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.