After Tony Romo got the Wally Pipp treatment, it was time for him to walk away from the Dallas Cowboys.
The saying is that everything is bigger in the State of Texas and that definitely can be said in regards to the support that the Dallas Cowboys receive. The Cowboys are one of the National Football League’s iconic franchises as the star on their helmet is as synonymous is the Lone Star State as the oil derrick. And when the Cowboys are winning, their devotion by fans borders on sacrilege. The Cowboys have won five Super Bowl Championships which is only bested by the six that the Pittsburgh Steelers possess. But the Cowboys have not won the Super Bowl in more than two decades as team owner Jerry Jones has been putting his resources into getting back to the championship, only to continuously come up short. Since 2006, Jones has rolled with Tony Romo as his starting quarterback and he has gotten mixed reviews. On one hand Romo is the Cowboys all-time leader in passing yards with 34,154 yards, while he has become a household name alongside other Dallas starting quarterbacks such as Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. However unlike Staubach and Aikman, Romo has been unable to lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl which is the gold standard for this franchise. Romo is 36-years of age, but multiple collarbone and back injuries have taken away from his effectiveness, and you have to wonder if his time in Dallas will soon be coming to an end?
Romo was expected to once again be the Cowboys starting quarterback here in 2016, but he suffered a compression fracture in his back during the preseason that forced him to miss the start of the regular season. And because of this Romo could be on the verge of receiving the Wally Pipp treatment in Dallas.
Romo’s injury meant that the Cowboys would begin this season with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott under center. The Cowboys selected Prescott in the fourth round of this past spring’s National Football League Draft as he was viewed as a project.
In Prescott’s first game, he was 25-of-45 passing for 227 yards as the Cowboys fell to the New York Giants 20-19. Prescott would follow this up by going 22-of-30 for 292 yards the following week as the Cowboys defeated the Washington Redskins 27-23. Prescott was showing that he could do a solid job of keeping the seat warm until Romo returned, but nobody could have expected him to do what he has been doing.
With Prescott under center, the Cowboys find themselves with a record of 7-1 which is tied with the New England Patriots for the best record in the National Football League. Prescott has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL as he has completed 66.5% of his passes, while he is doing something that Romo has failed to do throughout his career which is to protect the football. On the season Prescott has only thrown 2 interceptions. Prescott would set an NFL record when he completed 176 passes before he threw his first career interception as he has shown maturity beyond his years in regards to protecting the football. And with Prescott under center, the Cowboys have the formula needed to make a playoff run.
The Cowboys possess one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League which has produced the top ranked rushing attack in the league that has featured rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot who currently leads the NFL in rushing with 891 yards. Prescott understands this and subsequently he isn’t trying to do it all by himself which is a trait that the veteran Romo doesn’t possess as team ball is fueling the Cowboys surge here in 2016. And as Jones has always displayed affection towards Romo, the time to part with him is now.
There aren’t that many quality quarterbacks that are in the National Football League which means that Jones could trade Romo and get valuable draft picks in return. A team such as the New York Jets which has the talent to be a playoff contender, but they have issues at the quarterback position would make sense as far as being a potential trade partner with the Cowboys. Romo would still be in a big market, while he would be providing his services to a team and fan base that is desperate for any ray of hope.
When healthy Romo can still get it done at a high level in the National Football League, but it shouldn’t be with the Cowboys anymore. Prescott has shown that he is more than capable of getting it down in the NFL, and making Romo the starter once again might divide the locker room which is always a recipe for disaster. Romo has been cleared to practice, but why ruin a good thing with Prescott?
We all remember the situation for the Patriots in 2001 when quarterback Drew Bledsoe suffered an injury early in the season which opened to door for Tom Brady to be the team’s starting quarterback, and the rest is history. At the very least the Cowboys will be in contention for a wild card spot here in 2016 which should be enough for Prescott to maintain his current status, while making Jones think long and hard about who should be his starting signal caller.
In the past Jones has allowed his ego to cloud his judgment which included him letting former head coach Jimmy Johnson to leave in 1994 after winning two Super Bowls, and his clash with Bill Parcells which saw him step down as Cowboys head coach in 2006. Jones cannot make that mistake again and allow Romo to hang around which won’t do anything positive for anyone who is affiliated with the Cowboys. Romo will be remembered as one of the better quarterbacks in Cowboys franchise history, but in a what have you don for me lately society, it’s now Prescott’s time in Dallas.
Injuries are a part of the game in the National Football League, and as teams are always making adjustments, one position that doesn’t deal with it as much as others is quarterback. Tony Romo has been the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback since 2006 and no player in the history of the franchise has passed for more yards (34,154), or thrown more touchdowns (247) than him. Romo has been a polarizing figure for the Cowboys franchise as he has helped them win three NFC East Titles, but he’s been unable to take them to the promised land which is the Super Bowl. And at the age of 36 with mounting injuries for Romo, the opportunity to win that championship appears to be slipping through his grasp.
