Cowboys will look to stretch field

OXNARD, Calif. -- Numbers can be twisted and turned to say what you want -- which is what people who mock the fact that quarterback Tony Romo has the highest fourth-quarter passer rating in NFL history tell you -- but there is a number that the Dallas Cowboys and Romo need to improve upon in 2014.

It's yards per attempt.

Romo averaged just 7.2 yards per pass attempt in 2013, the third-lowest of his career and well below his 7.9-yards-per-attempt average.

"I think it's meaningful," passing game coordinator Scott Linehan said of the yards-per-attempt stat. "That's a number that's shown up for teams that are explosive on offense. To get that up, you've got to have a fair number of big, explosive plays in the passing game. If you throw the ball 100 times but your yards per attempt is somewhat low you're probably having to spend a lot of time on the field to score."

From 2006-2009, Romo had the highest yards per attempt in the league at 8.1 He had 129 passes of at least 25 yards during that span, which was second in the league. He and Terrell Owens were an explosive duo. From 2011-2013, Romo had a 7.57 yard-per-attempt average, which is 11th best in the league. He had just 28 passes of 25 yards or more in 15 games last season, one more than he had in 10 starts in 2006.

Even with the low yards per attempt (by his standards) Romo completed just 63.9 percent of his passes last season, his lowest since 2009 when he completed 63.1 percent.

"Tony's a great quarterback and I think he's a great fit," Linehan said. "If you play in the NFL you want to be able to attack all parts of the field. He's one of the guys in this league I think of that understands that throughout his career. It's easy to say, but you've got to have the mindset for it and the guys to do it and I believe we have both."

Linehan comes to the Cowboys with a reputation of taking shots, but Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford averaged 7 yards per attempt in his career and 7.3 yards last season.

"It's not 'careless aggression,' but you've got to have the idea that when people are lined up in, I guess, a mode where they're kind of squeezing the field on you and adding people in the run game, I think you've got to be able to have that threat," Linehan said. "It's not always the case, but I think it's 'the threat of that being something they will do,' is what we have to in our offense."