If you missed Tony Romo's statement yesterday, here's a link to the video. There are countless takes on Romo's statement out there today, too many to summarize in a simple news post. We urge your to watch the video first (if you haven't done so yet), and form your own opinion before reading other people's take on the statement.
Graziano, who used to write about the NFC East before he was put on the Giants' beat, pens an interesting article on the changing evaluation of Dak Prescott within the Dallas heirarchy, from preseason to today. A must-read.
It is Aug. 25 -- just 90 seconds into a preseason game in Seattle -- and Tony Romo has lost his job.
He doesn't know this, of course. No one does. The crunching hit by Cliff Avril that cracked Romo's back and forced him out of that game looked bad, but neither Romo nor the Dallas Cowboys thought it would cost him time. He asked back in, and the next day, the stories out of Dallas all said he'd avoided a scare. The story of the night was the preseason debut of first-round running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had 48 yards on seven carries after missing a bunch of practices with a hamstring injury. A few people noted how good fourth-round rookie Dak Prescott looked in relief of Romo.
"I was ready to go," Prescott said, simply, after hitting 17 of 23 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown that night. While no one expected it to matter right away, that readiness did not go unnoticed.
"That's all he had to show, for me," one Cowboys official said nearly two months later, with the phenomenon in full flower. "He had to go into that game, without any warmup, against the best defense in the league, that was playing its starters, and he was just -- like it was nothing. He was ready. Whatever we needed him to do, he was ready for it."
That was said in retrospect, though. In the days that followed this particular preseason game, Cowboys coaches talked of Prescott as a project. One said Romo's injury would offer a rare chance for a rookie to get first-team reps. They believed the system in which Prescott played at Mississippi State would translate well in the pros, and they were starting to convince themselves they might be able to get by with him as Romo's primary backup, though Kellen Moore was still in the picture and the plan for Prescott was education, not expectation.
"Just getting him that exposure right now is huge," one Cowboys coach said in that final week of August, before they knew the severity of Romo's back injury. "It gives you a good feeling about what's to come."
There was a bad feeling in the organization -- that Romo was hurt again, and that the story of Romo from this point forward would be the need to always worry that the next hit could get him hurt again. They weren't talking about life after Romo in late August, but they were thinking about it. And Prescott was already nibbling at the corner of that picture.
Sullivan always has interesting observations. He led with this one.
There is nothing more dangerous in the NFL than a desperate team. Except maybe a desperate team at home at one of the three toughest places to play. Then throw in a future Hall of Fame quarterback on the opposing team. This win was Daddy Warbucks winning the lottery. There was no reason to expect it; there was no reason to need it. The Cowboys would have been just fine at 7-2.
Instead, the rookie backfield, unconscious, seemingly oblivious to pressure and history, announced to the football world that this isn’t a fluke. It’s not a fleeting moment in time. Through nine games, this is the most accomplished team in franchise history. First eight-game single-season winning streak since 1977, which was probably the most dominant team the Cowboys have ever placed on the field. This is the ride of a lifetime, and compared to last season, this is trading in a tricycle for a Rolls Royce.
This article has some nice quotes from Dak and Zeke. I clipped this segment from Elliott talking about Dak.
Prescott has come out of nowhere -- not that Mississippi State is nowhere -- to defy expectations and conventional wisdom. He's proved to be one of the league's most efficient quarterbacks while beating Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger in head-to-head competition.
"I mean, you guys [the media] didn't expect anything out of him,'' Elliott said, making it clear that Prescott's teammates didn't buy into the narrative. "But Dak is like me. He's a competitor.
"We expect a lot out of ourselves. He's not going to accept, just because he's a fourth-round pick, that he's not expected to go out there and compete.
"That's kinda how our team works. We go out there and perform. That's how we do things here.''
Speaking of Zeke, I loved this tweet about Zeke in the locker room crowing after the Steelers game. These guys just have fun!
Jason Witten's talking to media. Somewhere in the distance, you can hear Zeke Elliott yell: "OLD MAN WITTEN, AWOOOOO! YOU CAN'T GUARD'IM!"— David Helman (@HelmanDC) November 14, 2016
Who is the MVP? Our own Tom Ryle reprises Bill Barnwell's piece arguing for the offensive line.
Remember, this is the same line that made a 1,000 yard rusher out of Darren McFadden last season, with a passing game that was as threatening as a baby rabbit cuddling with a fluffy little duckling. Now, instead of having a somewhat worn running back and quarterbacks that checked down from their check down receivers, they have a Ferrari carrying the ball and a quarterback who throws like the Green Arrow shoots at bad guys. In 2015, their efforts only led to 4-12 misery and the disdain of the NFL world. In 2016, those efforts have brought the team to a league-leading 8-1 start and a realization that they are now a real contender to make a deep playoff run, with reasonable talk that Dallas is now one of the favorites to go all the way to the Super Bowl.
