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2018 Cowboys: Projecting Dak Prescott’s Production

John Williams

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Dak Prescott Should Be In The MVP Conversation
Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Dak Prescott has been a lightning rod of a topic this offseason with him set to enter the third year of his rookie contract. Typically, franchise quarterbacks on rookie deals will get their extension somewhere just before the last year of their rookie deal, which makes 2018 a very important year for the young signal caller.

Let me preface this article by stating that I'm a believer in Dak Prescott. I think he's poised for a really good season.

He may not have the most arm talent in the NFL, but he has enough. It's the intangibles that have me ready to follow Dak Prescott for the next 10 years as the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. You know, those things that don't show up in the stat book. Leadership, perseverance, drive to improve, and an ability to take care of the football are the things that have me backing Dak.

Now, I was also a big Tony Romo homer as well, so don't take anything in this post to be directed in any way toward Tony Romo. It ain't about that. This is about what Dak has done and can do in 2018. That's all.

Looking Back

Dak Prescott took the world by storm during his rookie campaign, leading the team to a 13-2 record before playing only two series in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sure, it didn't end the way we all would have liked as the offense got in a hole early to the Green Bay  --Aaron Rodgers' -- Packers in the divisional round, but Dak's intangibles and a great game by Dez Bryant led a furious charge over the final three quarters as they nearly completed the comeback.

If it weren't for a miracle play from Aaron Rodgers to Jared Cook, there's a good chance the Dallas Cowboys would have gone on to the NFC Championship.

So close, and yet so far away. 

Looking at that 2016 season, Dak Prescott had the fourth highest completion percentage in the NFL at 67%. Only Sam Bradford, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan had a better completion percentage than Dak.

No quarterback who played in 13 or more games had fewer interceptions that Prescott's four. Only Tom Brady, who played in 12 games that season because of his #deflategate suspension, had fewer interceptions with two. Colin Kaepernick played in the final 12 games for the San Francisco 49ers and also had four interceptions.

Don't bring up Kaepernick's QB ability, Don't bring up Kaepernick's QB ability, Don't bring up Kaepernick's QB ability.

Phew, that was a close one. Now back to the quarterDak you came here for.

Dak's quarterback rating of 104.9 was third that season behind the two quarterbacks who played in the Super Bowl; Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, who is considered by many to be the best quarterback in the NFL.

In fact, if you remove the week 17 game against Philadelphia, where he only attempted eight passes, Prescott's quarterback rating goes up to 105.6.

Over the first 24 games of his career, his passer rating was greater than 90, 17 times. Over the last eight games of 2017, that happened only twice.

Prescott's passing yardage wasn't great, but it was more than Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, and Alex Smith. Still, he nearly hit the 4,000-yard mark with 3,667 in 2016. Remember, he played only two series against the Eagles in week 17.

He was the rookie of the year for very good reasons. He won, put up good numbers and was efficient in leading the Dallas Cowboys offense.

Over the first 24 games of Dak Prescott's career he averaged 228.5 passing yards per game, which is consistent with his rookie year production at 229.2 yards per game. Again, if we remove the week 17 game against Philadelphia in 2016, his rookie season yards per game would be 242 yards per game.

Over the last eight games of 2017, with Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott out for much of that time, his yardage average dropped to 188.25. That's a huge difference.

Because of the Atlanta Falcons game, Prescott showed a severe lack of trust in his protection on the left side of the offensive line the rest of the season. And for good reason because it didn't exist!

In the first half of 2017, he had only thrown four interceptions and that occurred in three games over weeks 2-5. Prior to the Philadelphia Eagles' game in week 10, Prescott had a string of four straight weeks without an interception.

From weeks 10-17 of 2017, Prescott had more interceptions (9) than he had in the first 25 games of his career (8).

The last thing we need to discuss is his sack total.

In 2016, he was sacked 25 times. Over the final eight games of 2017, he was sacked 22 times. Obviously that number is inflated by the Atlanta game where he was sacked eight times.

That's a huge difference.

Only seven quarterbacks who played in more than 12 games for their team were sacked fewer. Tom Brady, Derek Carr, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eli Manning (?!?!?!), Marcus Mariota, and Kirk Cousins.

In 2017, only 13 quarterbacks were sacked more times than Dak Prescott's 32.

Comfort level makes a difference for a quarterback and for the first 24 games of his career, Prescott was kept relatively clean. Over the last eight games, he was under duress non-stop.

Yes, the final seven games of Prescott's 2017 were bad. You ever see a baseball player get up to the plate when he's in a slump and it just looks like he's pressing? That was Dak Prescott in the second half of last year.

