All offseason, there's been a lot of talk about whether Dak Prescott deserves to be paid like a franchise quarterback. It's been debated in every walk of life in which Dallas Cowboys football comes up in conversation; On the radio, in the newspaper, on the internet, at the doctor's office, in the drive-thru at Whataburger, and every place in between. Regardless of where you stand on the big-money contract extension that Dak Prescott will eventually sign, the more encouraging thing is how he's looked in the offseason and in the preseason. Saturday night was yet another indication that Dak Prescott is going to take another step forward in 2019.
On Saturday night vs the Los Angeles Rams, Prescott was 5 of 5 for 64 yards, including a big 31-yard completion to Michael Gallup. Where the two struggled with having a consistent connection in 2018, doesn't seem to be a problem in 2019 thus far. Dak Prescott has been looking for Michael Gallup a lot in practice and the two have connected three times for 50 yards this preseason. Dak Prescott is definitely looking his way anytime he gets single coverage.
On this play, the Dallas Cowboys motioned Jon'Vea Johnson from right to left across the formation and the Los Angeles Rams showed that they were in man coverage with a single high safety. On the snap, it's confirmed as one of the safeties drops into coverage and the other steps up to help to take Witten on the 10-yard in. Without looking, Dak Prescott knows that Michael Gallup has man-coverage on the right side of the field.
After the snap, he keeps his gaze on the middle and to the left part of the field just before looking right and throwing the ball to Gallup. Connor Livesay, from Blogging the Boys, rightly pointed out on Twitter yesterday, that at the time of the release of the football, Gallup was still engaged with the cornerback before breaking away after Prescott's release. Gallup does an excellent job coming back for the football, going over the top of the defender to make the catch.
Dak Prescott doesn't have anything open on the play, but instead of holding onto the football and potentially taking a sack, he takes advantage of the single coverage deep down the field and gives his wide receiver a chance to make a play on the football. Prescott's ability to hold the safety in the middle of the field with his eyes is what gives this play a chance. If, as soon as he realizes there's nothing open in the middle of the field, he immediately turns to Gallup, the deep middle safety begins breaking that direction and has a chance to disrupt Gallup's attempt to catch the football.
Another encouraging aspect of this throw was the situation in which he took the shot downfield. Prescott, in seasons past, seemed to shy away from high risk throws on money downs and instead looked for just enough yardage to get the first down. Though it's only the preseason, Prescott looks to have the trust of the coaching staff to take some chances, even on third down.
It looks as if Dak Prescott is ready to shine under a couple of coaches who won't force him into being a risk-averse passer, which seemed to be the case under the previous offensive coordinator. Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore has talked a lot about wanting to be a vertical team. Quarterbacks Coach Jon Kitna's greatest football influence is former St. Louis Rams Head Coach Mike Martz who also wanted to throw a lot of vertical passes from his days with the "Greatest Show on Turf." The combination of Moore and Kitna look to be excellent additions for Dak Prescott.
Through two games in the preseason, Dak Prescott's been perfect. He's gone 9 of 9 for 86 yards, a 106.9 passer rating, and 9.7 yards per attempt. One area where he's improved dramatically is in his time to attempt numbers. Per Pro Football Focus, in 2018, Dak Prescott averaged 2.65 seconds to attempt. In the 2019 preseason, Prescott's time to attempt is 2.42 seconds. Yes, there are attempts where he's holding the ball longer, like the completion to Gallup on Saturday night. But generally, I see a player who is making quicker reads and quicker releases than the one we saw in 2018.
In 2018, when Prescott released the ball in less than 2.5 seconds, he completed 72.5% of his passes and had a 7:1 touchdown to interception ratio. When he released the ball after 2.5 seconds, he completed just 63.1% of his passes with a 15:7 touchdown to interception ratio.
He's not holding onto the ball as long as he did last year, which is an issue that needed to be corrected. If applied in the regular season, it's going to pay huge dividends for the Dallas Cowboys offense.
Yes, it's only the preseason and the Dallas Cowboys are playing against backups, but they also haven't had their full complement of players either. The Dallas Cowboys' starters have played with Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Jason Witten (vs SF), and most notably Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott. The Dallas Cowboys first team, despite missing five Pro Bowl players on offense, have been able to move the ball really well.
It's an encouraging sign for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations and high expectations for a quarterback that they are about to pay more than $32 million a year to. The way the offseason and now the preseason has gone for Dak Prescott, he could be looking at his first 4,000-yard season as a passer.
Dak Prescott is only going into his fourth season in the NFL. He's played 51 games thus far giving him a ton of experience to work from. That experience combined with improved chemistry with Michael Gallup, better game planning and play calling from Kellen Moore, better mechanics, and a better understanding and ability to manipulate defenses, 2019 is shaping up to be Dak Prescott's best season yet.
Report: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Could Only Miss One Game
The Dallas Cowboys might not be without their rising star at free safety as long as they originally thought. According to DallasCowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus, Xavier Woods could only miss this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.
