Training Camp officially starts July 24 in Oxnard, California which makes now the perfect time to preview each position and assess where the Dallas Cowboys are heading into camp. Over the next four weeks, I will break down each and every candidate for a roster spot, specific to position. As part of the review process, I will make one bold prediction about the position, describe what the team needs from each player, offer my guess as to who makes the final fifty-three man cut and rank where each starter ranks in comparison to others at his position across the entire NFL. Since this is the first installment of this series, we’ll kick it off with the most important position in today’s game, the quarterback.
Tony Romo, 34
What else is there to say about the most scrutinized player in the league? Romo is not and has not ever been the main reason why this team constantly underachieves. Concerns about his injury history and age are valid to a degree, however he has only missed one game in the last three years. I think if you asked any GM in the league if they would take a guaranteed 60+% completion rate, 4,000+ yards, 30+ TD’s and 10-12 INT’s from their quarterback, they would unanimously say yes. The 2014 version of the Dallas Cowboys may need slightly better numbers from number nine but that will come more from play calling as opposed to Romo himself. Finding ways to add Lance Dunbar and Gavin Escobar into the mix will only help make the offense more dynamic and hard to stop. Using their first round picks three consecutive years on offensive linemen has now made the line protecting Romo both extremely talented and young.
Brandon Weeden, 30 (31 on October 14)
The only person less excited about this season involving Kyle Orton than me has to be Brandon Weeden. Weeden is virtually guaranteed a spot on the roster unless he devolves into a worse version of his former self or if Orton shows up. Let’s just prepare ourselves for the higher likelihood that Weeden becomes Romo’s caddy for the 2014 season. Is there any way this can be spun as positive? Sure. Without going all Mickey Spagnola on you, it stands to reason that a better environment, with a better line and better all around personnel could result in an improved Brandon Weeden.
ON THE BUBBLE
Kyle Orton, 31 (32 on November 14)
Caleb Hanie, 28 (29 on September 11)
Dustin Vaughan, 23
Whatever the ploy is from Orton, be it that he just wants to be fat and lazy and not go through team related activities or that he truly does not want to play football anymore, he needs to go. Even though Weeden may not be the best backup quarterback in the league, Orton isn’t guiding this team to the playoffs anyways in the unfortunate event of a Romo season-ending injury. Being mediocre and missing the playoffs this year would be the worst case scenario. At least if Romo does go down, Dallas will be picking in the top eight in next year’s draft. Regardless, I have moved on from Orton and the team should too.
Hanie’s existence in large part depends upon whether or not the Cowboys continue to put up with Orton and how Weeden looks when things like pads and opposing defenses are introduced. If Weeden is just okay (or as a Browns fan would call it Weeden being Weeden) or if Orton does come back, Hanie is probably just a live arm for practices or possibly a smoke screen. I say that because I feel the smart move would be to basically keep Vaughan as secret as possible, making it easier to stash him on the practice squad without losing him to another team poaching cuts when rosters are finalized.
The truth is if Hanie somehow wins the number two spot, it will because he is beyond amazing in the preseason, Weeden really craps the bed or Orton actually decides he has some spare time to devote to football and the Cowboys are cool with that. This team has rarely been one to keep three quarterbacks on the active 53 and I doubt that changes in a make or break year for the coaching staff.
Kyle Orton never plays a down for the Cowboys and is not part of the final 53 when the last cuts are made.
WHO MAKES THE ROSTER?
Romo and Weeden. Vaughan makes the practice squad.
POSITIONAL STRENGTH RELATED TO THE REST OF THE LEAGUE
In my opinion, Romo is in the second tier of quarterbacks below the group of Brady, Brees, Luck, Manning and Rodgers and in the same box as Kaepernick, Newton, Rivers and Wilson. The rankings within those groupings are all arbitrary and personal preference. Basically, I feel Romo is interchangeable with the other four guys in his group. I would not trade him for anyone else not listed and I would only trade him for younger guys in his group and any of the five ahead of him.