So Jerry Jones says he expects starting quarterback Tony Romo to get about 10-12 plays in the Dallas Cowboys' second preseason game Saturday night in San Diego. That's probably 10-12 more plays than Jones wants Romo to play behind the Cowboys' current offensive line, but what can you do? A guy's got to get ready for the season. Timing with the receivers, etc.
Thing is, every single snap Romo takes for the Cowboys until the line shows improvement is going to be hold-your-breath time for Cowboys fans, and for that reason the Cowboys would be wise to limit Romo's exposure in these games as much as possible. Those 10-12 plays don't seem like many, but the state of the line right now led reporters to ask Jones whether he thought it was too many. He said no, even in light of Jason Witten's spleen injury from the first game. Per Tim MacMahon:
"That's second guessing," Jones said. "He certainly went one play too long, from that standpoint, if you looked at it that way. But I don't at all second-guess that."
This is the risk inherent in any preseason game, of course. Players on the other team aren't holding back the way your own players do against your quarterback in practice. The Chargers could knock Romo out of this and future games and not feel one bit bad about it. The Cowboys should take a page from the Washington Redskins' preseason opener, in which Washington's offense with Robert Griffin III on the field seemed stripped down to the point where protection was the first and only priority. No deep progressions, nothing tricky that takes too much time and leaves the quarterback exposed. Romo will be fine if he plays pitch-and-catch with a couple of receivers, and it obviously won't matter if he throws interceptions or fails to complete a single pass. The most important thing for the Cowboys is that Romo and the rest of the offensive stars come through this next game healthy and they move on another week of trying to get the offensive line healthy or find a way to improve it.
Again, there's no reason to think the line is going to get any worse than it is right now. Starters Phil Costa and Nate Livings are due back at some point, and while those guys aren't all-pros, they're better than what the Cowboys are running out there these days. And they are practicing and being coached, so it's fair to assume that even the players who are on the field right now can improve as the preseason and the season go along. For the time being, however, the Cowboys need to play it extremely safe with Romo.