Contrary to popular belief, the Dallas Cowboys DO NOT have a quarterback controversy.
If Tony Romo was 100% healthy today, head coach Jason Garrett and the rest of the Cowboys coaching staff would have no problem reinserting him as the starting quarterback this week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Don't get me wrong. Dak Prescott has done an outstanding job the first four games of the 2016 season, but he still has a long ways to go until he can operate this offense as efficiently as Romo does.
The reason this is even a discussion at all is because a rookie 4th round draft pick has defied all odds and helped a beat up Dallas Cowboys team scratch and claw their way to a 3-1 winning record.
In four games, Prescott has shown the poise of a veteran QB, thrown with accuracy, and most importantly not turned the ball over. He has 1,012 passing yards and is responsible for five total touchdowns (3 passing, 2 rushing).
In fact, Prescott has played so well that he has set a rookie record by throwing 131 pass attempts without an interception.
You couldn't have asked for anything more from a rookie QB, especially from a player that wasn't even expected to see the field in 2016.
Of course, all of that changed when Kellen Moore was lost to an injury in training camp, which promoted Prescott to be the backup for Tony Romo. Then, Romo lasted three entire plays in the third preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks before injuring his back once again.
To say it was a perfect storm that allowed Dak Prescott to become the Cowboys starting QB to start the 2016 season would be an understatement. Everything fell in place perfectly for Prescott, but that doesn't make him the best option to lead the Cowboys offense for the entire year.
It's funny how we quickly forget how good Tony Romo actually is.
Romo has become arguably the greatest statistical quarterback the Dallas Cowboys have had in the history of the organization. He has the most passing yards, touchdowns, the highest completion percentage, passer rating, and averages more passing yards per game than any other Cowboys quarterback.
The only real concern with Romo is his problem staying healthy, especially the last few years.
His last healthy season was in 2014 when the Dallas Cowboys were just a Dez Bryant catch away from a NFC Championship game. That season he threw for 34 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
That 2014 team isn't all that different from this years squad. The offense is relying heavily on the running game this year and Dak Prescott has been doing a good job of throwing to the open receiver.
I personally have nothing against Prescott. I actually believe he is going to be the future QB for this team, but right now a healthy Tony Romo gives the offense the best chance to put points on the board and outscore their opponents.
The one thing the Prescott hasn't really been able to do yet is connect with his wide receivers and pick up those big plays for large chunks of yards. That's why Ezekiel Elliott is still having to run against eight-man fronts, but with the reinsertion of Tony Romo in the lineup that should all change.
Can you imagine how good Elliott can be without having to face a stacked box every time he runs the ball?
I think that's what we will see once Tony Romo is back under center. He is more willing to take shots down the field. There have been chances for Prescott to do the same, but either he hasn't seen Terrance Williams or Brice Butler open deep, or he just prefers to take the safer throw. Regardless, Romo is still the better option for this team to succeed.
Having said all that, there is still one scenario in which I see Dak Prescott remain the starter after Romo is back to full strength. That is if he can win this week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals and next week's game on the road against the Green Bay Packers.
If Prescott can enter the Cowboys bye week with a 5-1 record, I have a hard time believing the coaching staff can justify changing things up with the team on a winning streak.
In an article I wrote before the season started I had Prescott with a 3-3 record heading into the bye week, but I hope I'm wrong.
This will continue be a hot topic for debate until something is finally officially announced, but as things stand right now there absolutely is NOT a quarterback controversy in Dallas.
We all just need to relax. Having two really good quarterbacks is not a bad problem to have.
What do you think the Dallas Cowboys should do with the quarterback situation?
Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.
Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip
Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.
After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.
The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.
Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.
But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.
Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.
The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way
In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.
This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.
A few Rams Passing Game Notes
- The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
- The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
- The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
- The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
- They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
- The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.
Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.
On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.
The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.
Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak
No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.
The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.
This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.
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