility of him suffering another injury far outweighs any perceived benefits.
Personally, I tend to agree with the latter argument.
What will two series really mean?
ESPN reported that Romo is likely to play "some" of the game against the Eagles this Sunday. What "some" means is to be determined, but I have seen it suggested by DallasCowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus that it could be as little as two series.
So, once again, I ask: what the hell is two series going to mean two weeks from now?
Romo went months without getting any action, started the second preseason game, and looked exactly like his old self. Of course, the difference between the Miami Dolphins preseason week two and potentially the New York Giants in the division round of the playoffs is great. But, giving Romo 5-10 passing attempts against a 9-loss Eagles' team isn't exactly a fair comparison either.
Even if Romo was to play two quarters, or maybe even a full game (which will not be the case), I still don't believe this notion of "knocking off the rust" is valid. Romo has been in this league for a long time, if he were called upon in a playoff game, I would have just as much trust in him without seeing action Sunday as I would if he plays Sunday.
There could be some personal bias in that trust, but I only think that the trust could be hurt by playing Sunday. While Romo playing well could confirm what we already think, him playing poorly could let some doubt creep into both the Cowboys and Romo.
No Tyron Smith, No Ronald Leary, But you want to play Romo?
This is the part that gets to me. A guy that in two of his last three regular season games has suffered season-threatening injuries is going to play behind two backup offensive linemen this week, with Fletcher Cox and hungry Eagles defensive linemen looking to get after him, and people don't seem to see the problem with this.
If Tyron Smith and Ronald Leary were playing, this would be a different conversation, but it doesn't seem like they are, so why put Romo in harms way like this?
To me, Romo suffering an injury which puts him out of the playoffs could be devastating. Not only to the team's Super Bowl chances, but also to their chances of successfully moving him in the offseason.
If Dak Prescott were to get injured and need to miss time in the postseason, any rational person would rather see Romo fill in than Mark Sanchez. With Romo, this team still has a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Houston. With Sanchez, there is a clear ceiling which would be reached prior to that moment.
In terms of potentially moving Romo this offseason, teams are already going to look at him as a risky pickup. He has suffered three major injuries in almost as many games and hasn't played a meaningful game since 2015, where he had a rough go of it. Adding another injury to that list will only make it tougher to find a trade partner in a few months.
You had your chance to see what Romo could do
And you didn't take that chance.
Last week, up by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, you could have easily let Romo finish up the final few drives. That could have been his "knock the rust off" action. But, the Cowboys didn't insert him into the game. A move I was and am totally fine with, by the way.
Earlier in the season the Cowboys could have gotten Romo more reps as well. But they didn't. Now, with absolutely nothing to play for, they might put him behind two backup offensive linemen in Philly? It just doesn't seem like a good idea to me.
What if it all goes right, though?
Of course, there is always the possibility that everything goes right. Romo plays three series, throws a touchdown pass, looks efficient, and exits healthy. We are all excited to see him play, our sentimental selves are happy, and maybe we now feel more comfortable if Tony has to play in the playoffs.
With that being said, I believe the risks of him playing poorly far outweigh any benefits that him playing well would have. We should already be confident that Romo could come in and play well, regardless of how he plays in a meaningless game against a team who isn't in the playoffs.
I like to believe there is no bigger Tony Romo fan than me (even though Staff Writer Sean Martin may disagree). I have grown up with Romo as the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys and I wanted nothing more than for him to be crowned as a Super Bowl Champion. As much as I love what Dak Prescott is doing, and as excited as I am for the future with Dak as the leader of America's Team, there will always be a small part of me that wishes it could have been Tony Romo leading this magical season.
But the fact of the matter is, it's not.
And if Tony Romo is going to be needed sometime in the playoffs, whether because of injury or some-other unforeseen circumstance, he will need to be healthy and available to play. In my opinion, the Cowboys gain nothing from having him out there this Sunday.
Cowboys Defense is Ready to Win Now, Time for Offense to Prove the Same
The Dallas Cowboys lead the NFC East at 1-1, and have a favorable schedule ahead of them. With such an inexperienced roster, early season growing pains were expected, and likely should be still as the team comes off their first win to play in Seattle on Sunday.
Through a season opening clunker in Carolina and hard-earned divisional win against the Giants, the Cowboys have exceeded already high expectations on defense.
