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Dak Prescott Carries Some Blame for Cowboys Offensive Woes

John Williams

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Dak Prescott and Coaches Both to Blame for Cowboys Offensive Woes

When the calendar hits New Year's Eve and the beginning of a new year approaches, the anticipation and hope of starting fresh gets everyone excited. The same can be said for the start of a new NFL season. Sadly, though the hope of the 2018 Dallas Cowboys season has faded quickly after five weeks of the season. The hope that Dak Prescott could return to the player he was in his first 24 games is cratering with each poor performance and each Dallas Cowboys loss.

I know we all want to look for the reasons why Dak Prescott and the offense is struggling. We point to the wide receivers, the offensive line, the quarterback, the play calling, the coaching, and to be honest, it's probably a bit of all of this.

Dak Prescott definitely carries some of the blame for what has gone on with the Dallas Cowboys offense early this season. Looking at Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats, you can find stats that show that Dak Prescott has had time in the pocket.

Here are Dak Prescott's NFL ranks in the following categories per Pro Football Focus.

  • Time in the Pocket: 3.04 seconds (3rd)
  • Time to Attempt: 2.81 seconds (3rd)
  • Time to Sack: 3.61 seconds (9th)
  • Time to Run/Scramble: 6.31 seconds (1st)
  • Quarterback Rating when he throws in less than 2.5 seconds: 102.9 (13th)
  • Quarterback Rating when he throws in more than 2.5 seconds: 63.7 (27th)

These numbers don't completely tell the story of Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, but we can certainly make some observations.

Protection

I think the offensive line is giving Dak Prescott enough time to make plays. The offensive line hasn't been perfect, but they've also faced some really good pass rushers in the first five games of the season. He's been sacked 16 times through five games; an average of 3.2 sacks per game. That's the seventh highest number in the NFL.

As you can see from the Pro Football Focus numbers above, Dak has been holding the ball nearly as long as anyone in the NFL. He's better when he gets rid of the ball in under 2.5 seconds. There's nearly a 40 point decrease in his passer rating when he holds the ball longer than 2.5 seconds.

Sure he's been getting sacked more than he did in the first 24 games of his career and there are plays where the protection hasn't been great. So then the question becomes, is it the quarterback or the scheme.

The Quarterback

Dak Prescott just doesn't look like the same quarterback that he was in the first 24 games of his career. He doesn't look to be as confident or comfortable in the pocket despite having as much time as anyone in the NFL.

The Cowboys coaching staff either hasn't gotten him in the right positions to do the things that make him comfortable, or Dak is broken.

Over the last 13 games of his career -- since the Atlanta Falcons game -- Dak Prescott has thrown for an average of 189.8 yards per game, 0.8 touchdowns, one interception, while completing only 63% of passes, with a 76.8 passer rating. In the first 24 games of his career he averaged 228.5 passing yards, 1.6 touchdowns, 0.3 interceptions, completed 66 percent of his passes with a 102.4 passer rating, per Pro Football Reference.

That's a drastic statistical difference.

Toward the end of the 2017 NFL season, some joked that Chaz Green ruined Dak Prescott. Well, it doesn't look so funny now since Dak Prescott hasn't looked the same in the 13 games since the Atlanta game.

John Williams ✭ on Twitter

Dak Prescott's ranks in 2016 per @PFF Dak Prescott's NFL Ranks in: Time in the Pocket: 4th (2.89) Time to Attempt: 5th (2.71) Time to Sack: 4th (3.83) Time to Run/Scramble: 12th (5.15) QB Rating att < 2.5 sec: 4th (108) QB Rating att > 2.5 sec: 3rd (103.4) #CowboysNation

In his rookie of the year season, as you can see above, he didn't have near the drop off in passer rating when he released the ball after 2.5 seconds. So, as he held the ball past that 2.5 second mark, he was still really good and really efficient, because he was still comfortable in the pocket.

Dak Prescott just doesn't seem to be willing to let the ball fly like he was early in his career.  He was making decisions quicker and getting the ball out of his hands faster. When under pressure in 2016, his passer rating was 75.8, which was ninth in the NFL that season. In 2018, he's down to 15th in the NFL with a passer rating under pressure of 68.5.

How Can the Coaches Help Dak?

There is a lot of time still to turn this around, but some things will have to change to make it happen. In particular, the offensive staff needs to adjust some things to put Dak Prescott in situations that work to his strengths. Such as running play action.

