(Editor's Note: This is the sixth of a 12-part series examining and analyzing the main position groups for the Cowboys as they prepare for training camp. Today's piece focuses on the quarterbacks.)
What's the Deal?The Kyle Orton saga is over. The Cowboys made Orton's release official Wednesday, leaving Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie as the main backups to Tony Romo. Orton missed all the offseason activities with the Cowboys, losing
some money in the process, but some believed he'd eventually return to the team for training camp. That didn't end up happening, and the Cowboys will now move forward without their primary backup. Romo's coming off one of his better seasons in the league, throwing 31 touchdowns passes to just 10 interceptions, but he's also coming off a major back surgery. This is the first season in Dallas for Weeden, the former 2012 first-round pick and starter for Cleveland, who hopes to rejuvenate his career in Dallas, and Caleb Hanie. Undrafted rookie Dustin Vaughan was also added to the roster this offseason.
Still Need to Find Out:
Just how healthy Romo really is. It's easy to say Romo feels good right now, before the pads have come on and before he's dealt with an NFL pass rush coming straight at him. Romo's expected to be ready to go for training camp, but he hasn't been involved in much of the team activities to this point. We all need to find out if Romo can get through a full 16-game season after this latest surgery. If he can't, it's a whole lot of unknown at the quarterback position now that Orton's gone. Orton, who had success in the league and nearly led the Cowboys to a Week 17 win and playoff berth, provided a safety net in the event Romo couldn't go. The feeling of ease may not be the same if Romo goes down again in 2014, though Weeden hopes he can change people's minds. The Cowboys hope they won't need to find out.
The first number to look at here is roster spots. It would have been interesting to see if the Cowboys kept three quarterbacks had Orton and Weeden both still been on the roster. We've seen them do that in the past with Stephen McGee. Recently, they've gone with just two quarterbacks, and with the many questions on defense this year, they may need to go deep on that side of the ball. That would mean keeping just Romo and Weeden on the 53-man roster this year, though there's risk in that if Romo goes down. To keep three quarterbacks, Hanie needs a stellar camp. When it comes to stats, Romo didn't appear to be slowing down much in 2013. His 31-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio equaled that of his 2011 season. His completion percentage and yardage totals were a little down, but that latter stat would have been closer to the norm had he been healthy in Week 17. [embedded_ad]
Ready to Breakout?The only possible answer here is Weeden. If he's starting at quarterback for the Cowboys, the season hasn't gone as planned. But the Cowboys brought Weeden in for a reason. Despite his age, they want to develop the former first-round pick and believe in his potential. The Browns didn't boast the greatest supporting group in the league for a young quarterback while Weeden was there, and the Cowboys hope they can bring him along to become the player Cleveland thought it was getting. But, undoubtedly, the Cowboys also hope they won't need to resort to that. Weeden needs to get his completion percentage and touchdown totals up if he's going to become a reliable starter.
Last Time Out:
For a look back at how the quarterbacks on the roster performed last year, click here.