Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones: Tony Romo is our No. 1 quarterback

Terrance Williams dives for a first down against Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, one of his five catches for 70 yards.
Terrance Williams dives for a first down against Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, one of his five catches for 70 yards. dkent@star-telegram.com

Owner Jerry Jones expects a MRI exam on Monday to show the compression fracture in Tony Romo’s lower back is fully healed.

That would give Romo the green light to ramp up his rehab as he’s been sidelined since being injured in an Aug. 25 preseason game at Seattle.

Jones is excited about getting Romo healthy again, though a quarterback controversy appears to be brewing based on rookie Dak Prescott’s play.

“Tony is our No. 1 quarterback, and we’re going to have the luxury of being able to I think see them both,” Jones said. “... I don’t want to presume anything like that, but I welcome the opportunity of having Dak playing at this level, and Tony back in excellent health.

“It’s going to be really special for the Cowboys.”

When Romo initially was injured, the prognosis was six to 10 weeks. Romo is a little more than six weeks removed from the injury and reports have been positive in his progress.

Romo, 36, has increased his strength and conditioning work, and has begun throwing passes pregame and during the week. It’s unknown what his schedule will look like should he get cleared on Monday.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones said last month there is a chance Romo could practice for a week or two and not play, allowing him to get fully ready.

The timeline would seem to point to the Oct. 30 game against Philadelphia for Romo’s return, although Jerry Jones wouldn’t specify a target date. The Cowboys have a bye week after the Green Bay Packers game Sunday.

“I don’t know what to think,” Jerry Jones said. “I just know that I do expect a good report Monday, and I know that Tony is feeling better. Again, I don’t think we could and should get ahead of ourselves and start looking at a spot.

“If we keep winning these ballgames and end up with an improved team as we move along, with the arrow going up, then that would put us in good shape if you wanted to kind of look down the road with what we’re doing here. But let’s get to Green Bay.”

The health of Romo has become an issue for the Cowboys in recent years. He underwent two back operations in 2013 and missed 12 games last season after fracturing his collarbone twice.

The Cowboys went 1-11 without him a season ago, but Prescott has impressed as the team has already matched its win total from last season.

Williams solid

Terrance Williams had five catches on Sunday. All were for first downs.

It marked the best game for Williams in what has been a rocky start to the season. He had the infamous gaffe of not running out of bounds in the final seconds of the season opener against the New York Giants, went catch-less in the second game at Washington and fumbled in Week 3 against the Chicago Bears.

On Sunday against the Bengals, though, Williams proved to be at the right spot at the right time and Prescott connected with him for critical first downs.

It’s the type of production the Cowboys need out of Williams, particularly with star receiver Dez Bryant sidelined with a knee injury.

“We just don’t blink this year,” Williams said. “Last year, there was kind of a panic. We’re not thinking about who is playing, we’re just playing football.”

Williams caught an 11-yard pass on second-and-8 for a first down on the Cowboys’ opening drive, and then had two more first-down catches on the second drive.

But his biggest catch came on the Cowboys’ final drive when he hauled in an 11-yard reception on third-and-7, which essentially closed out the game.

“Whenever you have a coach [Jason Garrett] that’s trying to get the mindset that we have to finish games and coach Garrett and coach Scott [Linehan] call on you, you have to be ready,” Williams said. “You can’t just think of a plan, you have to have a plan ready so the times they do call, you’re ready.”

In the past two games without Bryant, Williams has combined for eight catches for 114 yards with one touchdown on 11 targets.

During Bryant’s seven-game absence last season, Cowboys quarterbacks targeted Williams 51 times. He caught 25 passes for 468 yards and two touchdowns. Most of his damage was done in the season finale against the Washington Redskins, who pulled most of their starters in the second half, when he caught eight passes for 173 yards.

Williams credits Prescott to the difference in his production this year.

“That’s the hardest part about it and most people don’t get it,” Williams said. “Whenever you have a guy like [Prescott] that knows what’s going on and that does all of the play mechanics right and knows what’s going on, that makes football fun. That takes the burden off your mind.

“That brings out the best in me. That brings out the best in [all of the receivers].”

OL sets tone

The Cowboys’ offensive linemen prefer a low profile. They would rather let their play speak for itself. When they do talk, they don’t say much.

So leave it to Jason Witten to give them a pat on the back after the Cowboys rushed for 180 yards and passed for 227 yards against the vaunted Bengals defense.

“The standard for those guys in our run game is really, really high,” Witten said. “They’re the hardest-working group. They stay together. They take accountability when things don’t go well. Those first couple of weeks were tough for us to get some yards. They just kind of stuck with it and played really good, because that is a good front seven Cincinnati has, and it’s been that way a long time.”

Left tackle Tyron Smith returned to the lineup after missing two games with a bulging disk in his back. He played like his All-Pro self.

“It’s frustrating being out, but it’s a great feeling to be back with the guys,” Smith said. “They’re like brothers and happy to be back with them.”

Ron Leary started at left guard for the second week since La’el Collins was lost for the season with a torn ligament in his right big toe. He looked like he had never missed a beat despite losing his starting job early last season and missing the off-season while seeking a trade.

“I think it’s a blessing,” Leary said. “I love football. I play with my heart all the time. Not playing, that was hard for me not playing. I just prayed a lot and I tried to stay the course and tried to be a pro about it. I’m just glad I get to play ball again. You hate to see injuries. LC is a great guy. But I’m just glad to get an opportunity to play football again.”

The offensive line set the tone on the first drive as the Cowboys took the opening kickoff and marched 64 yards in seven plays. Fifty-three of those yards came on the ground against a defense that had not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 15 games or a rushing touchdown this season.

“For us, we always try to set the tone early,” Smith said. “That’s what any offense around the league [wants]. You want to set the tone right away, so that’s all we were trying to do. We were trying to do our jobs and get it done.” 

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison

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