During the 2016 offseason, after a season in which Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo was limited to four regular season appearances and a grand total of 216 snaps, pundits and analysts around the NFL around the league all began to wonder: will the Cowboys start preparing for “life after Tony Romo?”
After all, they couldn’t possibly enter another season with aspirations of Romo — who turned 36 years old this past April — playing a full 16 game season (something he hadn’t accomplished since 2012), and with the likes of Matt Cassell or Kellen Davis as the next guy up, if/when Romo were to get injured.
Plus, in a year where the draft featured three top quarterback prospects with first round grades in Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Paxton Lynch, perhaps it was time for the Cowboys to invest early in one of those guys as both the primary backup to Romo, and the heir-apparent to Romo’s job.
As it turns out, even after Dallas passed over the chance to take guys like Lynch, Connor Cook from Michigan State, or Christian Hackenberg (the latter two helped round out the virtual pre-draft consensus of top five quarterback prospects available), but they still might’ve found the answer to that question.
Ladies and Gentlemen: meet Dak Prescott, the former two-time first team All-SEC quarterback selection who holds 38 records as the starting quarterback of the Mississippi State University Bulldogs. The Cowboys took Prescott in the fourth round of the draft (he was the eight quarterback taken in the draft), and they could very well have a steal on their hands.
In the Cowboys’ three preseason games to date, Prescott has thrown for completed 39 of 50 passes for 454 yards and five touchdowns, along with zero turnovers (interceptions or fumbles). Against two of the best defenses in the NFL (the Rams and the Seahawks), Prescott has looked calm, composed, and confident; in other words, he already looks like a guy who’s been in the league for a few years, and not a few weeks. The leadership and intangibles that scouts raved about with Prescott already been on full display.
Of course, everything changes on September 11th, when the proverbial bullets start flying for real, and the regular season starts. He won’t be playing against reserve players late in the second quarter. He won’t see basic, “vanilla” schemes from opposing defenses. He’ll have to deal with defensive coordinators creating full-blown game plans devoted to confusing him into mistakes and shattering his confidence.
Interestingly enough: the Cowboys have built an offense that’s near the point where a quarterback simply has to deliver the football to the right people, without having to win the game himself. If head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan can do for Prescott what Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell did for Russell Wilson in 2012 (Wilson’s rookie year), the Cowboys — like the Seahawks — could very much still be a playoff team, even if Romo wasn’t able to return until late October (the latter part of his six-to-ten week recovery time projection).
It’s no secret that the Cowboys offensive line is unquestionably the best in the NFL, with three guys (Tyron Smith, Zach Martin, and Travis Frederick) who are among the very best at their position, and another guy (right guard La’El Collins) with a very high ceiling of talent. They spent the fourth overall pick in the draft on running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was touted as the best running back prospect to come out of the draft since Adrian Peterson in 2007, and could be an absolute beast running behind said offensive line. They have a top five wide receiver in the NFL in Dez Bryant. They have a wide receiver who can challenge a defense vertically in Terrance Williams. They have one of the most steady and reliable “security blanket” tight ends in the NFL in Jason Witten. All he has to do is “manage” an offense that’s predicated on handing the ball to Elliott (and/or backups Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden) nearly 30 times a game, and delivering a the timely well-thrown ball to Bryant, Williams, Witten.
Nobody questioned Prescott’s size (6’2 and 226lbs), mobility, and arm strength coming out of college. Scouts saw a quarterback who needed a bit more development in his ability to run an NFL offense and read an NFL defense. ‘
If the Cowboys can position him to do just enough to win football games for them, and keep building his confidence by developing him in “real time,” there’s plenty of reasons to believe that Prescott could be the next guy in a line great Cowboys quarterbacks.
[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati][with ff-winners.com ]
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