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.
What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?
For many years, Linebacker Sean Lee has been the face of the Dallas Cowboys defense. However, that's quickly changing. The young duo consisting of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have taken over the linebacker position by dominating the field from sideline to sideline with their explosive talent. As a rookie, Vander Esch filled in for Lee at the weak linebacker position when the veteran went down injured and never gave the job back.
Currently, uncertainty surrounds Sean Lee, who took a pay cut earlier in the year to stay with the franchise he's played for since the beginning of his professional career in 2010. What will his role be in a young fueled defense in the upcoming season?
As we've all been able to see throughout his career, Sean Lee is one of the best in the game when he's healthy. Unfortunately, that's not very often. His injury proneness led him to a position change years ago, when he was moved from the MIKE (middle linebacker) to the WILL (weak side linebacker) position. Now, those two spots are taken care of.
Where does this leaves Lee? The main question is whether or not he'll move to the strong side. Many question if this would be the correct call, given that he could be at even more risk of suffering yet another injury in a position that leads to more contact. The other option would be for him to be Vander Esch's backup at WILL.
Lately, it seems like the Cowboys will indeed move him to the strong-side. After all, it only makes sense to have your best three players on the field at the same time. On minicamp, the Cowboys have been playing the veteran at SAM, letting him get reps and grow comfortable in what seems to be his new job.
But even if Sean Lee starts lining up on the strong side, what can we expect from him next season? The way the NFL offenses operate now leads to teams sending their nickel packages to the field more often than not. For the Cowboys 4-3 defense, that means three cornerbacks, two linebackers. When that's the case, it will be Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith who we see out there, not Lee.
Damien Wilson was the team's "starter" on the strong side, and he only managed to get 286 snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. That represents 28% of the team's total snaps. Even if Sean Lee becomes the starting strong side linebacker, we likely won't be seeing him as much.
Even still, I'd expect Sean Lee's experience to play a big factor when the team needs Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch to catch their breath. Lee could jump in and play a few snaps at any LB spot and do a good job at it.
After all, we can't forget that despite his injuries, Lee is a remarkable player on defense. He should still be one of the smartest linebackers with extraordinary instincts. There's a reason why, before Vander Esch arrived to America's Team, the defense crumbled without him. Last year, despite losing the starting gig, Lee still had 118 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and an interception. The longtime veteran can still play.
It will be odd for Cowboys Nation to watch Lee on a completely new role. It's also hard to put the finger on what his production will look like at the end of the year. If there's one thing we know though, is that the veteran will work hard every practice trying to get the most playing time he can. We should be excited about the team's top three linebackers.
Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long
Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.
“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”
Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.
But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.
Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.
"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com
If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.
Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."
The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.
Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.
Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?
Who is the Cowboys best player?
As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.
"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein
Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?
For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.
Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.
Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.
I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.
So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Be Traded Before Week 1
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
5 Takeaways from Dallas Cowboys OTA’s
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Kasey Redfern, a Name Dallas Cowboys Fans Might Want to get to Know
Star Blog2 weeks ago
3 Reasons 2019 Will be Dak Prescott’s Best Season Yet
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Could Amari Cooper Threaten Cowboys Receiving Records in 2019?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Will DE Taco Charlton “Break Out” In 2019?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Post-OTA’s Dallas Cowboys 53-Man Roster Projection
Dallas Cowboys7 days ago
Cowboys CB Donovan Olumba Should Compete for Roster Spot