Don’t let the narratives dictate your opinion of Dak Prescott

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The jury is still out on Dak Prescott. The second year quarterback was oft-maligned towards the end of last season and as the Cowboys derailed towards the end of 2017 much of the blame was put upon his shoulders. While many remember that Prescott was without 2016 rushing champion Ezekiel Elliot, who was suspended for 6 games in the latter half of the season, the narrative surrounding him seems to ignore the absence of future hall of fame offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

The quarterback ranked fourth in the league in passer rating in 2017. His numbers seemed to get worse as the season went on and his play declined without his best two teammates in the lineup.

The Dallas offense is devoid of talent in the skill positions when Elliot is out, leaving Prescott in a situation to fail. His offensive line was awful at times, as I highlighted in a breakdown from late last season.

One of the biggest criticisms regarding Prescott is that he is a “dink and dunk” quarterback. He has a reputation for taking easy check downs instead of taking more aggressive options downfield, similar to that of Alex Smith. His reputation is born out of some truth but the conservative nature of the Cowboys offense can be more attributed to play calling rather than the quarterback himself.

Dallas loved running concepts that would scheme their receivers open on shorter routes such as flats, quick outs, digs and curls.  In the play above, the vertical route the outside receiver runs on the play side is used only to screen out the defensive back in front of him. Prescott got a majority of his completions on shorter routes because that’s what the play calling usually gave him.

The quarterback did seem overly eager to take easy check downs rather than spend an extra second in the pocket and find another man a little more open downfield as things break down. He occasionally will check down a pass ignoring receivers who either are or just are about to break open for a bigger gain.

It’s hard to faults the Cowboys for being so conservative, though. Dallas’s receivers were awful at getting open downfield last season. Dez Bryant, who may not be on an NFL roster in 2018, is an awful route runner. Slot receiver Cole Beasley rarely finds himself more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and the rest of the Cowboys 2017 receiving corps were a who’s who of the NFL’s bottom feeders.

None of the Cowboys receivers were great route runners, and even when the Cowboys put Prescott in motion to help make a difference it wouldn’t be enough.

Prescott’s accuracy could have helped his receivers make more plays, though. Some of his back shoulder passes, balls used to help free a smothered receiver, could have been much better last season.

He badly missed a lot of shorter, routine, passes as well.

The quarterback’s inconsistency and occasional missed passes became an issue at times. He seemed to lose confidence in himself late in the season. As the team around him seemed to break down Prescott saw his play decline and made mistakes you would rarely expect him to make early in the year.

While he has the occasional bad game, Prescott looks like a star at times. Early on in the season he was one of the better quarterbacks in the league. When the Cowboys had their full supporting cast he was an incredible playmaker and made many of the tight window throws that you’d expect from the best of quarterbacks.

Prescott is also incredibly mobile, and when he is locked into the game can pull off great escape acts to avoid the pocket pressure he was often under late last season.

He is not scared to test defenses downfield and is an exceptional playmaker. Many of the issues he suffered with towards the end of last season can be attributed to the little help around him. Prescott is inconsistent at times, and in certain games last year (Broncos, Falcons, Eagles) he seemed to get off to a slow start and was mentally never able to recover. His confidence seemed to be shot late in 2017 and there were definitely a few mental hurdles he had trouble getting over. With another season of experience and an offseason to put the woes of last year behind him, there is no reason to believe that Prescott can’t bounce back with a strong 2018.

Dallas may not have done enough to help him this offseason, though. They should return a top tier offensive line, but the receiving corps still provides many questions. Allen Hurns was brought it from Jacksonville to replace Bryant. They also added rookie Michael Gallup out of Colorado State, but neither seems to be enough of an upgrade to really fix an awful unit. Long time tight end Jason Witten retired, leaving Prescott and Elliot with the responsibility to carry the offense once again.

 

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