Nothing was working and he was pressing to make anything work and a lot of times it didn't go well. Of course, drops by his receivers certainly didn't help.

So, when we look at Dak and we're looking to project his future play, we have to make a decision, is he the player from the first 24 games of his career or the player from the final eight games of 2017?

Just going to leave these splits here for you to peruse (courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com).

2018 Cowboys: Projecting Dak Prescott's Production

2018 Cowboys: Projecting Dak Prescott's Production 1

Did you know that before the week nine assault and battery by Adrian Clayborn with Chaz Green as an accomplice that Dak Prescott was on pace to rush for 10 rushing touchdowns in 2017?

In each of his first two seasons in the NFL, Dak rushed for six rushing touchdowns. So, while you may think his passing touchdown mark isn't all that exceptional, consider that he'll get you at least half a dozen scores with his legs.


Does Dak Prescott have weaknesses, absolutely, most quarterbacks do. His mobility, however, is a huge strength to his game.

Not only can he move well and run well, but he's big and strong. He can take on DBs and safeties in the secondary and has enough agility to make people miss. And unlike Robert Griffin III, Dak knows how to slide.

Jason Witten, FOX Sports, and the Future at Tight End for the Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten (James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys)

Cowboys Roster Subtractions

Jason Witten and Dez Bryant are gone from a passing game that had become stale and stagnant. No disrespect to those two guys, who had tremendous careers with the Dallas Cowboys, but Dez Bryant wasn't working anymore and Jason Witten was losing effectiveness.

You didn't have to watch the All-22 game film to see it either.

Whether it was an age-related decline or it was the lack of chemistry between Dez and Dak or both, the connection was inconsistent.

Still an effective player, Jason Witten was experiencing age-related decline. He just wasn't getting open with as much regularity as he had earlier in his career.

What can we say, age happens.

While those are the most obvious changes to the offense, it could be argued that Dak not having to worry about getting Dez the ball could be a positive for his development.

Dez is like a shooting guard in basketball who needs to have the ball in his hands and be the primary option for scoring. Dak is more of the point guard who wants to get the ball to the open man regardless of their standing on the team.

With the Bryant and Witten departures, the Dallas Cowboys have 219 targets to fill. That's nearly half of Dak Prescott's passing attempts that will have to be redistributed. Who steps in to fill the void remains a big question, but there are capable players on the roster, for sure.

Cowboys Roster Additions

First and foremost, Dak Prescott will have his running buddy back without having a suspension looming over him. There's just something about having your best friend in the huddle. When he's not there, it makes a difference. Ezekiel Elliott will be available for all 16 games this season  -- barring injury -- and that will make the offense better.

Changes to the Offensive Line

Tyron Smith is getting healthy, but back issues are always around. They don't ever "heal," they just become more manageable. The improvement they made along the offensive line was in adding two guys (Cameron Fleming and Connor Williams) who are immediate upgrades as backup tackle options.

Cameron Fleming was the starting right tackle for the New England Patriots during their Super Bowl run, while Connor Williams was an All-American left tackle his freshmen and sophomore years at the University of Texas.

Connor Williams will start at left guard, which is an upgrade over Jonathan Cooper and will improve the protection Dak Prescott receives from the left side of his offensive line. Better protection means better pockets from which to throw from.

If Tyron Smith or La'el Collins were to suffer an injury, they are in better shape to manage their absence than they were in 2017 with Chaz Green and Byron Bell.

Changes to the Wide Receiver Group

The other thing they did this offseason was bring in several guys who use quickness, speed, and route-running precision to get open, as well as a wide receivers coach who preaches route running technique above everything else.

Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson, Cedric Wilson, and even Tavon Austin are quick wide receivers who use that quickness and route running ability to get open.

Adding them to Cole Beasley gives the Dallas Cowboys a stable of receivers who will create a lot of easy and efficient completions for Dak Prescott.

He's always been a "take what the defense gives you" quarterback, but with Dez, he had to launch too many 50-50 balls to make that relationship work. It was obvious that Dak was never comfortable with the arrangement.

Putting it All Together

I'm operating under the assumption that Dak Prescott is the player we saw over the first 24 games of his career. Because of that, my projections will mostly gather from that time frame, given that he'll have better depth to offer him protection if there were an injury along the offensive line.

On the passing yardage front, I'm going to say Dak Prescott stays around his first 24-game average -- minus the 2016 week 17 Eagles game -- that has him at roughly 236 passing yards per game. He'll probably throw for 235 to 245 yards per game.

The Dallas Cowboys are a run-first team and they will use the run to set up the pass. It's unlikely that Dak will throw the ball 40 times a game and have a ton of 300-yard passing games, but he'll flirt with 4,000 yards passing and come up just shy.

As for touchdowns, Prescott has thrown a touchdown at a rate of 1.56 per game (excluding the week 17 game in 2016 where he played only two series).

At that rate, over a 16-game season, that puts him at about 25 passing touchdowns. He was on pace for 32 touchdown passes in the first half of 2017, and that severely dropped off over the last eight weeks when the offense seemingly fell apart.

He's rushed for six touchdowns in each of the first two seasons of his career, but in 2017 was on pace for 10 rushing touchdowns over his first eight games of the season. 10 rushing touchdowns for a quarterback would be a tremendous season, it's only happened six times since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 and only twice since 2003; both by Cam Newton.

It's unlikely Prescott would have reached that number, but had the offense stayed in decent shape over the second half of the season, eight rushing touchdowns for 2017 wouldn't have been out of the question.

Dak Prescott Should Be In The MVP Conversation

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Projecting Dak Prescott's 2018 Performance

Like I said with Ezekiel Elliott a few weeks ago, it's difficult to project what's going to happen in a football game. The game flow and game plan both have an effect on what a player's contribution will be to his football team.

Here's my educated guess about what I think Dak Prescott will do in 2018.

Final Projections: Goes 325/490 for 3,776 yards and 27 touchdowns, 50 carries for 300 yards, 8 rushing touchdowns, and 6 interceptions with a passer rating  of 102. 

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Again, I see Dak Prescott as the quarterback we saw for the first 24 games of his career and think he can return to that level of play. Especially with an improved offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott available for all 16 games.

I know some of you are going to tell me I'm drinking that Silver and Blue Kool-Aid, and maybe I am a bit, but when you look at the numbers he put up over the first 24 games of his career, you can't help but see a good and capable quarterback.

They can and will win games with Dak Prescott.


Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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Ezekiel Elliott Continues to Haunt Eagles, has Best Game of the Season

Matthew Lenix

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Ezekiel Elliott Continues to Haunt Eagles, has Best Game of the Season

The Dallas Cowboys came into their Week 7 matchup with the arch-rival Philadelphia Eagles on a three-game losing streak and were searching desperately for answers. With first place in the NFC East on the line, it was important for the Cowboys to set a tone and send a message at home in order to avoid going into their bye week with a fourth straight loss. That tone was set by the defense in the first quarter as they forced turnovers on the first two possessions of the game. Conversely, All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott led the offensive attack and continued the dominance he's had over the Eagles throughout his career.

After jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead following a fumble on the Eagle's first possession, the Cowboys made it a two-score game in a matter of seconds. In the video below, Elliott appears to score from 14 yards out but would be ruled down inside the one. What's important to notice is how he sought out Eagles Safety Malcolm Jenkins and ran him over. Complete "Bully Ball" tactic here and it again sent a message and establish a tone for this game. Elliott would score on the very next play to give the Cowboys a 14-0 lead.

The Checkdown on Twitter

Zeke TRUCKED him 😡 @EzekielElliott https://t.co/x2G4rF2cwU

Elliott had 65 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown as well as 25 yards on four receptions the first half. The Cowboys led 27-7 heading into the third quarter.

The second half saw more of the same as Elliott had 11 touches (9 carries, 2 receptions) for 57 all-purpose yards. In all, Elliott finished with 147 all-purpose yards (111 rushing, 36 receiving) as he spearheaded the Cowboys to a 37-10 beatdown of their most hated division rival.

This game was a continuation of what Elliott has done to the Eagles his entire career. His lowest rushing total against Philadelphia is 96 yards which came in his first-ever game in this historic rivalry back in 2016 as a rookie. He's rushed for least 103 yards every game since and averages 163 all-purpose yards every time he plays Philadelphia. Most importantly, the Cowboys are a perfect 5-0 with Elliott against the Eagles. The only games the Eagles have won against the Cowboys since Elliott came into the NFL was the 2016 season finale and the first of their two matchups in 2017, games Elliott did not play in. Needless to say, Elliott has a big appetite for Eagle meat.


This game also saw Elliott reach another milestone in his short but stellar career. He joined Le'Veon Bell and Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson as the second-fastest players (47 games) to reach 6,000 yards from scrimmage behind Edgerrin James (44 games) in NFL history. Now that's an elite group to be a part of.