With the currently 0-2 Seahawks, Lions, and Texans awaiting Dallas, the time is now for Scott Linehan's offense to hit their stride. It will take more than a five week assessment to determine if the Cowboys are truly playoff contenders for 2018, but it could take even less than that for Cowboys Nation to realize this team is fighting an uphill battle at QB and WR.
Following Dak Prescott's 64-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin against the Giants, the Cowboys punted on four of their remaining seven drives. The Cowboys did a better job mixing up their early down play calling to remain ahead of the chains for most of the night, but even still their execution was lacking. Finishing three of ten on third downs, the Cowboys didn't sustain the type of originality on offense that earned them an early cushion.
Thankfully, the Cowboys turning back the clock to 2016 on a clinching touchdown drive of 14 plays would be all the defense needed. Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott would both convert a pair of first downs on the ground. The Cowboys took a 20-3 lead, and more importantly the game clock down to 5:45 with an eight minute and 23 second march.
As such, the Cowboys offense is an enigma. With the return of Brice Butler, the team is currently carrying seven wide receivers and four tight ends.
On defense, the Cowboys are expecting reinforcements in Xavier Woods, Randy Gregory, and David Irving to further bolster this aggressive, blitzing unit in the coming weeks. For the offense, Dallas must make the most out of the unknown depth they have, without any drastic change in style around the corner.
The Cowboys record under Prescott proves they're at their best when Dak is efficient. The ceiling for a new-look Cowboys offense built for Dak is not as high for this reason. Through just two weeks, it's clear that the Cowboys offense will be as good as the sum of its parts - instead of relying on any individual talents.
Cowboys' record when Dak Prescott ... Doesn't throw an interception: 20-4 Records at least a 100.0 passer rating: 15-1 Commits no turnovers: 18-1
After a strong preseason from rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup, the third-round pick has played less than half his team's offensive snaps through two games. Cole Beasley has seemed to regain his connection with Prescott, snagging a team high nine catches so far. Terrance Williams has been a non-factor, and the same is surprisingly said about FA acquisition Allen Hurns.
Regardless of what the Cowboys do over the coming weeks, a few narratives and lingering questions about the team feel evident. With the defense set to tee off against the Seahawks sub par OL this week, Rod Marinelli's unit will still likely not receive the credit it deserves heading into week four.
With the task at hand being maintaining their standing atop the division, the Cowboys must also be out to prove they can sustain success without a consistent passing game.
All of this to effectively say, the Cowboys are going to Seattle expecting to control the game on defense. To finish off Russell Wilson in his home opener (already at 0-2), it will take a sharper performance for a full four quarters on offense too.
A win at the Seahawks might not mean as much as it has in past seasons, but in improving the Cowboys record to 2-1 on the way back to AT&T Stadium, it could be all the confidence they need to understand the NFC East is theirs for the taking while continuing to truly find their identity.
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Cowboys Defense So Far So Good as Seahawks Up Next
Dallas may only be 1-1 on the season, but the Cowboys are officially tied for first-place in the NFC East, and fresh off a workmanlike victory over divisional rivals, the New York Giants. It was a game they should have won, and did win, but the takeaways so early in the season are that, although the offense has not clicked on all cylinders, the defense is getting high praise.
The Cowboys sacked New York’s Eli Manning six times and limited the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Saquon Barkley, to a mere 28 yards rushing. It was also a night in which Dak Prescott not only out-gained Barkley by 17 yards on the ground, but torched the Giants’ secondary on a 64-yard touchdown strike to Tavon Austin which proved New York’s Safety Landon Collins wrong when leading up to this game he remarked that the key to a Giants’ victory would be getting Prescott to throw. When Prescott was made aware of the comment in a midweek interview he replied, "…challenge accepted," and the third-year veteran made good on his word leading to the 20-13 victory.
However, Prescott ended the night with just 160 yards passing yet the ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 showed no signs of rearing its head as Prescott moved seamlessly in the pocket and ran the ball well.
As we move ahead to the Cowboys meeting in Seattle, we take a quick check over to one of the most reputable online sportsbooks in the industry - Intertops according to the reviews - where we can monitor the line on this pivotal NFC clash as the week progresses.