They gave him a physical and didn't sign so that tells me a little something. Xavier Woods is not going to be out 4-6 weeks. Might miss one game... https://t.co/EFcpjlZnPH
Woods suffered a high ankle sprain this past Sunday against the Washington Redskins that was supposed to keep him out 4-6 weeks. If he is only out one game that would be amazing news for the Cowboys with the toughest part of their schedule coming up. Safety Darian Thompson is set to start this Sunday opposite Jeff Heath in place of Woods, with rookie Donovan Wilson and Kavon Frazier also their for insurance. Will Xavier Woods be back against the New Orleans Saints next week? Something to keep an eye on. More details to come.
Devin Smith Has Opportunity to Shine in Michael Gallup’s Absence
In the wake of today's news that Michael Gallup will miss the next 2-4 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery to trim the meniscus in his left knee. Gallup was having another solid game for the Dallas Cowboys when he suffered the injury. It's an unfortunate setback for Gallup was emerging as a go-to player for Dak Prescott in the passing offense.
With Gallup's absence comes an opportunity for other wide receivers on the depth chart. The player most likely to benefit the most is former second-round pick and first-year Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Devin Smith.
Smith exploded on offense for the Cowboys in week two against the Washington Redskins. He had three receptions on three targets for 74 yards and a 51-yard touchdown reception that was the first score of the game for the Dallas Cowboys. After Gallup went down with the injury, Smith was the immediate beneficiary of snaps, catching his other two passes on the drive after Gallup's injury, including one that picked up the first down.
Devin Smith will take on a larger role with Michael Gallup out. This catch yesterday by Smith was his first TD since 2015. He has battled back from two significant knee injuries.
Devin Smith played 26% of the offensive snaps on Sunday and was dynamic and effective in the passing game. Afte the Gallup injury, any time the offense was in 11 personnel (3 wide receivers) Devin Smith was the next man up.
They used Smith on play-action twice and on an RPO signifying their belief in his ability to make plays in the passing game. The former second-round pick from Ohio State has excellent speed and showed out throughout the preseason and training camp to earn his spot on the 53-man roster out of training camp.
In fact, the team felt so good about Smith coming into the season that they were willing to subject both Cedrick Wilson and Jon'vea Johnson to waivers before placing them on the practice squad.
If Michael Gallup does have to sit out for four weeks, then Smith has an excellent opportunity to cement himself within the Dallas Cowboys receiving hierarchy and potentially audition for his next job in 2020, either with the Dallas Cowboys or someone else around the NFL. Smith had likely earned the opportunity to play ahead of Tavon Austin in the offense -- whenever Austin is back -- and how the next two to four weeks go could have a huge impact on the Dallas Cowboys and his own future.
With the emergence of Michael Gallup toward the end of 2018 and to start the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys offense has been much healthier and balanced. It hasn't had to rely on one player to carry the offense and the passing game in particular.
When the Dallas Cowboys have several receiving threats it makes life easier for everyone on offense and much more challenging for opposing defenses. With Devin Smith coming into the lineup, teams are going to have to respect his downfield speed, which could open things up in the short to intermediate areas for the rest of the offense. After his 51 yard touchdown on Sunday, opposing defenses will have to pay attention to Smith.
In week three against at tanking Miami Dolphins squad, Smith may have another big game. In week one, the Miami Dolphins allowed Baltimore Ravens rookie Wide Receiver Marquise Brown to go off for four catches, 147 yards, and two touchdowns. The two touchdowns were on receptions of 47 and 83 yards.
The Dallas Cowboys need Devin Smith to be an effective player in order to keep the balance they've had in their target distribution. Teams will shade coverage toward Amari Cooper with Gallup out and Devin Smith will have to take advantage. Over the last few months, Smith has shown flashes of the ability that once made him a second-round pick. Now he's got a huge opportunity ahead of him and the Dallas Cowboys need him to take advantage of it to have the same level of success they've experienced in the first two weeks of the season.
REPORT: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Out 4-6 Weeks With Ankle Injury
Another tough injury coming out of last week's game against Washington; Cowboys starting Safety Xavier Woods is now expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain injury.
This comes just a day after Dallas lost WR Michael Gallup for 2-4 weeks after surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Cowboys FS Xavier Woods is expected to miss four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain, source said. A blow to the secondary with #Saints, #Packers among upcoming opponents.
The next man up at safety appears to be Darian Thompson, who has been with the Cowboys since midway through the 2018 season. He was re-signed as a free agent last March and is one of the key reasons that Dallas chose not to keep veteran George Iloka at final cuts.
Cowboys S Darian Thompson will make his first start Sunday since joining team in 2018, source said. S Xavier Woods is sidelined with high ankle sprain.
Earlier this morning, it was reported that Dallas is working out free agent safety Josh Jones. He was a 2nd-Round pick of the Packers in 2017 who was released last month after falling down the depth chart and demanding a trade.
Dallas still has Kavon Frazier and Donovan Wilson on the roster for safety depth. While many fans would love to see Wilson get the start this week, Darian Thompson's game and athleticism are more suited to play the free safety role.
Thompson also has experience, having started 17 games from 2016-2017 with the New York Giants. He was their 3rd-Round pick in 2016.
Thankfully, this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins gives the Cowboys a soft opponent with which to make these adjustments. But missing Xavier Woods is going to hurt; he is a rising star on defense and easily their top player at safety.
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