NFL Matchup on ESPN on Twitter

Some eye-popping numbers from QBs on PLAY ACTION snaps this season... #Seahawks #GoSaints #DaBears #FightForEachOther #LARams #Skol #DallasCowboys #Jets #GoBills #GoPats

Dak Prescott is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL when running play action. As you can see from the above stat, Dak Prescott ranks seventh in the NFL when using play actions passes. When he doesn't run play action, his passer rating drops 56 points to 66.8 and sees a yards per attempt decrease of 3.6, per Pro Football Focus.

Per Pro Football Focus, Dak Prescott ranks 8th in the NFL in percentage of play action drop backs at 26.2%. For comparison, Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams are using play action on 39.2% of his drop backs and Philadelphia Eagles' Quarterbacks Nick Foles and Carson Wentz both rank in the top seven of quarterbacks who use play action the most.

You'd think that having the NFL's leading rusher would allow the Dallas Cowboys to run play action much more than they are and that they'd want to given their quarterback's skill in running play action.

So if you're looking for a legitimate thing they can do on offense to help their struggling quarterback, they can run more play action. With Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, they really could run play action at the same rate as the Los Angeles Rams. The only time it seems that Scott Linehan wants to run play action is when he's using it to set up a screen or to use Dak Prescott on a bootleg roll out.

They can also help Prescott by getting the ball out of his hands faster by using more tunnel and bubble screens by using Tavon Austin more. He's by far their quickest and fastest player, so they need to figure out a way to use that speed and quickness to help Dak Prescott get the ball out of his hands faster.

They could also use more bunch formations to get Tavon Austin and Cole Beasley better releases off the line of scrimmage to get them open quicker. Opposing defenses would have a really difficult time containing both of these guys in the short area of the field because both Beasley and Austin have really good route running.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

I know there are a lot of people that are bailing on Dak Prescott as a potential future quarterback, and I don't blame you. He hasn't been good for much of the last 13 games dating back to last season. The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff can help Dak Prescott get back into a groove and potentially save the 2018 season for the Dallas Cowboys. If they don't make any changes, we could see a 2019 with major changes to the offensive figure heads in Dak Prescott, Scott Linehan, and Jason Garrett.

What do you think they should do to get Dak Prescott back on track?



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.

Game Notes

L.P. Ladouceur Insists “Nothing Different” on FG Attempt

John Williams

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Cowboys Blog - Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur Is Greatest 91 In Dallas Cowboys History

There were other plays that certainly had as much of an impact on the outcome of the Dallas Cowboys loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday. However, sequence of events surrounding L.P. Ladouceur and the game-tying field goal attempt are front and center.

Prior to Brett Maher's game-tying 52 yard field goal attempt clanged off of the left upright as time expired, backlash on social media had already begun to spread about the so-called "snap infraction" that moved the Dallas Cowboys from what would have been a 47 yard field goal attempt to the 52 yarder that Maher pulled.

Five yards closer and Maher gets that kick through the uprights and the Dallas Cowboys go to overtime with a chance to take the division lead. It didn't and the Cowboys fell to 3-4, now a game and a half behind the Washington Redskins as the Cowboys head into the bye.

After the game, many of us were watching the snap and trying to figure out what exactly he did wrong to warrant the penalty. According to L.P. Ladouceur, he did nothing wrong and was adamant about that in the rare post game interview.

“I just adjusted down so I could put my hands on the bottom of it so I could snap it in the right direction. Exact same thing I’ve been doing for 14 years … I’m not even trying to get him offside. I know the situation. Just too bad.” 

L.P.Ladouceur - via Todd Archer, ESPN.com

It was a rare "miscue" for the 14 year veteran deep snapper. Seriously, I can't remember a time when this call was made on a deep snapper or when Ladouceur had a bad snap. He's been excellent. If deep snappers could get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, L.P. would be a first ballot Hall of Famer. He's been that good.

As Cowboys Nation attempted to make sense of the call, the NFL Officials Twitter account had an explanation of the penalty call after the game, which may give you more understanding, or more frustration.

NFL Officiating on Twitter

The illegal ball movement by the center in #DALvsWAS causes the defense to come across the neutral zone and contact a lineman." -AL https://t.co/Cv8Ugwb99p

Their argument was that Ladouceur moved the ball in his snap and that is an "illegal ball movement." It was that movement which caused the defender to come into the neutral zone and make contact with the offensive lineman.

I'll have to admit, watching deep snapper All-22 film is not something I'm going to find myself doing and so, we'll lean on Mike Garafolo here.

