|Sharon Ellman / Associated Press|
|Tony Romo's added dimension of athleticism makes him dangerous to defend.|
Hands down, the Dallas Cowboys have the best passing offense in the NFC East.
In a division that features four of the league's top passing games and three quarterbacks -- Eli Manning, Michael Vick and Tony Romo -- who have earned Pro Bowl honors, the efficiency and effectiveness of the Cowboys' aerial attack sets it apart.
Led by the clever schemes of coach Jason Garrett, the Cowboys use a diversified offensive system that incorporates the unique talents of the skill players. Garrett puts those playmakers in roles that suit their respective skills, which allows the offense to flow smoothly, regardless of the opponents' defensive approach.
Since wide receiver Miles Austin thrives with the ball in his hands, Garrett typically puts the quarterback in position to get it to Austin on the move. This allows Garrett to take advantage of Austin's extraordinary running skills to produce big plays in the open field. Dez Bryant is the team's most explosive player, and he is often used on vertical routes to take advantage of his speed and athleticism. Jason Witten anchors the unit with his playmaking skills over the middle. He has a knack for getting open between the hashes, and his ability to win against linebackers and safeties forces opponents to alter their coverage. Throw in an occasional Roy Williams sighting, and the Cowboys have an effective counter to every conceivable tactic.
With a deep and formidable collection of talent on the outside, it's the effectiveness of the quarterbacks that gives the Cowboys the nod over the others. Romo and Jon Kitna combined for six 300-yard games a season ago, and few defenses were able to withstand the barrage of pinpoint passes from either quarterback.
Kitna's production, in particular, reveals the efficiency and effectiveness of the Cowboys' passing game. The 14-year veteran connected on 65.7 percent of his passes for 2,365 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the way to compiling an 88.9 passer rating. That represents the best efficiency mark of his career, so give credit to Garrett for a terrific job of shaping the offense to suit Kitna's skills.
With Romo in the lineup, however, the Cowboys' offense has been one of the league's most explosive aerial attacks, and his return will ensure a big-play approach. The eighth-year pro has amassed 26 300-yard passing games in 61 career starts and sports a 118:62 touchdown-to-interception ratio for a 95.5 career passer rating.
Although he has been taken to task for his postseason failures, Romo is an ultra-productive player with the potential to put up big numbers against elite defenses. His combination of athleticism, arm strength and pinpoint accuracy allows him to attack opponents in a variety of ways. His willingness to use the entire field makes him difficult to defend when directing the Cowboys' attack.
In 2009, he showcased his versatile approach when he led the league with 17 completions of more than 40 yards. Fueled by those explosive plays, he finished as the league's third-best passer with 4,483 passing yards.
With a talented passer back in the fold to guide a versatile, yet explosive, passing game, the Cowboys set the standard for the passing game in the NFC East.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.