Could this be the Year of the Romo?
It's easy to say that Romo could be heading for a big year after this performance, and the undrafted Eastern Illinois alum has putting up great numbers for years (has never finished a season with less than a 91.4 QB rating), but this could be the season that people start talking about him as an elite NFL quarterback.
Last night, Romo took the field after getting almost no live-action reps with his top three receiving options all preseason.
Miles Austin's nagging hamstring injury held him out of preseason action, and it was obvious that Romo wasn't immediately comfortable throwing him the ball, as Austin was targeted only once through three quarters. Once Romo began to feel more comfortable throwing to Austin, the receiver caught fire, doing a ton of damage in the fourth quarter that included a brilliant 34 yard touchdown.
Before wide receiver Dez Bryant missed the final two preseason games with knee tendinitis, Romo had said that the two had been communicating very well in practice. Apparently that communication didn't get too rusty, as Bryant did damage early, racking up 85 yards through the first two and a half quarters. I'd still expect Romo and Bryant to click better as the season rolls on, and Bryant's four catches for 85 yards could very well be pedestrian numbers for him by season's end. Bryant might only be behind Calvin Johnson in terms of athletic wide receivers, and despite his off-field issues, he works as hard as anyone on the field - did you see him sprinting downfield to block for DeMarco Murray on that 48 yard run? He'll be a beast for Romo and the Cowboys.
Finally, there's Jason Witten, who many believe is the most important player on the Cowboys' offense. Witten missed the final three preseason games after Rolando McClain busted his spleen in the first game. Witten finished with only two catches for ten yards, and while his intangibles help the Cowboys, they don't help Romo's numbers. Expect Witten to be used much more often as Tony Romo's elite security blanket as the season progresses, which will make things a lot easier for Romo.
Most quarterbacks would struggle mightily having not played with their top three receiving options in weeks, but Romo managed to light up the defense anyway. As his receivers get into game shape, and as Romo gets more comfortable throwing to them, putting up over 300 yards and three touchdowns could become a regular occurrence for the Cowboy quarterback.
But wait... Who was Romo throwing to that he put up 300 yards and three touchdowns? Good question. The answer you're looking for is Kevin Ogletree. The third year man out of Virginia had career totals of 25 catches, 294 yards, and no touchdowns going into last night's game, but he added eight catches, 114 yards, and two touchdowns to those totals. It was obvious that Romo had been practicing with this guy. Once Romo is comfortable with his other three options, which could easily be as soon as Week 2, he'll have a full arsenal of weapons to shred defenses with.
One final thing - the Cowboys' offensive line was a huge question mark. When their center left the game in the first quarter due to injury, I thought it was time for the Giants' defense to feast on Romo like a Thanksgiving turkey. However, the line really held up, holding the most devastating four-man pass rush in the league to only two sacks. The line should only improve through the season under elite O-line coach Bill Callahan, and with Romo's mobility, pass rushers shouldn't be much of an issue.
Between a solid offensive line and a set of weapons that weren't fully utilized last night, Romo could be knocking on top five fantasy quarterback status by the end of the year. One thing to note, however, is that Romo started out on fire last year, as well. He put up 300+ yards in four of his first five games, but only once in his final eleven.