And it all starts with the offensive line.
That's quite interesting, because Michael Irvin takes that same fact -- how the offensive line played in 2015 -- and argues in the article below that it shows Ezekiel Elliott should be the MVP.
Irvin was on the Dan Patrick show. After arguing why Zeke should be ahead of Dak, there was this exchange.
Patrick followed that up with his MVP for the Cowboys: the offensive line.
"That offensive line, that MVP you just called, was here last year. They didn't look like an MVP. Not that they aren't a great offensive line; they are that but it must be the marriage and commingling. If you're a great offensive line and you're moving everybody, then the theory or the logic would be that you could put anybody back there to run it and that's what the Cowboys thought and then they fell to 4-12 and they got some knowledge. You can't put anybody behind a great offensive line, it has to match with the offensive line and that's what makes Ezekiel Elliott. It's not just that they're blocking for him, it's that he has the ability. He has the home run ability; he has the power to run over; he has the ability to pick up blocks. It's just incredible. It's phenomenal what this kid is doing."
Fortunately, I don't think anyone in the locker room is paying any attention to this stuff. They are focused on Baltimore.
Sturm's Decoding Linehan columns are required reading if you want to understand the Cowboys' offense. This week, he has a nice video series on how end-around plays set up the Steelers for the 83-yard screen pass to Zeke. Sturm is also in the Zeke for MVP camp.
I will be honest, I planned on making this plenty about Ezekiel Elliott. He is getting ignored a bit too much in these reports as we discuss the passing game each week, but I will quickly confess that Zeke is on my short list for NFL MVP. I assume he has rookie of the year locked up, so we might as well figure out if he can just haul off and get the league's highest honor for an individual.
He is an absurd game breaker and I am reminded constantly about my draft stance. It is articulated here that "he better be Adrian Peterson" and he better be a star if you are going to use a pick like that on a RB (which is almost always a bad play). Well, guess what, he seems to be of that quality. Now, he just needs some Adrian-like longevity.
Speaking of the 83-yard screen pass, Taylor has a little love for Terrence Williams, who made two key blocks on the play to help Zeke get to the house.
For all the criticism Williams receives for catching passes with his body instead of his hands, and the never-ending grumbling at his failure to get out of bounds at the end of the game in Week 1 against the New York Giants, he’s more than made up for it this season in other ways.
"I don’t really care about whether people pay attention to that, " Williams said. "I decided to quit worrying about that this year because I can’t control it.
"When you have an offense like this with Zeke and Dez (Bryant) and (Jason) Witten, the ball isn’t going to come to you a lot. You have to contribute other ways. I decided to be the best blocker I could be."
Lots of articles this week about the Cowboys handing pressure and adversity very well. Here's Archer's take on that theme.
In nine weeks, the Cowboys have doubled last year’s win total. They have won eight straight games, the best single-season winning streak since 1977, whereas they were in the middle of a seven-game losing streak at this time last season. They have won without Tony Romo playing a snap. They have won without having Dez Bryant for three games. They have won without Orlando Scandrick for four games and Tyron Smith for three. They have won the last two without two defensive starters, Barry Church and Morris Claiborne.
They won Sunday at Pittsburgh with sixth-round cornerback Anthony Brown lining up against Antonio Brown and with Leon McFadden, who was not on the roster a month ago, playing meaningful cornerback snaps.
A year ago, Jason Garrett’s biggest lament was the Cowboys’ inability to handle adversity. This year they have done so.
This is Archer's Five Wonders piece. Byron Jones has certainly been tremendous. Needs to work on his fumble scooping technique!
Many have wondered if the Cowboys will look for a veteran cornerback down the stretch, especially with the injury to Morris Claiborne, who is not expected back for at least another couple of weeks because of a groin injury. Here’s what I wonder: Will the Cowboys look to safety Byron Jones to play some cornerback instead? They have tried to have him focus on safety, but now it’s close to "desperate times require desperate measures" time. The Cowboys hope Orlando Scandrick will be back after he was knocked out of the Steelers game. That forced Leon McFadden to play more than they wanted, and Ben Roethlisberger took advantage. The Cowboys might be able to cover themselves defensively better by going with Jones as a cornerback and using Jeff Heath at safety.
One would hope this is designed to light a fire under Benson Mayowa, and that it works.
"He’s working hard, but we want to see more production," Garrett said of Mayowa. "He’s getting better and understanding the techniques we want him to play and at different times he’s done a good job of being productive, but we want him to continue showing up.
"What we do is similar to what he did in Oakland, it’s just a matter of continuing to work hard, showing up and being productive."