All offseason, the Dallas Cowboys have dealt with their share of lumps. From their defensive captain going MIA and being suspended for the year, to the wave of injuries to the roster, the Cowboys’ summer has been nothing short of rough.
But despite this arduous time, the hype for the Cowboys hasn’t slowed, as the eyes of the NFL are still on Big D. The return of Tony Romo had fans excited and hopeful, on an offense that looked primed to break out, and for a Dallas team that plays in a weak division to compete and get back to the postseason.
The only worry the Cowboys felt on the offense heading into the preseason was the perceived lack of depth at the QB position behind Romo in case the injury-riddled linchpin went down again. But as rookie Dak Prescott took over in camp, the worries started to subside – Dallas looked to have the answer to their future quarterback problems, as long as they didn’t have to thrust him into play too early.
Those good feelings and hope also took a substantial hit during Dallas’ preseason game against Seattle this past weekend. As Romo avoided the pressure from the Seahawks’ front seven, and rolled out for a quick scramble and moved to slide down and avoid a big hit from Kam Chancellor, it was a Seahawks pass rusher that would get to Romo from behind. Romo’s body crinkled under the large lineman, and in his awkward landing, those watching at home knew immediately it wasn’t good.
Tony Romo’s spine X-ray says it all. pic.twitter.com/gsJQUwcv9H
— Faux NFL Network™ (@FauxNFLnetwork) August 30, 2016
And as Romo winced on the ground in obvious pain, Cowboy Nation held its collective breath as their star walked off under his own power. Speculation was rife on social media, before the Cowboys finally broke the news the next day that Romo had broken a bone in his back. While not giving an official estimate of a return, the doctor’s prognosis has been given until at least midseason before a likely return.
— First Take (@FirstTake) August 29, 2016
And just like that, the fate of the Cowboys swung to the late-round rookie draft selection out of Mississippi State. It’s an odd situation – not just for the Cowboys, but for the league as a whole. Never before has so much been placed on such a low draft pick so early. Prescott was at one point fourth on the depth chart, and now finds himself firmly catapulted into the starting role for a talented NFL team.
Jon Gruden sees a lot of Donovan McNabb in Dak Prescott. pic.twitter.com/C1ra2bWh0d
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 31, 2016
The pressure is on for Prescott and the Cowboys’ leadership. Head coach Jason Garrett narrowly avoided losing his job last season as the Cowboys fell flat on their face without Romo. Owner Jerry Jones likely won’t take another losing season – with or without Romo – so Garrett and company are going to have to find a way to remain competitive until Romo can return.
The requisite talent is certainly in this team to remain completive. The Cowboys front office has made every effort to surround Romo with some solid pieces on offense. Dez Bryant and the receiving group are good enough to keep Dak grounded, but struggled last season without Romo.
Behind Prescott in the backfield is the equally inexperienced Ezekiel Elliot, the prized running back who’s also not played a single down in the NFL. The offense has a mix of inexperienced players and some from last year’s team that folded down the stretch. Prescott is more talented than the back-up options at QB last year, but the chance to get ugly is very real.
It may be earlier than expected, but Dak Prescott looks ready to be the man for the Cowboys. pic.twitter.com/drqlMsfcya
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 30, 2016
The Cowboys’ defense isn’t going to do them any favors, as the Cowboys feature a depleted defense that was already bad last season. This offense is going to have to put up points just to keep Dallas in games to begin with.
In Prescott, the Cowboys have a QB who very well may turn into a star quickly, and make the fans in Dallas move on from Romo early. But they also have another chance of a lost season, and an organization about to go off the rails yet again.
— Ben Robinson (@benrobinson05) August 30, 2016