Last week in a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, Romo suffered what was first referred to as a minor back injury when he was tackled by Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril. But the news went from bad to worse on Saturday when the Cowboys announced that Romo has suffered a compression fracture in his back. This injury will keep Romo out of action for the next 6-10 weeks which has paved the way for rookie quarterback Dak Prescott to be under center for the Cowboys in Week 1 when they host the New York Giants. And whether it is Prescott or someone else, the Cowboys need to find a new long-term solution at quarterback.
The injury bug has bitten Romo quite hard over the last few years which aside from his current back injury has seen him suffer a broken clavicle, and broken collarbone, along with having back surgery to repair a herniated disk. It’s gotten to the point that if Romo can feel the pressure coming from defenders, he will simply fall to the ground to avoid taking the big hit. And as Romo has become extremely fragile, it would be very hard for the Cowboys to trust him being able to get through a full season.
The heart is still in place for Romo as nobody will ever be able to accuse him of not giving it his all on the gridiron. But just like other Cowboys quarterbacks such as Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman were forced to retire due to injuries, Romo needs to take a long look at his health.
Romo will more than likely be cleared to resume playing football again this year, but what about his health for the rest of his life? Romo sustained this severe injury last week from a hit that didn’t appear to be that bad, but what will he do if a ferocious pass rusher in the mode of Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller or Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh were to get a free rush at him?
Each time that Romo goes down with a severe injury, he gets up slower, and there is more silence hovering over AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Romo has shown us his toughness as he continues to get up for the eight count, but it’s time that he uses his mind which will take him away from the game that he loves, while keeping him healthy enough to talk about it and enjoy the rest of his life.
X-Dallas Cowboys 10-6
The bar of expectations will be a little bit higher for the Dallas Cowboys this season. The Cowboys are coming off of their first NFC East Title since 2009 and they feel like they have a team that is capable of winning the Super Bowl.
In 2014, the Cowboys had the second best rushing attack in the NFL and they still like their chances this season in spite of not having running back DeMarco Murray. Last season Murray led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 rushing yards, but the Cowboys elected to let him leave Dallas as a free agent which led him to signing with the rival Philadelphia Eagles. Murray has been replaced on the Cowboys roster by running back Darren McFadden. McFadden was the fourth overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders and he has never lived up to his potential: more importantly, McFadden has never been able to stay healthy as he has only appeared in all 16 regular season games once in his seven-year NFL career. And although McFadden is 28-years old, he appears to have already lost some of his explosiveness as a runner.
But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett are counting on McFadden having a productive season in 2015 due to the fact that Dallas arguably possesses the best offensive line in the National Football League. Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith is emerging as one of the best left tackles in football as he is an anchor for this unit.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is coming off of a year where he only threw 9 interceptions, but that can be credited to the fact that Dallas was able to run the football extremely effectively. The Cowboys still have quality guys to catch the football in tight end Jason Witten along with wide receivers Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley. But Romo has a history of throwing interceptions and he also cannot afford to take too many sacks due to his bad back.
The Cowboys are looking to get more out of their pass rush as they only tallied 28 sacks last year. The Cowboys drafted defensive end Randy Gregory in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft while they signed former Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy. But Hardy will miss the first four games of the upcoming NFL season as the result of a league suspension for domestic violence; however he feels that he has what it takes to become a leader for the Cowboys.
At linebacker, the Cowboys have some potential as long as key players are able to stay healthy. In the last three years linebacker Sean Lee has only played in 17 games as knee injuries have limited him, but he is back in 2015 looking to contribute for the Cowboys. After being the eighth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Raiders, middle linebacker Rolando McClain became an afterthought. But after a disappointing stint with the Raiders and Baltimore Ravens, McClain began to live up his potential last year with the Cowboys. However the Cowboys will be without McClain’s services for the first four games of 2015 due to a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.
The Cowboys appeared ready to give up cornerback Morris Claiborne as they used their first round pick this past spring on cornerback Byron Jones whom they expect to be an immediate impact player in the secondary. The Cowboys also have veteran cornerbacks in Brandon Carr who will team with Claiborne after cornerback Orlando Scandrick was put on injured reserve with a torn ACL. But this Cowboys secondary will rely on the front seven of the defense to create pressure which could lead to interceptions.
The Cowboys first two games of the NFL season will see them take on the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. But with no team expected to run away with the NFC East, a slow start wouldn’t hurt the Cowboys while a fast start will have them sitting pretty.
