With training camp right around the corner, DallasCowboys.com is taking a look at the outlook of each position group in a 10-part series, continuing today with the quarterback position.
Top of the chart: Tony Romo
A bit of a no-brainer at this position. Once again, Romo enters the season striving to meet expectations that haven't yet been fulfilled, despite finishing up his fourth 4,000-yard passing season in the last six years. This time, he does it after signing a lucrative contract that will keep him in Dallas long-term. For him to justify the contract, he'll need to lead the group to a playoff berth and postseason success. A lot's put on Romo's shoulders every year, and even more so this year after owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he expects Romo to be even more involved this year in game planning. The recent lack of running game has put further emphasis on the passing game in the offense. If the Cowboys struggle to run well again this season, the reliance on Romo's arm will only continue to soar.
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The answer doesn't change here, primarily because he'll be the unquestioned starter at the position while healthy. No one's seen anything from Romo thus far this offseason, as he recovers from minor offseason back surgery, but he's expected to be back in full swing for training camp.The time missed probably won't be any gigantic setback if he can get back on the field immediately in Oxnard, but he has two new targets in Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams, as well as a new center to take exchanges from in Travis Frederick, so getting timing down with them is important.
It's not easy to be counted on for production as much as Romo was last season, and along with that reliance on the passing game came a horde of turnovers. In addition to passing for career-highs in yards, attempts and completions last year, Romo also tied a career-high in interceptions. The three-, four- and five-interception games have to disappear for Dallas to become a consistent winner.
Still need to know … Workload For Kyle Orton
Orton played in just one game last season. He looked pretty sharp doing so, completing 9-of-10 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Bears, but that's not a lot of work for any primary backup quarterback, even one with as much experience as Orton. He played in at least three games in each of his previous seven years in the league, so what was almost an off year could mean he'll need a couple games to adjust to the speed of play again if he's ever called upon during the season.
Romo's played in all 16 games each of the last two seasons, but in 2010 he played in only six games. Orton was widely considered one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league last year, and he still is. But the more work he can get, the better the Cowboys will feel about him if he needs to get plugged in. While it's not a positive that Romo's been out for the offseason, it has given Orton an opportunity to get some work with the starters.
Don't forget about … Nick Stephens
The Cowboys elected not to keep a third quarterback on the active roster last season. It's quite possible they do so once again, but a strong training camp and preseason from Stephens could make the Cowboys coaches reconsider. The former Tarleton State quarterback will get plenty of opportunities to make his mark, along with rookie Dalton Williams. [embedded_ad]
Stephens has more experience with the Cowboys than Williams, and the team might be more willing to give a longer look at the player who joined the team at the end of the 2012 season. Neither of the quarterbacks behind Romo or Orton have earned a spot yet. A couple nice passes seemed to be followed by a couple that are off the mark. But if one of the young quarterbacks can turn some heads in the preseason, the same way Romo had to as an undrafted rookie free agent years ago, then that long shot player could eventually make the final cut.