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Three Questions: Romo Expectations, Free Future, More
What do you really expect from Tony Romo?
That is an interesting question because there have been many so many seasons where I haven’t given his performance or health really a second thought, but that has all changed. For the position that he plays, it’s not going to be a walk in the park having to deal with that back surgery. Having worked off and on with this organization since 1999, I have grown to respect these doctors and the skill they have to fix these injuries, but there really is so much unknown how this might play out. What worries me the most about Romo is if this back condition robs him of his ability to continue to be a mobile quarterback. It doesn’t take a scout to tell you that one of the best traits of Romo’s game is his ability to avoid the rush and extend a play. As good as this offensive line played in 2013, there will still be a time or two where that protection completely breaks down and Romo is going to have to be Romo. Will we see him taking more sacks or just quickly unloading the ball, while a healthy Romo would have those eyes down the field looking to make that dagger pass? There is no question that these quarterbacks change the older they get, but now having to deal with an injury to a critical area of his body makes his job even more difficult.
If Doug Free performs well in 2014, would you consider extending him?
It was very clear that before last season, Doug Free was not playing well, and to his credit, he even admitted that to me. The problem with Free has never been about his athletic ability, but more about his lack of power and when he plays with poor technique. These were two areas that he really focused on when he took the reduction in his salary to try and once again raise his level of play. In my opinion, Free’s never going to be one of those tackles that will blow you off the ball, but in this scheme where he can play on the edges and work to the scheme level to play in space, he has a great chance of succeeding, which he did. It’s not that Free isn’t strong, but when he plays tall with straight legs, he has no shot. With Free, it’s all about knee bend and getting his hands inside. When his hands go wide and it allows defenders inside on him, he is going to get overpowered. We have all seen this. The corrections that Free made this time last season in OTAs and into Oxnard made all the difference in the world. As far as extending him, without a doubt, this is something that the front office has thought about. This is a transaction that can be easily done in my view because Free understands how this business really works. He and his agent made a very smart move intaking the reduction for the money they did because he ended up getting his contract guaranteed plus three times more than any of the tackles that were on the street. Doug Free is in the prime of his offensive lineman career. At 30, he has two to three more quality years to help this young line. It could be an outstanding deal for both parties going forward.
Can Ryan Williams turn enough heads to win a roster spot?
The battle during training camp should be a great one. As the camp works through July and into August, I feel like we will all have a better understand of how many running backs this squad will keep on the 53-man roster. What we have to remember is that DeMarco Murray, for as outstanding as he was in 2013, missed two games during the season and is in the final year of his rookie contract. There have been some whispers of an extension but nothing in stone. The front office might be forced to carry the extra backs just to protect themselves in the event that they can’t strike a deal with Murray. Williams sat highly on the Cowboys draft board when he came out of Virginia Tech, and so far in these practices he has done nothing to disappoint them in his effort and performance. He looks healthy and excited about being here. Matter of fact, growing up as a teenager, the Cowboys were his favorite team. I believe that Murray and Dunbar, barring any problem, are the first two running backs on the roster but the others spot or spots are up for grabs. What Williams and Randle are both going to do is show that they are capable of playing well on special teams. Whichever player can shine in that role plus give them quality snaps with the offense will win this job.