Here at the halfway point of the season the worst thing you can say about the Dallas Cowboys is they’ve met expectations.
They are what they always have been.
Congrats to Jerry. His football club is right on schedule. By now, you know the 8-and-8, it’s a December date, format.
With the struggling Minnesota Vikings at the Big Yard on Sunday, we can assume, based on the usual .500 script, the Cowboys will win this game to open the second half of the season.
Otherwise, however, the only halfway-point optimism centers on the current state of the NFC East, which is a division best described as puke pathetic.
I will be bold and proclaim the Cowboys, by far, the best team in the puke pathetic division, so the playoffs are coming in January, right? An 8-8 Cowboys team will make the postseason, right?
Bad defensive stuff obviously happened last week in Detroit, but the season-ending injury to offensive guard Brian Waters was worse than the actual defeat.
No, the offensive line did not play well against the Lions, including the old-timer, Waters. Worst performance as a group in a month. But Waters had been a stabilizing presence until that game, and would have been again.
The Cowboys lost the gamble that a 36-year-old guy could stay healthy, a gamble, by the way, well worth taking. But without Waters, the offensive line has been demoted back to questionable status.
Which brings me to Tony Romo.
Tony hasn’t looked right since the Denver game and that was a month ago. He has not been a sharp passer. And he’s not going to get sharp if the offensive line goes into one of those familiar ditches.
For the past three games coming into the Vikings visit, the Cowboys’ offense has plodded along, with consistent scoreboard production at a bare minimum. So, what about Romo?
For more on Tony, I turned to my distinguished colleague, The Man Who Watches Film, for an independent assessment of Romo and the offense.
I opened the conversation with a comment, “Romo has not been sharp.”
“Wrong,” immediately answered TMWWF.
Well, OK then.
“Tony has missed on a couple of deep throws the last two games, but that’s going to happen to any quarterback,” he added. “Then again, that throw to Dez in the Detroit game that Dez turned into a touchdown was about as good a throw as any quarterback in the league can make.
“Tony does have a problem, however, and that problem is called talent.”
Whoa, big fellow. Talent? The local Romo haters will love that one.
“No, it’s not that,” added the TMWWF.
Actually, there’s a quick and simple translation:
Romo doesn’t have the buggy-whip arm, making throws from all angles. He can’t whip it like Aaron Rodgers.
Tony needs his feet “under him.” So does Tom Brady, by the way. To be effective, Romo has to step into his throws. He’s at his best stepping up in the pocket, and stepping into his throws.
TMWWF: “The freedom to step up and step into the throws hasn’t been there lately, and certainly wasn’t there against the Lions. The pocket is collapsing on him.”
Which brings us back, of course, to the offensive line and the failure of late to handle the middle of a defensive front. Romo had no picks and no sacks in Detroit, but he was under heat all afternoon and took some heavy hits, particularly in the first half against the Lions.
That pressure totally disrupted the Cowboys’ offense in that dismal first half.
“When there’s a collapsing pocket, any quarterback will be impacted, but with Tony it’s going to have a huge impact because he can’t set his feet,” TMWWF said. “And while Tony is good at creating under pressure, when he’s scrambling around back there, he can make something out of nothing because he has the ability to still set his feet. But if he doesn’t get that done, the ball will sail on him.”
And with the offensive line struggling of late, The Man said look out, starting Sunday. “Waters, overall, was a huge addition. Now, without Waters, I suspect it ain’t going to be pretty,” he added.
By the way, with all the Dez news last week coming out of the Detroit game, I asked TMWWF if the film showed Bryant being overlooked by Tony when he was open.
“Absolutely not,” he answered. “Tony threw to Dez six times in that game. It’s not nearly enough, we all know that, but if you want the ball to go to an open man, then six times was the right count in this game.
“Dez has got to get open more. Sure, [the opposition] brackets him on defense, but what does he expect? Dez only plays the X position [the single receiver side of the ball.] Go learn the Z [the two-receiver side.] Go learn the slot. That’s what Calvin Johnson does. He moves around.”
Yes, but what about going “jump ball” with Dez in double coverage, ala the Lions and Calvin Johnson?
TMWWF: “In the red zone, yes, but what’s the one thing everyone screams at Romo about? Don’t force passes. He has heard it his whole career. So now you want him to force passes? Think about it. And then think about the fact if Dez wants the ball more, then hone your craft and learn to beat the double.”
As always, our thanks to The Man Who Watches Film.
But just between us, Romo still doesn’t look all that sharp to me.