Y-New York Giants 10-6
The New York Giants are coming off of consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 2004 and this is a team that is itching to once again become relevant in the National Football League. Quarterback Eli Manning is set to embark on his 12th season with the Giants and his second under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. McAdoo came to the Giants last year after a stint as the Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach and he brought with him a new offense that relies on Manning getting the football out quicker. Manning did improve under McAdoo as he had a career-high in completion percentage last season of 63.1 and he threw 30 touchdown passes for just the second time in his career. But even with that, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and McAdoo are hopeful that Manning’s numbers will improve in 2015. Manning is set up to have a big season due to the fact that he is entering the last year of his contract and with the Giants prepared to allow him to play it out, the two-time Super Bowl MVP should be locked in under center.
As 2014 progressed, the Giants offense came on as Manning built a rapport with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham had a rookie season for the ages as in just 12 games he tallied 91 receptions for 1,305 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. Beckham became the first Giants rookie since Jeremy Shockey in 2002 to be named as the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. But as good as Beckham’s rookie season was, there is room for improvement and the Giants are hopeful that he can avoid both the sophomore and Madden cover jinxes in 2015. Beckham is looking to team with wide receiver Victor Cruz who himself is attempting to return from a torn patellar tendon that forced him to miss the final ten games of the season. Cruz is 28-years old and the Giants are hopeful that he still has some explosiveness in his body that has propelled him into being one of the best slot receivers in the game. Giants wide receiver Rueben Randle has continued to improve in his first three seasons and he and “Big Blue” are hopeful that he can have a Pro Bowl caliber campaign in 2015. Throughout his NFL career, Manning has had a thing to “make” tight ends which should benefit tight Larry Donnell who is looking to be more than just an overnight sensation.
These aren’t your father’s Giants as the past few seasons have seen New York become one of worst the rushing squads in the National Football League. The Giants were 23rd in the NFL last season in rushing and it appears that it will be a running-back-by-committee in 2015. Running back Andre Williams showed flashes of being an every down back in his rookie season of 2014, but under Coughlin, blitz pickup and the ability to read defenses is just as important as what you do with the football. And if Coughlin doesn’t trust his running backs, they don’t play. The Giants signed former New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen to team with Williams and veteran running back Rashad Jennings in New York’s backfield. Vereen has been good at catching passes out of the backfield and this three-headed monster has the potential to be effective for the Giants in 2015.
For the Giants to be a playoff team in 2015, they’ll need consistency from their offensive line this season. Things didn’t get started on the right foot for the Giants when offensive tackle Will Beatty suffered a torn pectoral muscle which will sideline him for a portion of the upcoming season. Beatty has protected Manning’s blindside for the past few seasons at left tackle as he has had a ton of responsibility placed on him. Giants general manager Jerry Reese used the team’s first round pick in the NFL Draft this past spring on offensive tackle Ereck Flowers. Flowers was expected to be the Giants left tackle of the future and he would be eased into things this season by starting off at right tackle. But Beatty’s injury means that it will baptism by fire for Flowers who will have to prove his worth at left tackle to begin the season against some of the top defensive ends in the game. The Giants and McAdoo will more than likely slide their protection more to give Flowers some help as he gets adjusted at left tackle and more importantly, to protecting Manning. Justin Pugh has shifted to right guard while the Giants are hopeful that 2014 second round pick Weston Richburg is ready for the responsibilities that come with being an NFL center.
Defensively the Giants are happy to welcome back a familiar face. From 2007-2008, Steve Spagnuolo was the Giants defensive coordinator and he made a name for himself in helping New York upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 42. Spagnuolo is back with the Giants as he will look to use his famed “NASCAR” package where he puts three or four defensive ends on the field in passing situations. And luckily for the Giants and Spagnuolo, they have the horses to get it done.
Injuries have limited Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul over the past few seasons which led him to being hit with the dreaded franchise tag as opposed to receiving a long-term deal. The Giants were hopeful that they would get the “JPP” in 2015 that was a one man gang in 2011 when he helped New York with the Super Bowl Title. But things changed drastically over the summer when Pierre-Paul had one of his fingers amputated as the result of a fireworks accident. Pierre-Paul has yet to sign his franchise tender and it is tough for anyone to anticipate him being the player that he once was. Veteran defensive end Robert Ayers is looking to bounce back from an injury filled 2014 while the Giants are hopeful that defensive end Damontre Moore is ready to become an every down player. The Giants drafted defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa in the third round this past spring and his athleticism gives him the potential to be an impact player.
But more than anything, the Giants are relying on potential impact players remaining healthy. The Giants acquired middle linebacker Jon Beason from the Carolina Panthers in 2013, and their defense is totally different when he has been on the field as he missed 12 games last year for New York. Beason has tremendous intelligence at middle linebacker and his presence on the field gives the Giants an attitude and swagger.
