After watching last season implode in ugly fashion, the Dallas Cowboys know what they need to stay afloat in 2016: A full campaign from quarterback Tony Romo.
"At the end of the day, it's all about Tony's health," Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones told the XEPRS-AM in San Diego, via The Dallas Morning News. "We've got to keep him healthy."
Said Jones: "We did (make) a big pick (with first-round running back) Ezekiel Elliott that I think really helps everybody. Not only going to help the rushing game, but because he is so gifted catching the ball out of the backfield, pass protection. I think all of that will do a lot to Tony and at the same time take a lot of the pressure off the defense in terms of controlling the ball like we did two years ago. We're excited about where we sit right now as a team."
Dallas in 2014 leaned on a clock-draining ground attack that helped the 'Boys dominate defenses en route to an NFC East crown. As colleague Chris Wesseling pointed out in a May feature on the return of power football, the Cowboys -- along with the Rams and Titans -- plan to ground and pound their way through a league that puts a premium on speed and finesse.
"That's exactly what we're thinking," Jones said. "Obviously run the football. The other thing, when you've got a veteran quarterback who is a big student of the game, he can certainly move Zeke around and get the right matchups. You put him there in the backfield, they're going to have to respect the run. They can't necessarily throw their nickel and dime packages in if he is in the backfield, knowing with our offensive line and what he can do as a runner, that can certainly change the game."
With no plans, either, to tradeDarren McFadden or Alfred Morris, Dallas has a flock of backs to throw at the enemy if Elliott is slow to develop. Still, the first-rounder's ability to pass-protect and aid the air attack has Jones enticed.
"Zeke was a flanker in high school. He's got great ball skills catching the ball and we can certainly split him out," Jones said. "It will be a big challenge for any inside linebacker to try to cover him. We should have some great matchups out there. Not to mention we've got guys like Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten and guys like that. Hopefully this offense can move the football, move the chains and control the football."
The formula is clear: Keep Romo upright and pound the ball from wire to wire. While other teams can talk about it, Dallas boasts the powerful line and requisite rash of weapons to make it happen.