Sullivan: Romo Shouldn't Have Played, Elliott's Night Among Thoughts

Some of the thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head:

  • For the last few weeks I have written, tweeted and pleaded many times over to keep Tony Romo off the field during the preseason. The majority disagreed with me, including a barrage via Twitter about an hour before kickoff when I wrote: "In his six-plus years as head coach, I've never disagreed with Jason Garrett more than his decision to play Tony Romo tonight."
  • Look, I'm not here to say I told you so. And some out there maybe still think he should have played, which is mind-boggling. There's a bigger issue with Romo right now, though, and the preseason debate is in the past, so should he or shouldn't he doesn't really mean squat here and now.
  • My argument all along has been quite simple: Romo only has so many hits left in him before it's bedtime on his career. And one of those hits, a significant one no matter what he or Jason Garrett says, was wasted in a game that means nothing. But as he was lying there on the field, another thought rushed through my mind.
  • These last few years, even with the two broken collarbones, I've always been of the thinking that Romo has a few solid years left. His body would somehow, someway, sustain, the league's most dominant line would help, and Romo would be Romo in 2016 and 2017, a top-tier quarterback. For the first time, I'm not sure about any of that. It wasn't a brutal hit by any means. It looked like the defender, Cliff Avril, was trying to strip the ball, not annihilate Romo, even though he did fall on him after.
  • Of the last five games Romo has started, he was forced to leave in three of them with injuries. That's more occasions than in his first 123 regular-season NFL starts. And that's not one of those trends that seems likely to dramatically change with him being 36 and all. At this point, do any of us feel confident he's going to play 16 games this season? Heck, I'm not sure about 10.
  • Also, there's this: An athlete, especially a brilliantly instinctive one like Romo, can't change who he is. Yeah, it was irresponsible, brazen, frustrating, but you know what? It was understandable. That's who he is as a football player, as a quarterback, as an athlete. He felt the rush and took off. There are going to be instances when he's going to do his patented spin move out of the pocket and roll out. Maybe there's a blind hit awaiting him, maybe not. It's football. It's violent.
  • Oh, almost forget this one last point on the preseason debate. Does anyone honestly believe that 20 snaps or whatever Romo was supposed to take at Seattle is going to help him 18 days later in the opener against the Giants? He's been playing quarterback for 25 years. He's been throwing hundreds of balls a day since late-July. Yes, even on his off days at camp Romo is always throwing the football. He watches film hours upon hours every day. He's going to have practiced 30 times from the beginning of camp until Sept. 11. And he's entering his 13th season in the NFL.
  • Yet, those three or four series Thursday night were going to be the difference maker in his performance come Week 1? That makes absolutely, positively zero sense. It's this football mentality of yesterday, when football hit every day in practice and played every preseason game. Heck, Jimmy Johnson had his second Super Bowl team out in pads the Friday before kickoff in what numerous players have described as one of the most physical practices of their careers.
  • Those times are long gone. There are limited practices where players are allowed full contact. There are no more two-a-days at camp. The objective is keeping players healthy. They are so big, strong and quick that injuries, serious ones at that, happen all the more often. We've seen in this season's Hard Knocks that Rams head coach Jeff Fisher talked to his defensive coaches about star running back Todd Gurley not being tackled, or really hit at all, during practices. This isn't a Cowboys thing. It's an NFL thing.
  • No one, not even the Dak Prescott Fan Club members (myself included), believe this team is better off with anyone besides Romo under center this season. The back is obviously brittle, there are going to be sacks, and hopefully, the collarbone holds up. There could be other injuries. Some will say the team dodged what could have been a much more serious injury Thursday night. I disagree. I think the team wasted one of the few hits remaining in Romo's career. And for more or less no reason at all.
  • Lots of other stuff to talk about from the Seattle game, starting with Zeke Elliott. The expectations have been ridiculously lofty, like if he's not the second coming of Tony Dorsett the pick itself is going to be disappointing. Well, wow. Wow, and wow again. There were several plays where you couldn't help but wonder, could any other back on the planet have done that? Not talking historically. Talking right now. And I think the answer is no.
