When the Dallas Cowboys take the field tomorrow against the AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens, you can expect to see two new starters, one on each side of the ball. On offense, Phil Costa looks like he’ll be back at center for the Cowboys after practicing all week, while Ryan Cook has been limited with a hamstring issue.
On defense Anthony Spencer is listed as questionable but it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to play with his injured shoulder. Rob Ryan recently stated the injury requires six weeks to heal, “That’s a longer injury than people realize,” Ryan said.“It’s up to a six-week injury, I’ve heard, or even longer. That’s a big thing. He’s working hard every day, but he’s just going to have to get well. Once he is we’ll play him, but if he’s not we obviously can’t do it even though the kid wants to play. We just can’t do it.”
With Spencer likely out the Cowboys will be turning to Alex Albright to get his first career start. We saw a few weeks ago how much the Dallas defense missed Spencer and it’ll be a big challenge for Albright to help contain a Ravens offense with one of the games best runners in Ray Rice. Expect to see him spelled by Victor Butler on passing downs and rookie Kyle Wilber is likely to see an expanded role.
There is also a possibility that Derrick Dockery may get some snaps if Mackenzy Bernadeau continues to struggle.
The Cowboys also worked this week on having Tony Romo do less for the offense. Both Bill Callahan and Jason Garrett talked about putting less pressure on Romo to do too much for the Cowboys.
“As a staff, we talked about just lightening his load and trying to do things that are simple and giving him more peace of mind that he can just come up and call a play and run it,” Callahan said. “That simplification will help all of us, and we’ll see. Less is better in our minds. We’re trying to get to that point, but we’re not taking things away from Tony and what he does best because he has great command of the system.”
Jason Garrett added to sentiment by saying, “He has to go back and be 1/11th of the offense like he’s been throughout most of his career and do his job and trust everybody else to do their job.”
Romo has been through his before; last season Romo struggled with his decision making early in the season, especially after the Detroit Lions game and he improved his play as the season went on. Garrett said some of those same things last year when he seemed to lose trust in Romo. If you remember the loss to the New England Patriots last year, Garrett’s play calling suggested he had no confidence in Romo’s decision-making. His conservative play calls in that game may suggest what kind of gameplan we might see against the Ravens.
Asking Romo to do less is fine but taking away his — and the offenses — aggressiveness is not the way to go. We all know Romo does some of his best work when he’s improvising. Asking him to play smarter makes sense, but if you lose confidence in your quarterback, you have lost confidence in your team.
Garrett needs to put together a better gameplan that play to Romo’s strengths, like play action fakes, and allow him to be himself. Of course you want him to pay a smarter game and not take as many chances but you also have to let Romo play his game. We’ve seen what happens when the Cowboys get conservative with Romo and the results aren’t good.
Dallas needs to have more balance on offense while maintaining their aggressiveness throwing the ball down field. Both of those things require the offensive line to play better. If they can do that, then we’ll see this offense take off.
We’ll find out tomorrow how much trust Garrett has in Romo, as Billy Joel sings, “It’s always just a matter of trust.”
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