Entering his 6th season as a full time starter, Tony Romo will be looking to improve his performance when the Cowboys start the season this fall. But besides the fact that the team finished with an 8-8 record, and just missing the playoffs with that disastrous performance finale in New York with that 31-14 beating from the eventual Super Bowl champ Giants, Romo actually had a remarkable 2011 season.
He finished 4th in the NFL with a passer rating of 102.5, trailing only Aaron Rodgers ( 122.5 ), Drew Brees ( 110.6 ), and Tom Brady ( 105.6 ). Romo also passed for 4,184 yards, 31 TD passes to only 10 Ints.
Now sure, alot of that help came from wide receiver Laurent Robinson. He became an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, and bolted for Jacksonville on a 5 year deal worth $32.5 million. Robinson had a career year with Romo hauling in 54 passes for 858 yards with an impressive 11 TD catches. And even though the Cowboys tried to re-sign him to a lucrative offer, their pay scale was no match for what the Jaguars were willing to spend.
As for 2012, Romo will only be 32 years old when the season starts. And returning to join him will be receivers: Miles Austin ( 43 rec / 579 yds / 7 tds ), who missed 6 games due to multiple hamstring injuries. Dez Bryant ( 63 rec / 928 yds / 9 tds ), whom also missed significant playing time to injuries. And Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten, ( 79 rec / 942 / 5 tds ) who missed his first pro bowl after 7 straight seasons.
The Cowboys will be looking for a third option with Robinson- like skills before the season begins, whether it will be through the draft, free agency, or possibly some type of trade. Even though Kevin Ogletree was re-signed to a one year tender, don’t forget owner Jerry Jones and the coaching staff have high hopes in their raw youth talent. This includes Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, Teddy Williams, and Raymond Radway ( who is still recovering from a preseason broken ankle ). The Boys will be keeping their eyes open on both the waiver wire, and of course the draft for players that could come in and help out the team immediately.
Romo will also have a younger veteran backup Quarterback in Kyle Orton, 29, standing behind him when training camp begins. As the Cowboys made it mandatory to find a younger veteran with experience, to not only provide insurance, but who could help the offense carry on in-case Romo suffers an injury. Last season, Romo fractured a rib versus the San Francisco 49ers and bruised his throwing hand against the rival Philadelphia Eagles. The latter injury require Romo to miss most of that Christmas Eve rematch.
Orton comes in 10 years younger than Romo’s previous back-up, Jon Kitna, whom retired during the offseason after 15 seasons in the NFL. With 68 starts under his belt, Orton also steps ahead of the Cowboy’s 4th year quarterback Stephen Mcgee on the depth chart.
Coach Bill Callahan was also a huge pickup during the offseason. He will be rebuilding the offensive line which rendered 36 sacks to Romo last season. He will also serve as offensive coordinator, although head coach Jason Garrett will most likely still be calling most of the plays. Callahan, who comes over after 4 seasons with the New York Jets , will have his work load cut out for him. It is highly rumored that right tackle and last year’s first round pick, Tyron Smith, will be making a full time transition to left tackle. This will send veteran Doug Free back to right, leaving the interior of the offensive line very much still a work in progress.
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