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Game film may be slowing Romo down

What's up with Tony Romo over the last couple of weeks? It may be nothing more than defenses getting actual game film to study. No one was really sure what Romo's strengths and weaknesses were in his first few starts. But give defensive coordinators some game tape and it becomes much easier to design defenses to attack Romo's deficiencies. That doesn't mean they can stop Romo now, only that he is going to have to work harder to improve his game.

Every quarterback in his first year as a starter is going to have to deal with defenses that gather a lot of information from those first few weeks of game tapes that give clues. Generally, the "wall" is waiting for the new signal-caller somewhere between the first five and seven weeks after his initial start.

Defensive coordinators have made cut-up tapes of every aspect of quarterback play.


Everyone left on the Cowboys' schedule and all of the playoff hopefuls will use the Saints game when getting their game plan together. As one defensive coordinator said to me, "It looks like the concept might be to contain the rush and not let [Romo] out like Ben Roethlisberger likes to create outside the pocket and see if we can get him to throw some balls to us like Ben has this season."

OK Romo, time to adjust to the new conventional wisdom and break it down. Show everybody that you can fire the rock from the pocket and make teams pay. Personally, I think the best thing you can do to slow him down is cover his receivers in the initial few seconds of the play, play press coverage and man-to-man underneath. Romo likes to get the ball out in rhythm on his first-read, he can move off his initial read and make a play, but that's when he also seems to make his mistakes. The strategy to me is to cover his first-read by pressing up on the receivers then contain him in the pocket. This is a dangerous strategy too, because if the Dallas line can hold the pocket then his receivers are skilled enough to get open deeper and make a defense pay.

Roy isn't happy about everyone dogging on his coverage skills, even as he claims he doesn't hear that criticism.

Cowboys Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams said he doesn't hear the criticism about his coverage skills.

But Williams does remain hyper-sensitive to questions that he and the secondary have struggled in coverage. The Cowboys' secondary was picked apart Sunday by New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for 384 yards and five touchdowns.

"I think we've done all right in coverage," said Williams, who has a team-high five interceptions. "Everybody is not going to have a perfect game. Stop making it seem like everybody is perfect. Just because it happened last week doesn't mean we've had horrible coverage the whole season. Get over it. Yeah, we didn't perform like we wanted to, and this week is another week and we can try to make up for last week."

Wherefore art thou, Greg Ellis?

When Ellis suffered a torn Achilles' tendon on Nov. 12, the Cowboys knew they would miss their former defensive MVP. But in the first game without Ellis, the defense appeared to be fine as it hounded Peyton Manning and Indianapolis. Four days later, the Cowboys pounded Tampa Bay.

But in recent weeks, Ellis' absence has been more noticeable as the Cowboys continue to struggle to pressure quarterbacks. They have only two sacks in the past three games.

With Ellis, the Cowboys ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in sacks. Without him, their 23 sacks are 25th.

"You can probably point the finger or try to figure why it is we haven't been getting pressure. A logical choice is Greg isn't in," linebacker Bradie James said."Greg was one of the better outside rushers that we had. It takes two players right now to do his job. It's on a lot of guys to get pressure on the quarterback."

The committee approach of rookie Bobby Carpenter, Al Singleton and small helpings of Kevin Burnett and Jason Hatcher hasn't produced much. Singleton and Carpenter have combined for one tackle for a loss. Burnett returned an interception for a touchdown against the Colts.

Singleton and Carpenter have done a pretty good job of filling in against the run, but they haven't gotten pressure on the QB when it mattered, except for a couple of occasions by Singleton. And Jason Hatcher has been very quiet in the past couple of games. Time to wake up and get it going guys.

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