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Two Years Later, Dak Prescott Has Problems

In 2016, Dak Prescott played under better conditions than any rookie QB in history, if not any QB period. His offensive line was a step beyond dominant, giving the Cowboys a commanding running game and its quarterback routinely clean pockets from which to throw. Defenses were still treating Dez Bryant like a No. 1 receiver, rolling safety help his way. That clarified Prescott's reads, presenting obvious one-on-one throws in other parts of the field. Underneath, Prescott had the ultimate security blanket in tight end Jason Witten, and a mismatch-maker in shifty slot ace Cole Beasley. On top of it all, Prescott was new, so defenses had little film on him. The young QB capitalized on these conditions, posting a 104.9 passer rating and guiding the Cowboys to a 13-3 season.

To outside observers, America’s Team had its franchise QB. But within the NFL, some of the old guard cautioned to pump the brakes. History suggested—nay, guaranteed—that those perfect conditions would not last. Prescott should only be evaluated once his circumstances normalized.

Sure enough, they have. This season, that offensive line has been less imposing without superstar center Travis Frederick, who is out indefinitely while he recovers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that affects the nervous system. Without Frederick, Ezekiel Elliott and the ground game has been, at least by 2016 standards, spotty. Defenses figured out last year that Bryant was washed up; they stopped rolling coverage his way, and so this offseason the Cowboys stopped employing him. He’s now out of football. So is Jason Witten, who retired to fill Jon Gruden’s vacant MNF seat. Beasley is still around, but as anyone with even a smidgen of football acumen suspected, he’s more dynamic as a third or fourth option.

These aren’t dire straits Dallas is in, they’re regular NFL "straits,” which is why the Cowboys’ record since 2016—10-8, including their 1-1 start this year—is almost perfectly average. Quarterbacks get paid to spin gold from "perfectly average.” Head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan must figure out how to help Prescott do that.

Over the years, Garrett and Linehan have run a simplistic passing attack, featuring spread formations and basic route designs. Prescott, who played in a spread system at Mississippi State, is comfortable here. The problem is, this approach requires receivers who can win in space. Dallas’s current receiving corps resembles a rotation you’d see in the second quarter of a preseason game. Garrett and Linehan learned the hard way in the Week 1 loss at Carolina that a basic passing attack won't work. Guys couldn't get open and Prescott threw with little sense of timing and poor accuracy.

He was much better in Week 2 against the Giants, but it was far from a pristine offensive performance overall. Take out Tavon Austin’s early 64-yard touchdown and the Cowboys had 96 yards passing on 24 dropbacks. On the bright side, their running game got going in the second half, finishing with 138 yards on the night, including 45 from Prescott, who flourished on read-options.

Conceptually, those read-options speak to what the Cowboys must do. Those are highly schemed designs that put defenders in an intellectual bind. That must be the approach Dallas takes with its passing game. To win with average receivers, you must win through design. Replace the spread formations and quasi-isolation routes with pre-snap motion, trips bunches and tight formations, where receivers align close to the ball and run intersecting routes that have enough space to go left or right. And run the ball from some of these looks to propagate misdirection and play-action concepts.

Not only is this the best approach given Prescott’s surroundings, it’s the best approach given Prescott himself. He is a facilitating type of QB. He plays with a high pre-snap IQ, a poised post-snap decision-making process and a good-but-not-great arm, mixed with upper-shelf mobility. If this were basketball, he’d be a point guard who could shoot decently from 22 feet in and control the game with the ball in his hands—like a Rajon Rondo, only with leadership skills.

A highly schemed offense gives a quarterback more defined reads, which will help Prescott play with the decisiveness that he sometimes lacks. An offense doesn’t become highly schemed overnight. Given that these updates would have to be implemented on the fly, the best Dallas can do right now is take some of its basic concepts and employ them out of different formations, creating the illusion of complexity. Getting back to their play-action bootleg game and building more passes off the read-option looks would help. That leverages Prescott’s mobility, which is what defenses fear most. When the defense fears Prescott’s legs, its backside players tend to play cautiously, which can help open an outside zone running game that, even without Frederick, should be snappier than we've seen so far.

This week presents a perfect opportunity to implement changes. The Cowboys are facing a Seahawks defense that has a bevy of struggling rookies, a paucity of pass rushers and a mostly predictable zone-based system. That’s ideal for running highly schemed offensive plays.

This would take some guts from Garrett. There could be short-term growing pains that jeopardize the path to an NFC East title—something Jerry Jones can reasonably believe exists given his team’s ascending defense. But long-term for this season, and certainly for Prescott’s career, the best move is to reshape the offense around its young QB.

https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/09/19/dak-prescott-dallas-cowboys-receivers-running-game-jason-garrett-scott-linehan

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33 minutes ago, PoconoDon said:

He's struggling again today. 

but but .. Fredricks is out ..... Dak only has 3 All pros protecting him .  But Lee is in , I thought he was key to both D and O for the Cowboys .. or was that Zeke .  I cant keep up with the excuses

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16 minutes ago, NE.Jon said:

but but .. Fredricks is out ..... Dak only has 3 All pros protecting him .  But Lee is in , I thought he was key to both D and O for the Cowboys .. or was that Zeke .  I cant keep up with the excuses

They can keep seeing things through Jerry Jones' eyes forever as far as I'm concerned. Thank goodness only the good die young...LOL.

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13 minutes ago, metalhead0043 said:

Great game guys

:roll::roll::roll::roll:


I hope Jerry lives to 200

It's actually funny seeing Cowboys fans regret releasing Romo for Dak.

???

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Romo is definitely better than Dak but at some point they had to move on from him. He was injury prone. At that point he’d had 3 different injuries in a 12 month period. 

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Sean Lee came into yesterday's game limited with a hamstring injury. He then left the game with a hamstring injury to the OTHER LEG and is week to week. This dude is just not built to play football.

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DALLAS TOUCHDOWN TRACKER 2018 (through 3 games)

 

  • Dallas Cowboys - 4
    • Cowboys Runners - 2
    • Cowboys Pass Catchers - 2

 

  • Dallas Goedert - 1

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1 hour ago, boogyman said:

Sean Lee came into yesterday's game limited with a hamstring injury. He then left the game with a hamstring injury to the OTHER LEG and is week to week. This dude is just not built to play football.

Sean Lee's hamstrings are?

  • A - week to week
  • B - weak, too weak
  • C - All of the above

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