The Dallas Cowboys found unexpected success last season in quarterback Dak Prescott. The question is whether he can follow up with an encore performance in his second year.
A week ago the Dallas Cowboys were 11-1 favorites to win the Superbowl. After second year running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s six game suspension, the Cowboys are now 13-1 favorites. Much of the team’s success will hinge on the play of quarterback Dak Prescott. And the odds seem to favor the idea.
Prescott’s story book beginning all started when the Cowboys lost not one, but two, starting quarterbacks to injuries during the 2016 preseason. Tony Romo suffered a broken bone in his back. Backup Kellen Moore sat out the year with a broken leg. The Cowboys attempted to acquire a veteran quarterback in Josh McCown from the Cleveland Browns but were unsuccessful.
And that’s when the Cowboys turned to rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.
And the rest is in the history books.
The Elliott-less Schedule
The Dallas Cowboys are hoping to build from last season’s disappointment playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys will face two playoff teams from last season in their first six games. Dallas opens the season against the New York Giants — a team Prescott has yet to beat in his career. The following week the Cowboys will face the Denver Broncos. The Broncos game will be followed up against the Arizona Cardinals and then the Los Angeles Rams. Week 5, the Cowboys face the Green Bay Packers in what will be a revenge game for the Cowboys. After a week six bye week, the Cowboys will face the restructured San Francisco 49ers.
The Measuring Stick for Prescott will start against tough defenses
Dak Prescott posted the highest qualified rookie passer rating in NFL history in 2016. Let that sink in for a moment. N-F-L History. This year could be a little different for him.
Earlier in the summer, Dak Prescott was asked if he was worried that defensive coaches having a year of film to study him would be an issue. His response was simple. “I have a year of film on them, too.” After a full off-season of naysayers believing his rookie season was a fluke, this time around Dak is out to prove he is the quarterback of the future for the Cowboys. He opens against three high quality defenses that will have had a whole year to prepare to stop him and minimize the Cowboys offense. The Giants found success against the first year signal caller and they will attempt to confuse him with a mixed bag of defensive looks this year.
But don’t expect that to slow him down.
He will have to carry the team immediately against some of the best defenses that the league has to offer for three consecutive weeks.
This year, Dak will have a full offensive arsenal at his disposal that he did not have early on last season. His receiving core is at full strength with Dez Bryant and often targeted slot receiver, Cole Beasley leading the charge. Without Elliott in the backfield, the Cowboys will use Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. The team also is almost at full strength on the offensive line minus left tackle Tyron Smith, who is being held out on health precautions but should be able to play week one of the regular season.
Dallas Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliott Suspended Six Games To Start 2017 Season
Prescott did not see many opportunities to air the ball downfield last season. His 28.7 passing attempts per game were near the league bottom amongst starting quarterbacks. In fact most of the Cowboys big plays of 20 yards or more last season came from big runs or short slot receptions that went for big gains after the catch. The absence of a down field threat like Bryant was a key contributor for those numbers. But that should change this season.
Prescott has proved he is capable of protecting the ball as he threw 23 touchdowns to only four interceptions in leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record. But his lack of confidence to throw the ball downfield needs to change.
Prescott has built on last season’s success through training camp and team practices as of late. He is playing with more confidence and sharper instincts because of his familiarity with the offense and comfort in the system.
He is challenging himself in practice with more aggressive throws. More aggressive throws is what he needed to be able to complete in order to see the offense become a bit more of a three-headed monster.
“He has been real solid,” Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wilson said. “Dak is making great decisions. He has turned the ball over a couple of times, but he is wanting to see if he can grow. The only way to do that is if you challenge yourself. He is not afraid to do that and then learn from it.”
Prescott commented on his increased confidence making tougher throws. “It’s risk vs. reward, measuring out what throws I can make, what shots I can take. Some of them have been good. Some of them have turned into batted balls and interceptions. It’s measuring that out now.”
If the Dallas Cowboys are to have a chance at a Superbowl appearance this year, Dak Prescott will have to be the one to lead them.