Concerns For Cowboys Tony Romo Beyond His Injury


The Dallas Cowboys loss to the Washington Redskins provided a scare that had fans of the team holding their breathe when quarterback Tony Romo was laying on the field for several minutes with a back injury.  Thankfully, the injury is not season ending and Romo incredibly has the potential to play this week.  Without a doubt, his back is a major concern not only for this season but for the remainder of his career.

Whether he misses time or not, there is another reason to be worried going forward.  The defensive game plan the Redskins used to neutralize Romo is one that has historically been effective against him.  All quarterbacks struggle with pressure, but for Tony the drop off in production is alarming.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded quarterbacks on how they performed under different situations in 2013 and Romo was below average in several categories.  He was the 4th highest ranked QB versus ‘no pressure’, trailing only the game’s elite in Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady.  That ranking drops a staggering 35 spots to number 39 when he faces some sort of pressure, whether from blitzing or not.

Since we are focused on what happened in the Redskins game, let’s look more closely at Romo’s performance in blitz situations.  When faced with no blitz, Tony was the 13th ranked QB in 2013 as opposed to being the 18th against the blitz.  If you drill down even further, PFF ranks him 3rd versus ‘no blitz, no pressure’, compared to 12th versus ‘blitz, no pressure’.

This shows even when the offensive line does it’s job against the blitz, Romo’s performance still drops.  Tony is highly regarded as one of the league’s best at making things happen when the pocket breaks down.  He has proven this throughout his career with numerous highlight reel type plays.

But I believe if defenses can pressure him and keep him inside the pocket, his ability as  a quarterback is significantly diminished.  And that is what the Redskins were so effective at doing on Monday night.  Not once was Romo able to pull off one of his patented spin moves to get outside the pocket.

After the game Romo said:

"“That was the most cover-zero blitzes we have seen in a game.  You don’t necessarily think a team is going to run 10 snaps of it in a game, and I’m not sure how many they did, but it was a lot.”"

A cover-zero blitz means there is no safety help at all in the middle of the field allowing the defense to send every available rusher after the QB.  The reason Romo would not expect a team to run that scheme at least ten times in a game is because that normally doesn’t happen in the NFL.

Could you imagine what Manning or Aaron Rodgers would do if a team ran a cover-zero that many times in a game?  Why couldn’t Romo adjust to it during the contest?  Especially when he has a future Hall of Fame tight end in Jason Witten and arguably the game’s most explosive wide receiver in Dez Bryant.

I have never understood why so many Cowboys fans bash Tony Romo.  I have always been a supporter and believe he gives the franchise the best opportunity to win if he were surrounded by more talent.  This year, he has that talent in the form of the league’s best offensive line and running back.  Yet, he showed on Monday that he continues to struggle more than other elite quarterbacks do against the blitz.

If he is healthy enough to play Sunday versus the Arizona Cardinals, it will be interesting to see if he plays any better against their blitz happy defense.