  • Elliott's block on the play when Romo was injured was Larry Allen-style. He also exploded outside for a first down, just sprinted around the perimeter almost with ease, and that doesn't happen. And his attitude was in your face, let's go, I'm going to be here all day. He's not a finished product. The pass-receiving is a work in progress, especially in this offense, too.
  • Heard some chatter about him being a few pounds overweight the last few days. Didn't know this was a secret. Well, that was more than a few pounds in the spring and into camp. Zeke has slimmed down since late-July. There were times that first week in Oxnard, during position drills, where he was clearly winded after a few minutes when no one else was. Now, he was working hard, really pushing himself, but it still stood out that he was huffing and puffing. Hopefully the minor hamstring tweak has him more focused than ever with his weight and fitness.
  • If there's anything to be taken from the preseason, the Cowboys look much more like the team from 2014 than a season ago. They dominated Miami, and played one of the league's best to a draw through the first half, before the Dallas starters on both sides of the ball took the remainder of the night off. The biggest story has been the emergence of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.
  • Think there is some confusion. Maybe it's just the world we now live in, I don't know. Seems like there is nothing down the middle any longer. If someone says they like Prescott, this means we're saying he's ready to win 10 games in the NFL here and now. It means that we think he's a top-10 quarterback. That he's Steve Young and Donavan McNabb rolled into one. On the flip side, if someone says, whoa, slow down, he's only throwing first reads, he's just dumping the ball off, he's been fortunate not to have a few interceptions to his credit, this means those folks think Prescott should be released.
  • Here's my two cents: I'm incredibly optimistic with what he has shown. Don't care what the competition is, he's completed 78 percent of his passes in these last two weeks, mostly against starting defensive players. Like how he moves in the pocket, and as far as the reads, there were multiple seconds and even a third at Seattle. Still, for me it's even more simplistic than that. It's promise. The kid has promise, and he should only improve. What's wrong with being excited about a young quarterback showing promise. When was the last time that happened with the Cowboys? How about Romo more than a decade ago.
  • The question now becomes whether the team should look for a veteran quarterback to bring into the mix or go with Jameill Showers as the No. 3, even if he can be safely routed to the practice squad. Showers has his own fans among the coaches and scouts, and he did some nice things in the Seattle game. And the veteran route hasn't panned out the last few go-arounds. For the time being, I'd keep what's already in-house.
  • Was impressed with Damien Wilson, Lawrence Okoye, Anthony Brown and Kyle Wilber on defense. Going to need some creativity and risk-taking in generating a pass rush those first four weeks before DeMarcus Lawrence rejoins the unit. On the rare occasions he does blitz, seems like Sean Lee makes his way to the pocket pretty quickly. Maybe a little more of that.
  • We're not going to learn anything about this team for the next 16 days. Only drama with the final preseason game is the final few roster spots and the practice squad. Dez Bryant, Tyrone Crawford, Orlando Scandrick and Romo should all be ready for the Sunday afternoon opener. That's when it's for real. A month from now, no one is going to remember anything from the preseason. There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic, Elliott certainly looks the part of Offensive Rookie of the Year and Dez seems like his old self.
  • There are also reasons to pause and say, this could be a grind, one of those years where the regular-season finale determines a playoff berth. Looks like Prescott could win some games if, when, Romo misses time, and yeah, the defense looks better on paper depth-wise than the last two years. But as we all know, a solid defense starts and ends with a pass rush and, well, that's not exactly jumping off the page.
  • If nothing else, it's going to be entertaining, as the Cowboys always seemingly are. And pretty soon here, less than two weeks, the NFL will be playing games for real. That's the best news of all.

Check out Jeff Sullivan's column each week in Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. Find out more at DallasCowboys.com/star. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at jsullivan@dallascowboys.net.

Go behind the lens and view some of our favorite photos from the Cowboys game against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

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