- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys have one more preseason game to go, Thursday against Houston, but since they’re not playing their starters, we’re not wondering much about what will happen.
This week’s Five Wonders touches on a potential trade decision, Jason Witten's blocking as well as Tony Romo’s accuracy.
On to the Wonders:
** Let’s talk trade. Not a big trade, but just something I’m wondering about with the Cowboys as they start the process of trimming the roster and possibly looking at players from other teams. I wonder if the Cowboys could look to move defensive end Sean Lissemore. This isn’t to say they should trade him or that he has had a poor camp and won’t get a spot on the 53-man roster. Lissemore signed a four-year extension with the Cowboys that included $3.17 million in guaranteed money last season. I think he’s a good, solid role player. He just might not be the best fit for a 4-3 defense. The Cowboys need help on the offensive line, but to expect major moves at this time of the year is just not realistic. You’re talking about acquiring a player like Ryan Cook, who was picked up last year from Miami a week before the season for a seventh-round pick. Lissemore’s age, friendly contract and ability to play a couple of spots might be able to bring some value in return to the Cowboys where they need it most.
** Jason Witten set a record for catches by tight ends in a season with 110 last year. Even more remarkable is the fact that he had only eight catches after the first three games. But I wonder if the Cincinnati game is a sign that things might change in 2013. Of Tony Romo’s 18 passes against the Bengals, Witten stayed in pass protection eight times. That’s a high percentage. With his backups, James Hanna, Gavin Escobar and Dante Rosario, not known for their blocking perhaps Witten will find himself helping the line more than he has in the past. Over the last five seasons Witten has averaged 92 catches a year. In 2011 he caught 79 passes for 942 yards and five touchdowns. While still a very good season, those are not typical Witten numbers, but I wonder if that is the neighborhood he will be in this year.
** Tony Romo is something of a tech-junkie. The quarterback kind, anyway. He likes to tinker with his mechanics the way a golfer tinkers with his swing in an attempt to find a better release point, better footwork, better whatever. Romo has hinted at arm angle changes this summer that have been able to hold up in his work in the preseason. He completed 72 percent of his preseason passes (26 of 36 in three games). And it wasn’t like he was throwing a ton of short throws to Jason Witten or his running backs. So I’m wondering if Romo will set a career high in completion percentage this season. His previous best for a full season is 66.3% in 2011. He completed 69.5% in five-plus games in 2010 before a broken collarbone ended his season. Troy Aikman holds the Cowboys’ team record at 69.1% in 1993.
** I wonder if the Cowboys are putting too much faith in Ronald Leary. This has nothing to do with Leary’s ability to return rather quickly from a knee scope or not. This has to do with Leary having not played in a game yet and the fact that he was an undrafted free agent a year ago who spent most of the season on the practice squad. Leary was decent in his preseason work before needing the surgery but the Cowboys’ flirtations with Brandon Moore and Brian Waters were about Leary, at least to a degree. Leary might be the Cowboys’ best option but the bar should be higher than comparing him to Nate Livings.
** Through four preseason games the Cowboys have nine takeaways: five interceptions and four fumbles. Last year the Cowboys forced only 16 turnovers on the season. They had nine in their first nine games. I wonder how many games it will take the Cowboys this season to force nine turnovers. The ability to turn the emphasis of taking the ball away into actually taking the ball away is impressive. The Cowboys did similar drills with Rob Ryan, Paul Pasqualoni, Wade Phillips, Brian Stewart and Mike Zimmer at defensive coordinator but they were hardly ever able to see the fruits of that work during games. The quarterbacks the Cowboys face in the first four games of the season – Eli Manning, Alex Smith, Sam Bradford and Philip Rivers - threw 48 interceptions last season. Smith has thrown just 10 picks in his last 25 starts and is playing for a new coach in Kansas City.