Cowboys Vs. Raiders: First Look At Tony Romo In His New Role

Bob Levey

The pre-season is a time to evaluate rookies and other players trying to make NFL rosters. A time to look at how assignments are executed and myriad other subtle things. Well, forget that, at least for a while. When Tony Romo takes the field for his first action in 2013, all eyes will be on him.

Face it. Star power trumps just about everything else on the football field. And there are no bigger stars in the NFL than the quarterbacks. Dallas Cowboys fans can obsess all we want about who is going to be the fifth safety or the health of the offensive line, but if you want our complete and undivided attention, send Tony Romo out on the field.

This year is, if possible, putting an even brighter spotlight on the most visible and polarizing member of the team. As has been widely reported, Romo is going to be more involved in the actual game planning this year. Although the mechanics of that are not as clearly defined as the new procedures Bill Callahan and Wade Wilson are employing to call the plays in to the quarterback, it basically seems to mean that Romo will sit in the meetings with Jason Garrett and Callahan to put together the game plan each week, and will have significant input in the selection of what plays to use. It is also believed that he will have more discretion in changing the call on the field, or at least will no longer be seen as just making things up on the spot if he changes the play.

The pre-season game against the Oakland Raiders is the first time we will get to see if there is any noticeable effect for the offense. A little surprisingly, Romo now has something to live up to after turning the field over to the backups in the Hall of Fame tilt against the Miami Dolphins, who managed to break out to a bigger lead than the Cowboys had in any game last season. While I don't think this will have any real impact on the game plan or the execution of the first series or two that will see Romo on the field, I do think a good performance on the field is important to him. Having a bigger hand in planning the offense just puts more of the responsibility on his shoulders. He already gets far too much credit or blame for the overall success of the team, simply because that is the way NFL quarterbacks are viewed. Now he will also have some ownership of the game plan itself. There is a bit of pride at stake for Romo, so he will want to execute things well. That is the key, and the way he has stated he is going to approach the game.

"I think sometimes we all jump to conclusions, us as well as you guys, ‘We're going to be good, we're not going to be good,'" Romo said. "More than anything, you just want to have good execution. Sometimes the calls, you're not game-planning, per se, and having the stuff you're really going to attack certain coverages and certain teams certain ways, so you get a little vanilla with what you may call. You'd like to get into a rhythm, but I just think we need to go out here and execute the right way."

Todd Archer | ESPN Dallas

But even with that being said, you know he wants to move the team well, and would really like to put a touchdown up. That is not easy, of course, in the first real action against a real opponent for Romo and many of the other players on the field.

That vanilla aspect of the game means that we should not read too much into the play calling we will see, or that we saw last game, for that matter. All the Dallas starters, particularly the skills positions, need to use this as a chance to get timing down and any rust knocked off. With one or two series, there is not even a guarantee that all the starters will get a touch. This does not mean they don't have a lot to accomplish anyway, but don't look for too much in the way of big plays.

As for what you should be looking for, well, there is still the great ape hunkered over there on the sofa. Romo is going to be working behind an offensive line that is looking more and more to be 80% in place, with only right guard still to be determined. After the Brandon Moore debacle, the team is still reported to be interested in Brian Waters so there are still major developments possible. However, if they do manage to work something out without being left at the altar this time, it looks like he would not be signed in time to report to Oxnard (there are some indications that was part of his master plan all along, taking a rather Brett Favre-ish approach to training camp). If the team did feel he was ready to go for the start of the regular season, the team still is going to be going with one of the guards currently on the roster. Ronald Leary looks like the best bet to grab that job, since Nate Livings is going to be behind if he comes back from his latest knee surgery. Rabblerousr felt that Leary was winning the battle anyway, although it is hard to know how much of that may have been due to the injury.

However the courtship of Waters works out, the tackles are set and the plan seems to be whatever it takes to keep Travis Frederick at center. That center/quarterback relationship is one that is often taken for granted, but having a good exchange to start each play is crucial, and you don't want problems. Remember these days?

Tony Romo hit in head with snap (via Dvaree Thompson)

The new relationship seems to be off to a good start.

"Travis has done a great job," Romo said. "They picked a good one there. He's going to be a guy who's going to help us a lot for a long time. I don't know whether people are talking about whether or not we reached for him and stuff like that I guess at the time, but he's good football player and we got a good first-round draft pick there."

Rowan Kavner | DallasCowboys.com

It is quite early, but in the first game it certainly appeared that the starting offensive line is in better shape than it was at this time last year. Even if the team has to go into the regular season with the offensive line that is going to start in Oakland (expected to be Tyron Smith/Leary/Frederick/Mackenzy Bernadeau/Doug Free), Romo understands that he and the coaches can't just lay it all at their feet.

"As a quarterback, you've got to be mobile, slide in the pocket, move, get the ball out," he said after Thursday's walk-through as the Cowboys got ready to travel to Oakland for the second preseason game, and Romo's first action. "And then on top of it, we've got to give them some things they don't have to work quite so hard in and do some things schematically that give us a little bit of help."

Carlos Mendez | Ft Worth Star-Telegram

This year, Romo is a key part of both ends of that equation. He helps devise the scheme, then he is the man executing it. It may put him in the crosshairs for future criticism, but it also means that he now can have a tremendous impact on the offense, as great as any quarterback in the league and much more than most. We get the first hints of how that is all going to work out against the Raiders. It may only be for a few minutes in the first quarter, but it will be riveting.

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