IRVING, Texas – It’s Tuesday so it’s on to Five Wonders and I’m wondering just how far the Cowboys can take this hot streak.
Sunday’s game against New Orleans will be the biggest test yet for this re-made defense. We’ll see.
On to the Wonders:
** So what do you think about the Cowboys willingness to give Tony Romo a contract extension now? I wonder Romo’s play the last seven weeks will do for the negotiations that will take place after the season. I’m on record as saying Romo will get a five-year extension worth somewhere in the $85 million range with $50 million or so guaranteed. Romo’s play of late has been elite. He has 13 touchdown passes and three picks and is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. The Cowboys are 3-0 in December and are in contention with two weeks to go. That did not seem possible not too long ago. When he was struggling earlier in the season, I wonder if there were some inside Valley Ranch that might have been willing to let Romo play out the final year of his deal in 2013 and have him count $16.8 million against the cap. I’m sure that changes now and the Cowboys will need to get Romo signed to an extension in the offseason to bring that cap number down so they can get under the projected cap limit and possibly add some big-time players in free agency.
** I wonder if people understand just how hard it is for Sterling Moore to do what he has done since coming to the Cowboys. He played a couple of snaps against Philadelphia two days after the Cowboys picked him up off New England’s practice squad. He has played outside cornerback in the nickel package and moved to a safety role in the dime package on Sunday against Pittsburgh. That is a lot to learn in a short amount of time. His time with the Patriots probably helped ease his transition to the Cowboys. Because of all the different looks Bill Belichick will throw out, Moore has had to learn multiple positions on the fly. Rob Ryan believes the Cowboys might have found a player here that can be a solid contributor in the future. He’s shown he is a quick study. Now he has to show he has staying power.
** From all appearances the Cowboys appear comfortable with James Hanna, the rookie tight end from Flower Mound. As the season has gone on he has seen more action and it is not just as a receiver, although that is where his most recent notice is coming. Hanna has speed most tight ends do not possess, but his blocking has been better than some in the organization believed it would be. It has me wondering if the Cowboys believe so much in Hanna that they will not pursue a veteran in the free agent market next offseason and perhaps draft one in the middle to late rounds. It is a projection, but the coaches have cut into the playing time of John Phillips, a favorite of the staff because of his versatility, to get Hanna on the field.
** I wonder how much the Cowboys miss Charlie Peprah. No, seriously. And that’s an indication of what kind of season it has been with the injuries. Peprah has missed the last three games with a foot injury and I wonder if he can provide more than Danny McCray in the base and sub packages. McCray appears to be running out of gas the more he has to play. The Steelers targeted him repeatedly in coverage. He saw Mike Wallace run by him for a deep catch. He was unable to stay with tight end Heath Miller. McCray is the new version of Keith Davis. A few years ago Davis made his name as a special teams threat and became a starter almost out of default. It was not the right role. He was a special teamer and that’s not meant as a slight. It’s not to slight McCray either. He is what he is. He plays hurt. He plays tough. He’s one of those “right kind of guys” Jason Garrett talks about. But Peprah’s experience as an every down player might be more of a help on the back end with two games left in the season and so much on the line.
**I wonder if there is something to continuity on the offensive line. Well, sort of, since the line has played better the last two weeks with Doug Free and Jermey Parnell rotating series at right tackle. But the play of guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings and center Ryan Cook has been better. Not great, mind you, but better. Since they had no offseason together and had to learn on the fly after the Cowboys acquired Cook the week before the season started, it has taken time. At tackle the job can be a little easier: you block the outside pass rusher. On the inside there is a lot of communication. Bernadeau, Livings and Cook did not know each other. Cook was new to the scheme and the scheme was only a few months old for Bernadeau and Livings, who arrived in March as free agents. Time helps players gain unspoken communication. There remain issues on the interior and nothing is solved, but the more they have played together the better they have become.