Mac Engel

Having no Zeke should answer Dak vs. Romo debate

Hall of Famer Jerry Jones has yet to comment on his latest suspended player, a practice this team should have nailed down given its vast experience.

For most NFL teams a player suspension is a momentous event; for the Cowboys, it’s a Tuesday.

The news that running back Ezekiel Elliott will be suspended for the first six games of the season caught Jerry so off guard he was speechless.

Actually, that’s mathematically impossible. Jerry is never without words, and God love him for it. He’s just choosing to avoid the topic right now.

Before the Cowboys’ second fake game of the season, team VP Stephen Jones told Cowboys’ flagship radio station 105.3 The Fan, “At the end of the day we certainly support Zeke. At the same time we understand the very, very, very serious nature of domestic violence, certainly that people should be held accountable if that takes place.”

FYI: If Zeke did all of the things the NFL alleges, missing six games is a cup of free coffee; he should be suspended for the season. At least.

While Zeke fights his suspension, the Cowboys are not preparing for him to win an appeal. That is the wise move.

NFL Police Commissioner Goodell was (stupidly) handed this absolute power by the NFL Player’s Association, and a mandate by the owners when he was hired, to be tough on crime. It does not matter if it’s fair or not. These are the consequences and that’s going to affect his teammates, specifically quarterback Dak Prescott.

All of the Tony Romo-loving, Dak-doubting fans will have their chance to see if Dak is Tony’s equivalent when there isn’t as much talent around to support him.

A word to the wise: Don’t bet against Dak.

Beginning in Week 1 we will immediately see if Dak can do some of the things Romo made look so easy, most notably turning a role player into a good one.

To give you an idea how much life has changed for Dak since his NFL debut one year ago against the Rams in L.A. Memorial Coliseum, he didn’t even play Saturday night.

That’s when you know what your team thinks of you: They want your butt on the bench in the preseason.

The Cowboys didn’t want to risk a single Dak snap because starting left tackle Tyron Smith missed the game as a precautionary move because of a lingering back issue. BTW: Keep your eye on Tyron’s bum back; he’s been dealing with it for a while and never believe talk from a team that says one back injury is unrelated to another.

From Tyron to Zeke, few rookies have ever had the type of support system in place the way Dak did when he took the starting job. Most rookie starting quarterbacks play behind a starting offensive line named Oh My God He’s Terrible.

To start his NFL career Dak had the benefit of Zeke, the best offensive line in the NFL, an All-Pro wide receiver in Dez Bryant, a potential Hall of Fame tight end in Jason Witten, two additional competent receivers, and Pro Bowl specialists, too.

Unless by some miracle 29-year-old veteran backup Darren McFadden is a decent facsimile of Zeke, which he’s not, Dak might well have to carry this offense in a way he never did as a rookie.

It was the one part of the Romo vs. Dak debate that never had any evidence in 2016. We never knew how well Dak could do if the Cowboys could not run.

Dak’s supporting cast was so good last season he was never, but maybe once, put in a position where had to be the point guard, and the scorer.

“All the great ones can make their teammates better,” quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said.

Wade and I stood there trying to remember the name of the one player that personified this for Romo. It took 10 minutes before we realized his name was Laurent Robinson.

“That’s it,” Wilson said.

In 2011, Robinson enjoyed a career year with Romo putting the ball in his lap. He had more touchdown catches (11) that season than the rest of his career combined. The following off-season, Robinson signed a five-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars that included a guaranteed $14 million.

Robinson lasted one season with the Jags before he was cut. He never played in the NFL again.

He got his money because Romo had made him.

Without Zeke, Dak is going to have to make some guys. His accuracy will have to be equal to Romo.

“Dak is the same way,” receiver Terrence Williams told me this week. “Since the first day he got here, he’s been like that. The thing he does so well is that he throws you the ball in a place where you can catch it and run.”

That’s accuracy. If Dak combines his decision making with Tony’s accuracy on vertical throws, a Zeke-less offense will not run like a three-wheeled car.

We don’t know for sure if Zeke is actually going to miss games just yet, but the Cowboys are planning on it. Then the Romo lovers will have some more evidence if Dak is as good as their boy.

By then Jerry will have come out of hiding, too.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram