To say that the Dallas Cowboys were fortunate enough to find their future signal caller in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft would be an understatement. Dak Prescott had arguably the best season for a rookie quarterback in the history of the NFL, but there are reasons to believe why he will be even better in 2017 and thrive as the Cowboys signal caller.
Dak Prescott finished his first year in the NFL throwing for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns, four interceptions, and an impressive 104.9 passer rating. He also accumulated 282 rushing yards and six TDs on the ground. Those numbers alone have him among the best rookie QBs to ever play in the NFL, but they also earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl and made him the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
It's hard to imagine that he will be even better in 2017, but that is exactly what I'm predicting. Continue reading below to see the three reasons why I believe Dak Prescott will thrive in 2017 for the Dallas Cowboys.
Reason #1 - Continuity on Offense
It's a rarity in today's NFL that teams are able to keep nearly all of their starters on offense or defense in consecutive years, but that is exactly what it looks like the Dallas Cowboys will be able do in 2017.
Doug Free and Ronald Leary are the only two starters on the offensive side of the ball that won't be returning in 2017. But, Leary's spot will be filled with La'el Collins, who was the starting left guard to kick off the season to begin with and Free's spot could be filled from within as well. Everything else should look almost exactly the same as it did in 2016.
There's a lot to be said about having continuity on offense, especially for the QB. Prescott should already have a really good understanding about the strengths and weaknesses of his offensive weapons and he can continue to build the bond with those players instead of having to start all over.
But, it's not all about the players returning. I think Prescott will also continue to get better because he will have another year in offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's scheme. The playbook should also open up more with a years worth of experience under his belt.
Reason #2 - Full Off-season to Prepare
What was most impressive about Dak Prescott's rookie season and what he was able to accomplish, was the fact he didn't have the benefit of receiving the starters repetitions during off-season practices. In fact, he was nothing more than the third or fourth quarterback on the depth chart until Kellen Moore and Tony Romo both went down with injuries.
All of that will change now that he is the signal caller for the Dallas Cowboys. He is going to get to really strengthen the bond with all of his offensive weapons and get to know Scott Linehan's offensive playbook even better.
Having a full off-season to prepare for the season could possibly be the biggest reason why I think he will thrive in 2017. Prescott is going to now get the coaching staff's full attention and the organization now has the time to figure out exactly how best to use him.
We may have just seen a glimpse of what Prescott was capable of last year, but with a full off-season to put his stamp on the offense, things should only improve in his second year in the NFL.
Reason #3 - No longer Tony Romo's team
I'm personally a big fan of Tony Romo's, so this is a little bit of a bittersweet moment for me. I love what I've seen from Dak Prescott so far, but I absolutely hate to see this is the way Romo's career is going to end with the Dallas Cowboys. But, there is no denying that this is Prescott's team from here on out as long as he continues to play at a high level.
Prescott no longer has to look over his shoulder and wonder if the coaching staff is going to reinsert Romo into the starting lineup. Romo will likely be continuing his career with an organization or joining the media side of the sports industry.
This is now Prescott's team and they will only go as far as he is willing to take them. Yes, there are 10 other players that complete the offense, but it's the QB that is asked to be the leader of the unit.
It was really impressive how he is able to step in as a rookie and get his teammates to rally around him. He is going to have to continue that leadership role if he is going to take the Dallas Cowboys where we all want to see them.
With Tony Romo gone, everyone will be looking to Dak Prescott to step up and take over as the leader.
Do you think Dak Prescott will thrive in 2017?
Cowboys RB Mike Weber’s Injury Scare Continues Concerning Trend
Rookie RB Mike Weber had a brief scare earlier this week with a knee injury in practice, but thankfully the MRI came back with a good report. However, as he fights to have a future with the Dallas Cowboys, this health incident is a concerning reminder of Weber's recent history.
One reason that Weber fell to the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft was due to battling injuries during his last two years at Ohio State. He lost his starting job in 2017 due to ongoing hamstring issues and also had to miss time last year because of a foot strain.
Carrying the load for the Buckeyes is a far different workload than being second or third on the Cowboys' RB depth chart. But this latest scare happened in early May, just two weeks after Mike joined the team and well before the more strenuous activities of an NFL offseason.
A practice injury can cost you just as badly as one that happens in a game. And with Dallas already thin at RB, it could leave them severely shorthanded if it occurs during the regular season.
Many have projected that the Cowboys' RB group in 2019 would have Ezekiel Elliott as the obvious starter and then rookies Weber and Tony Pollard behind him. While Pollard was drafted three rounds ahead of Weber, he's not built to take a large number of carries if Zeke were to go out.
If Mike Weber does make the team, he would be expected to take a sizable role if something bad happen with Elliott.
The "injury prone" label is disastrous for any athlete, but especially a guy with no real claim to a roster spot. If Weber causes concern in the front office about his durability, they may go a different way at final cuts.
Remember, Mike's not just up against Pollard and Darius Jackson for a roster spot. There are still plenty of veteran free agent running backs out there that Dallas could turn to if they're not confident about their young prospects.
This isn't too say that one scary moment in May, which ultimately didn't amount to much, is reason to cut bait with Mike Weber. But when you stack it up with his injury history in college, it does make you wonder how he'll do over the course of an entire NFL season.
Hopefully, Weber bounces back from this and has a great summer. Former Buckeye RBs have treated Dallas well the last few years, and it'd be fantastic if Mike can provide the same solid solid depth that Rod Smith did.
But this latest news is just a reminder of why Dallas can't rest easy at running back just yet, and why they may still have another move to make to prepare for 2019.
Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Graduating From Notre Dame
The 2019 season is right around the corner for the Dallas Cowboys, with OTA's and training camp getting ready to kickoff in the coming weeks/months.
Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith made the most of his offseason, going back to Notre Dame to finish out his college degree. Smith is set to graduate from Notre Dame this Saturday, and will walk to earn his degree in Film & Television.
Smith talked to DallasCowboys.com's David Helman about why it was so important for him to graduate and finish what he started at Notre Dame.
“When I left after my junior year, I promised my mom that I would go back and finish...Finishing my third year with the Cowboys, it was time.” - Jaylon Smith
2,025 @NotreDame undergraduates will receive degrees during Commencement Weekend. That contingent includes @thejaylonsmith Yes, the current @dallascowboys & former @NDFootball All-American linebacker, who took 21 credits this spring #4for40 #GraduatingChampions #CEV
Smith continues his leadership on and off the field, and we all send our congratulations to the Cowboys starting MIKE linebacker!
Ezekiel Elliott Snubbed from Top 25 Players Under 25 List
On Tuesday, Pro Football Focus published it's Top 25 Players Under 25, with Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch one of only three linebackers on the list. Oddly, one of the best players on the team was absent from this same list; Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.
The running backs they included were Kareem Hunt, Saquon Barkley, and Alvin Kamara. Pro Football Focus has been very open about their dislike of Elliott's 2018 season, ranking him 30th in the NFL according to their player grades.
Elliott has won the NFL's rushing title in two of his three seasons and likely would have won it in 2017 had he not been served with a league-mandated six-game suspension. Elliott ran for nearly 1,000 yards in the 10 games he played, which put him in 10th place in rushing in 2017. Le'Veon Bell led the NFL in rushing that season with 1,291 yards. Using some basic arithmetic, I've discovered that Elliott finished just 308 yards off the league lead in six fewer games.
Despite being the most productive back in the NFL in his first three years in the NFL, Elliott gets knocked because he sees such a high volume of carries and targets from the Dallas Cowboys offense.
On Wednesday, Mark Chichester of Pro Football Focus talked about the players who just missed the cut. Here's what he had to say about Ezekiel Elliott.
"There’s no doubt that Ezekiel Elliott is one of the top players at his position, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that his production is, in large part, thanks to the offense that Dallas has built around him. Over the last three years, Elliott ranks first in rushing attempts (868), rushing yards (4048), rushing yards after contact (2567) and first down conversions (219). However, his three-year rushing grade of 80.2 ranks ninth among the 36 backs with at least 300 attempts in that span, while his 0.119 missed tackles forced per attempt ranks tied for 27th among the same group."
Mark Chichester - Pro Football Focus
Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best running backs in the NFL, if not the best. There can be an argument for Todd Gurley or Le'Veon Bell, and maybe even Saquon Barkley, but if you aren't including Ezekiel Elliott in the discussion, the discussion is a bit flawed.
For three years, under Scott Linehan as the offensive coordinator, every team in the NFL knows that Elliott is going to get the ball and get the ball a lot. Primarily on first downs. Yet, Elliott continues to be productive and grind out his yards, even against heavily stacked fronts.
I understand the argument that Elliott wasn't very efficient with his touches in 2018, but when you are the primary focus for opposing defenses, it makes it difficult to be efficient. Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamar had the benefit of being coached by Andy Reid and Sean Payton who are considered creative offensive minds. Saquon Barkley had the benefit of Odell Beckham Jr keeping safeties honest.
While the Cowboys had Amari Cooper, the passing game still doesn't get near the respect that the Cowboys run game gets from opposing defensive coordinators. With Kellen Moore on board and the talk about presenting multiple formations for opposing teams to figure out, the Cowboys offense could get more creative in 2019.
Heading into his fourth year in the NFL, it's amazing that Ezekiel Elliott apparently still has something to prove to some out there. After winning rushing titles in two of his three seasons and averaging right around 100 yards a game, Elliott still doesn't get the respect he deserves from national observers.
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