The importance of this game was obvious for the Cowboys coming off at three consecutive losses and facing a heated rival for first place. Elliott spoke post-game about how critical this win was:

"This team needed this, especially in the fashion we did it," Elliott said. "Get some momentum for the season and before this bye week so we can close the season out."

Everything you would want to see from Elliott was on display against the Eagles. The speed, power, elusiveness, and ability to make plays in the passing game were all front and center in this game. From an overall standpoint, this was definitely his best performance of the 2019 season.

Now, the Cowboys head into the bye week in first place in the NFC East and regardless of next week's results, they will still be on top when they face the New York Giants on the road on Monday Night Football. The Cowboys will look to remain undefeated in division play and keep pace with the other NFC powerhouses once they return to action.


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Where Does Ezekiel Elliott Stand in the 2019 Rushing Title Race?

Brian Martin

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Where Does Ezekiel Elliott Stand in the 2019 Rushing Title Race?

The Dallas Cowboys finally looked like the team we've all expected them to be against the Philadelphia Eagles this past Sunday. They played a complete-game and absolutely dominated on both offense and defense. This is the kind of performance they needed heading into the bye week.

As stoked I am by the way the Dallas Cowboys played Sunday night against a divisional opponent, I was even more ecstatic to see Running Back Ezekiel Elliott look like the playmaker he has in the past. He showed excellent vision, speed, and burst, something I really haven't seen him do up to this point of the season.

I know quite a few of you may disagree with me, but No. 21 hasn't really looke2 like himself at any point this season. He did however look like the Zeke of old on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. It good to see and it actually started me wondering where he currently stood in the 2019 rushing title race?

Let's take a look…


Rk Player Att Att/G Yds Avg Yds/G TD
1 Dalvin Cook 133 19.0 725 5.5 103.6 8
2 Leonard Fournette 144 20.6 715 5.0 102.1 1
3 Christian McCaffrey 127 21.2 618 4.9 103.0 7
4 Nick Chubb 114 19.0 607 5.3 101.2 6
5 Ezekiel Elliott 135 19.3 602 4.5 86.0 6

I don't know exactly what I expected, but I was little surprised to see Zeke currently sitting at number five amongst the NFL's leading rushers. I don't know if I was expecting him to be a little higher or lower, but he currently finds himself within striking distance to claim his third rushing title in four years.

Ezekiel Elliott is only 123 rushing yards behind Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook right now. Unfortunately, that number will only increase in Week 8 with the Dallas Cowboys on their bye week. But, it could all even out since only Nick Chubb is the only RB ahead of Zeke whose team has also had their bye week. And with half of the season left there is still plenty of time to close the gap.

Ezekiel Elliott may be down right now, but he's definitely not out. He's going to play a huge role in the offensive game plan for the rest of the season and should be able to put himself into contention of earning his third rushing title in four years. But, it won't be easy. The Cowboys schedule only gets tougher from here on out.

What do you think? Will Ezekiel Elliott be the leading rusher in 2019?


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Urban Meyer Says He’d “Absolutely” Take Cowboys’ Head Coaching Job

Kevin Brady

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Urban Meyer Says He'd "Absolutely" Take Cowboys' Head Coaching Job

Typically, when a coach is asked about a potential future coaching job that is currently occupied, he'd never openly admit to eyeing that position. He'd dodge the question, lie, and say he's enjoying his time away from the game at the moment.

Former college coach Urban Meyer, however, was extremely clear in how he feels about the potential opening at head coach in Dallas with the Cowboys.

Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd asked Urban Meyer outright if he would take the job if offered, and Meyer made no mistake about it.

"Absolutely."

While it feels to me like Meyer is breaking some sort of unspoken code between coaches with these comments, it wouldn't be the first time he operated in shady waters.

But I digress.


Of course, Urban Meyer had incredible success at the collegiate level. He won multiple national championships and did a lot of winning at multiple programs. In addition, he was the college coach of Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who the team just extended with a monster contract. Meyer also won with quarterbacks who can utilize similar skill-sets to Cowboys starter Dak Prescott, something Jerry Jones and company would want to see in any potential head coaching candidate.

With all that being said, though, it's important to mention the Cowboys head coaching job is not open. At least not yet.

Jason Garrett's contract expires at the end of this season, and unless he can make sure that he continues coaching this team through January, it's seeming increasingly likely that this will be his final contract with the team.

Garrett's Cowboys face their biggest test of the season on Sunday night, with the Philadelphia Eagles coming to Arlington and looking to take first place from their grasps.

This will be the first step of many that Garrett will need to take if he wants to keep the Urban Meyers of the world from coming for his job.


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