The Giants are also looking for their secondary to remain healthy as well. The presence of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie last year made cornerback Prince Amukamara step his game up as the Giants have a pair of underrated cornerbacks. After losing safety Antrel Rolle in free agency to the Chicago Bears, the Giants will be inexperienced a safety this year. Reese would select free safety Landon Collins in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft as he is expected to be an impact player, but there will more than likely be a learning curve involved.
Lately the National Football League has made it a habit of having the Giants begin the season against the Dallas Cowboys which will once again be the case in 2015. But the Giants need to make a push towards the postseason as it will hard for Reese and Coughlin to maintain their jobs without a trip to the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.
Philadelphia Eagles 8-8
In two seasons as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly has produced an overall record of 20-12, but no victories in the postseason. In 2013, Kelly’s Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East. But last year the Eagles 10-6 record wasn’t even good enough for them to make the playoffs and by the looks of things, it will be very different for them in 2015.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has basically given Kelly free reign to do whatever he pleases with the roster in Philadelphia and that is basically what has happened. The Eagles have undergone a massive roster overhaul since Kelly took over and it’ll will be interesting to see how that will pan out for them in 2015.
Last year Kelly simply released wide receiver DeSean Jackson who would end up signing with the Washington Redskins. This year Kelly traded running back LeSean McCoy who is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher and still in the prime of his career to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for inside linebacker Kiko Alonso. The Eagles did sign running back DeMarco Murray who led the National Football League is rushing last season as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, but he has a history of being unable to stay healthy. The Eagles also allowed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to leave as a free agent and sign with the Kansas City Chiefs. Now Kelly is hopeful that wide receiver Jordan Matthews is ready to emerge as the team’s top receiver in 2015 as he relies more on his system than the actual players that are in it.
The Eagles have two quarterbacks on their roster and it would not surprise me one bit if both were to take some snaps as the starter this year. It will more than likely be Sam Bradford who gets the nod to begin the season as the Eagles starting quarterback, but behind him there is Mark Sanchez. Bradford has never been able to stay healthy while quarterbacks in Kelly’s system have been unable to last a full season either as his system relies on his signal callers running with the football as well which leads to vicious hits from opposing defenders.
Defensively the Eagles are undersized which leads them to wearing down as the season goes along as they have struggled against teams that can effectively run the football and it will once again hinder them in 2015.
Three of the Eagles first six games will be against their NFC East rivals and where Philadelphia might be able to get off to a quick start, as the season goes along, they will wear down.
Washington Redskins 6-10
The younger generation of football fans that follow the Washington Redskins might not remember the team’s glory days. From 1981-1992, the Redskins won three Super Bowl Titles and they made the playoffs eight times with just losing season over that stretch. But since then the Redskins have become a laughing stock as they have only won two playoff games and since 2003, and they’ve had eight years in which they lost at least 10 games.
In order to turn things around in 2012, the Redskins mortgaged the future as they traded a slew of draft picks which included three, first-round picks to the St. Louis Rams for the second overall pick of the 2012 National Football League which Washington used to select quarterback Robert Griffin III. In 2012, Griffin took the NFL by storm as he led the Redskins to their first NFC East Title since 1999. But a knee injury towards the end of that season limited Griffin physically which lingered over into 2013. And now Griffin appears to be a shaken quarterback as he is lacking confidence. Jay Gruden is in his second year as the head coach of the Redskins and he has never fully committed to Griffin which means that upcoming National Football League season could be a ticking time bomb in D.C. And that fuse appears to have already been lit since Gruden will go with Kirk Cousins this year as the Redskins starting quarterback.
Alfred Morris is set to embark on his fourth season as the Redskins starting running back, but his production has dipped in each year due to the fact that Washington has not had consistent quarterback play.
The Redskins have a home-run hitter at wide receiver in DeSean Jackson who is still one of the fastest players in the NFL, but with Washington’s problems at quarterback along with questions on the offensive line, his production could be limited in 2015.
Joe Barry is set to begin his first season as the defensive coordinator of the Redskins. The Redskins will have plenty of size on their defensive line in the form of Terrance Knighton, Ricky Jean-Francois, Stephen Paea, and Jerrell Powe as they will look to free things up for linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy. Kerrigan is coming off of best season as an outside linebacker in the NFL as he recorded 13.5 sacks and the Redskins will need Murphy to offset his production as an edge rusher opposite him.
The last thing that the Redskins can afford is a slow start in 2015 which could signal the end for RGIII and Gruden in D.C.
Y-Clinched Wild Card