2013 Stats: Overall, the Cowboys were 14th in passing offense (251 yards per game), 13th in yards per attempt (7.2 yards per attempt), tied for third in touchdowns (33) and seventh in QB rating (95.7). Tony Romo passed for 3,828 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Kyle Orton passed for 358 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Salary: Tony Romo ($18 million per season, free agent 2020), Brandon Weeden ($615K per season, free agent 2016), Dustin Vaughan ($511K per season, free agent 2017) and Caleb Hanie ($730K per season, free agent 2015).
2013 Year in Review: Romo played in 15 games and finished 12th in the NFL in passing yards, fifth in touchdowns and eighth in QB rating (96.7). It was the first time Romo played in at least 15 games and didn't pass for more than 4,000 yards since 2006 (2,903). His 31 touchdowns are tied for the second most in his career behind his 36 TDs in 2007. Overall, his 2013 numbers are nearly identical to his 2011 numbers. Romo had two fourth-quarter comebacks after having five in 2012, and he had four game-winning drives, which is identical to his 2011 total (career-high five in 2012).
Backup Kyle Orton played in three games and started the Week 17 24-22 loss to the Eagles where he passed for 358 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
2014 season: During the offseason, Dallas signed 2012 first-round draft pick Brandon Weeden as their third-string quarterback. Shortly before training camp began, it was announced that the Cowboys would cut Orton which made Weeden one play away from becoming the starter. While at Cleveland, Weeden made 20 starts over two seasons, passed for more than 5,100 yards, 23 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. In two preseason games, he has completed 23 of 36 passes for 236 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The arm strength is there, but the accuracy and decision-making is very questionable at times.
Romo was solid against Baltimore last Saturday as he went 4-5 for 80 yards and a nice touchdown pass to Dez Bryant. We all worry about his health (rightfully so), but he has only missed one start over the last three seasons. The Cowboys are being extra cautious with him and he might only play two more series this preseason.
This is what Romo said back in July:
'I feel, personally, like I've just started to come into the player that I wanted to be six or seven years ago,' the veteran signal caller said. 'I think over the course of the next four to five years, you'll see the best version of me I've had through my career.'
The offensive line should be able protect Romo from injury, but will he be able to protect himself? He needs to be able to get the ball out quick much like 38-year-old Peyton Manning does. The success of this team relies on the health of their quarterback. Weeden is not a quality starter and third-string signal-caller Caleb Hanie might not make the roster. After two back surgeries, can Romo muster enough strength to lead this team to the playoffs?
Bold Prediction: Romo misses four or more games this season.
Eddie Middlebrook can be reached on Twitter@emiddlebrook.