The NFL season is set to kick off in a mere three months, and for the Dallas Cowboys, every new season brings with it new arguments and media fodder that either support Tony Romo or call for his ousting.
Although this is nothing new for the quarterback of Cowboys, it does make you wonder what 2012 might have in store for him given how last season ended.
Is this his make-or-break season? Does the Kyle Orton signing carry more significance than just being a backup? Will the Cowboys follow suit of other teams and turn to a young college quarterback waiting in the wings?
Many questions hover over the anticipation of the 2012 season, but for now, putting all those questions aside, let's focus on the realistic predictions for Tony Romo in 2012.
On the surface, 2011 produced one of Romo's best statistical years since taking over as the starter in 2006. He completed 66 percent of his passes, and he threw for 4,184 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Although he wound up with a 102.5 quarterback rating, he was sacked 36 times and lost three fumbles. While some would say his performance was nothing to sneeze at, some might say the most important statistic is an obvious one—another December collapse and non-playoff appearance.
But should Romo shoulder all the blame for the failures of this franchise? Absolutely not.
In hindsight, the losses to the Jets and Lions were backbreaking and could easily be pinned on Romo, but the weaknesses along the offensive line and a porous defense were equally mitigating factors that hurt this team's win column.
The Dallas Cowboys have since addressed the offensive line, the secondary and a few other areas as well between free agency and the draft. The improvement along the offensive line will not only help Romo succeed but, I believe, will allow him to have an even better year in 2012. A younger, quicker line will also fuel the running game—something that will be paramount in 2012.
Romo will have an array of both returning and new weapons to work with, as well. Incumbents Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant will pair with new faces like Danny Coale, Cole Beasly and James Hanna to bring the offense to new heights.
How fast Romo can develop chemistry with some of the younger players will dictate just how successful this offense can really be.
Ultimately, Romo has the ultimate weapon in DeMarco Murray at his disposal. This will prove to be his safety net, so to speak.
The significance of Murray to this offense will pay huge dividends, as it will make defenses think twice about loading the box. Murray will be able to set up play-action passes while also serving as a dangerous receiver out of the backfield.
Combined with Felix Jones, Murray and the running game will be the key to the offense by taking the pressure and wear and tear off of Romo.
If Romo gets the protection he needs, he can be expected to have just as good if not better numbers than last season. I think we're looking at a similar completion percentage, 4,300 yards, 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
I still see Romo taking some chances, which is why the interceptions are slightly higher and because of the third-receiver situation.
Statistically last season, Romo was good enough almost to the point of elite status. Only a few quarterbacks were better statistically, but they all had one thing in common—they were playoff teams.
With a solid offensive line and run game, and with weapons in the passing and a better defense, what the 2012 season will bring for Tony Romo may ultimately be the season that defines his legacy for the Dallas Cowboys.
I see not only a quarterback ready to take this team to the next step, but I also see him playing with the utmost of urgency and focus.
I think Tony Romo is ready for his defining moment. If not, there may not be a 2013 for him.
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