Thursday, October 4, 2012
5 Wonders: Will Tony Romo's sacks increase?
By Todd Archer
IRVING, Texas -- If you were wondering where Five Wonders was this week, we just pushed it back a little because of the bye.
With no further ado, we give you the wonders:
After a pair of flip flops under duress, don't be surprised to see Tony Romo take more sacks from this point on in the season.
** After Monday's debacle, Tony Romo pledged to "do his job" and not try to do too much in the future. I wonder why it takes games like Monday's (and last year's against Detroit) for Romo to come to realization, but I wonder more about what it means going forward. Here's what I think (or wonder): He will take more sacks. And that's a good thing, believe it or not. Too many of us want to just kill last year's offensive line by always bringing up the career-high 36 times Romo was sacked in 2011. In the first four games last year, he was sacked seven times. Quick math says he was sacked 29 in the final 12 games. He went from getting sacked 1.8 times per game to 2.4 times a game. And he had his best season. There's a health risk to taking sacks obviously, but there's something also about living to fight another day. Twice Romo has climbed the pocket in as many weeks and looked to flip the ball forward and twice he's fumbled. Both times, the Cowboys were in field goal range. Last year Romo showed he could still be Romo, meaning make plays when things break down, but he could do it in a somewhat controlled fashion. I wonder if he goes back to that way of thinking.
** Jason Garrett has been calling plays here since 2007. Generally I think the reaction to playcalling is completely overrated because all anyone says is, 'How can you call that play?' when it doesn't work. It's a second guesser's dream. I wonder if Garrett should allow offensive coordinator Bill Callahan to take a crack at it a few times in games. Garrett talks about the collaborative effort there is during the week in coming up with a plan and how that is factored into the playcalling. Well, when you've scored 65 points in four games, you can't just keep doing the same thing over and over, can you? It's not unheard of for playcallers to do this. Bill Parcells let Sean Payton and Tony Sparano take turns when they were with the Cowboys. Callahan has called plays before. I say this and should point out the Cowboys have had a ton of drops, too many penalties and missed throws. But sometimes, a fresh voice can just break things up.
** Jay Ratliff will make his return when the Cowboys play at Baltimore next week. I wonder how much of a difference he will make. The run defense has been decent if not spectacular, but that's not where Ratliff is at his best anyway. Where he needs to help most is in the pass game, although his sack totals have decreased in each of the last four seasons. DeMarcus Ware will get sacks if you and I are playing alongside him, but Ratliff's influence could help Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee. Ratliff is so active that he occupies the attention of multiple blockers more than a Sean Lissemore or a Hatcher. It doesn't mean he will get a ton of sacks, but his presence could help others get sacks. Just something else to note about Ratliff: He showed up at training camp last year weighing 285 pounds. A lot was made of it and he wasn't happy about it. His official playing weight this year is 303 pounds. Maybe it's a coincidence, maybe it's because he was not able to do any on-field work in the offseason. Or maybe they wanted him to be a little bigger.
**The Cowboys signed Brodney Pool early in the free-agency process. They gave him only $100,000 to sign and a $1 million base salary, and, yes, I realize we all should be so fortunate to get that kind of signing bonus when I say "only." Pool was viewed as a stopgap with the hopes the team would draft somebody as a longer-term answer. Unfortunately, Pool didn't seem so interested in playing football. I wonder if the team needs to stop listening to the coaches when it comes to them wanting guys they used to coach. Rob Ryan coached Pool in Cleveland and by the time the Cowboys cut Pool a week into training camp, Ryan said Pool wasn't the same guy he coached. But here's the problem with the Pool miss: It took them out of the running of keeping Abe Elam, who wasn't great but was certainly better than Pool and could have been the same stopgap guy while allowing Barry Church to be the starter, or another veteran-type safety more willing to want to play. Elam ended up in Kansas City. Church's Achilles injury, combined with Matt Johnson's hamstring issues, have left the Cowboys thin at safety for the rest of the season. And for a bonus wonder, no, I don't wonder if the Cowboys will look in the trade market for a veteran safety.
**The Cowboys are on pace for 12 takeaways this season. Chicago already has 14. Atlanta has 12. New England has 11. Arizona has 10. The Cowboys have a Lee interception and fumble recoveries from Church and Victor Butler. I wonder why the Cowboys just can't seem to take the ball away from the other team. They practice it over and over. The coaches emphasize it in drills. And it rarely happens. The generalization is that turnovers come in bunches. Once you get one, it becomes a feeding frenzy. In the first 10 games last year, the Cowboys had 23 takeaways, including four against New England and Buffalo each. In the last 10 games, the Cowboys have seven takeaways and have not had a multiple takeaway game during that span.