Seattle boasts a talented quarterback of their own in Russell Wilson but one who will find the sledding tough if the Dallas defense continues to shut down All-World wide outs like Odell Beckham Jr. and contain future rushing stars like Saquon Barkley. Outside of Wilson, Seattle is not loaded offensively, with their biggest target, Doug Baldwin, ailing with a knee injury and a backfield which consists of two young rushers in second-year man Chris Carson and a first-round rookie in Rashaad Penny who dealt with nagging injuries throughout the preseason and looked unsettled in Seattle’s 27-24 loss to the Broncos.
The Cowboys defense has already proven its worth in Carolina with Cam Newton under center and again last week against New York. The unit is surrendering an average of 14 ½ points per game and is incorporating more blitz packages than we’ve come to expect.
The difference this year is that the players they have on defense are capable of getting to the quarterback quick enough so that the coverage linebackers and secondary aren’t alone on an island for too long. The one concern is the status of Linebacker Sean Lee, who checked out of the game in the fourth quarter Sunday night and brought to mind his hamstring issues of a year ago, but apparently it was in fact cramping, and not straining, of the hammy which allowed Lee to return.
The bottom line in terms of the Cowboys' upcoming matchup on Sunday afternoon is that they will get the Seahawks coming off a short week, as Seattle played on Monday night and should be relatively healthy for the contest.
Dak Prescott may not have the formidable offensive line that he has had in the past, nor a top-tier arsenal of receivers, but he does have the elusive Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and is capable of extricating himself from pressure situations when no target is available.
If the Dallas defense continues to play at the current level, it will not only be limiting the opposition on the scoreboard but putting its offense in good field position throughout. So check out Intertops, one of the most trusted and reputable online sportsbooks, to see where this line goes because a Dallas win and an ATS cover are just days away.
Taco Tuesday: Cowboys DE Taco Charlton Starting to Dominate?
There has been quite a bit of talk about what a bad decision it was for the Dallas Cowboys to draft Taco Charlton with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Nearly everybody wanted someone different, not a player that needed time to develop.
Well, fast forward a year later and it looks as if the Cowboys made the right decision.
Don't look now, but Defensive End Taco Charlton is starting to live up to that first-round pedigree. In the first two weeks of the 2018 season, Charlton has already looked like a much improved player from what we saw a season ago. Imagine that, a little bit of time to develop and he's turning into a solid player.
I know I may be getting a little bit ahead of myself, especially suggesting that he is starting to dominate, but I can't help myself. I'm that excited about how much he has improved in one offseason. I may be alone here, but I have high hopes he could turn into something special.
In 2017, Taco Charlton failed to start a single game for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie. That's not really what you want from your first-round draft pick. To makes matters worse, in 16 games he only registered 25 total tackles, four QB sacks, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. As you can imagine, it didn't sit well with most Cowboys fans.
Luckily, it looks as if Charlton's offseason in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program has paid off. Already in 2018 he has accumulated six total tackles, one QB sack, one pass defensed, and recovered a fumble. If he keeps this pace up, we could be looking at #97 reaching double-digit sacks this year.
Now, I wouldn't call what Taco Charlton has accomplished so far this season dominating, but he is proving to be a starting quality DE along the Cowboys defensive line. It's a unit that has looked really good in the first two weeks of the season and is expected to be even better once Randy Gregory and David Irving are able to return to the field.
In the meantime, the Dallas Cowboys are happy to get plays like this from Taco Charlton.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
This is a play Charlton is expected to make. He was left unblocked, but we've seen players left unblocked before not make the play. So, it may not be as impressive as some QB sacks. But, I'll take the routine tackle any day over someone trying to make a splash play and failing.
If you're looking for an impressive play from Taco Charlton, take a look at what he was able to do against Odell Beckham Jr. in the passing game.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
In case you're wondering, that's Taco Charlton in OBJ's hip pocket 15 yards down the field in pass coverage. It looks as if that's where Eli Manning was wanting to go with the ball, but tight coverage by the Cowboys, and Charlton, across the board ended up resulting in a QB sack.
If you don't find that impressive, I don't know what will. A 275 pound DE covering arguably the best and highest paid wide receiver down the field is almost unheard of. I would count that as impressive.
What do you think of Taco Charlton's play so far in 2018?
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