Mike Garafolo on Twitter

Just watched a few of L.P. Ladouceur's snaps in recent weeks. He moves the ball a lot at times. Nothing out of the ordinary here. The difference could be that nobody jumped on previous snaps. https://t.co/kc10gtMJ11

If what Garafolo says is true, that L.P. Ladouceur does move the ball a lot on his snaps, then how come he hasn't been called for it before. Mike could be right in that he hasn't been called for this before because no one has ever jumped offsides when he moved before. Regardless, the call has me wondering one of two things as to why they called it all of a sudden. 1) Either the officials don't usually see the ball movement or 2) they don't care. And both leave me a bit frustrated.

If they don't typically see the ball movement, then that means they didn't see the movement on Sunday and relied on the movement of the interior defensive lineman jumping offsides to make the call. To me, that is a problem. The officials need to be the ones making the call in these situations, especially a game-tying field goal attempt where five yards can make a huge difference. A defender is always going to act like he got drawn offsides. It's the officials job to make that call. Not the defense's.

If they don't typically care what long snappers are doing with the football prior to the snap, then why did they call it this time? A long snapper, like a kicker and punter, has a routine they go through prior to the snap to get their mind and body right. There's zero chance after 14 years in a game-tying situation that L.P. Ladouceur changed his approach to snapping on this particular field goal try.

The NFL Officiating body of the NFL says what he did is a penalty. Ladouceur says that's how he's always snapped.

So it begs the question, "why now?"

If that's always been a penalty and he's always snapped it like that, why did they pick that time in that situation to make that call. It may have been the right call, but it was a ticky-tack call and it inserted the officials into the outcome of the football game. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys killed themselves with a lot of penalties in really bad situations on Sunday. Like the Connor Williams hold to negate the Cole Beasley first down reception prior to the Ryan Kerrigan strip of Dak Prescott that led to a touchdown. However, you never want a penalty to decide a game.

On Sunday, the officiating crew asserted themselves to call a penalty on a play they either didn't see or didn't care about in L.P. Ladouceur's 14 year career to date. And while, Maher still could have -- and should have -- made that kick, there's no denying that the penalty had an impact on the game.

You never want to point to officiating as the reason your team loses a game, because there are always calls that go against either team that you could argue were bad calls. Unfortunately, this bad call pushed Brett Maher's field goal attempt back five yards, which had a direct impact on the game.

It may have been a penalty, it was a weak call at a really bad time for the Dallas Cowboys. With only nine games remaining in the 2018 NFL season, that call certainly hurt their chances of making the playoffs.

It's just another in a long line of officiating decisions that has hurt the Dallas Cowboys and that act is getting old.



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Game Notes

3 Stars from Cowboys Loss to the Redskins

John Williams

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Cowboys Roster: Dallas Made Right Decisions on Unproven Skill Players

Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. That's where we stand after seven games with the Dallas Cowboys alternating home wins and road losses and through nearly half the schedule en route to their 3-4 record.

It was a disappointing loss after a defensive effort that held the Washington Redskins to 13 points on the day. The offense had some good moments, but the road inconsistency and penalties killed throughout the NFC East matchup. The Dallas Cowboys playoff chances took a substantial hit with the loss. With only nine games left in the season, the Cowboys are probably going to have to go 7-2 to make the playoffs.

It's not impossible they could get on a run, but it certainly looks bleak.

Before we move forward, let's look back and highlight this week's 3 Stars of the game.

First Star

Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins

There were several players that gave the Dallas Cowboys offensive line fits on Sunday, but Ryan Kerrigan's strip-sack of Dak Prescott in the fourth quarter was the difference in the football game.

The Cowboys were trailing by three and after being backed up because of a holding penalty on Cowboys' Left Guard Connor Williams. Dallas was facing a 3rd and 14 at their own 10 yard line. Dak Prescott had good initial protection, but held the ball too long allowing Kerrigan to get to him, strip the ball, and Preston Smith recovered in the end zone to put the Redskins up by 10 with less than five minutes to play.

Kerrigan finished the game with five tackles (4 solo), two sacks, one tackle for loss, a pass deflection, the forced fumble, and two quarterback hits. It was a strong day for one of the longtime Redskins greats.

Second Star

Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins didn't really have a lot of offensive weapons at their disposal aside from Tight End Jordan Reed and Running Back Adrian Peterson. Adrian Peterson had a good game against a stout Dallas Cowboys run defense, which kept the Cowboys defense off-balance most of the afternoon.

His 22 carries for 99 yards may not be the best game ever, but his ability to hit some big runs early and run with consistency early in the game put the Redskins ahead of the chains. On a day when the Redskins were down three of the top four receiving targets, Peterson needed to be effective for Washington to have a chance. He was a big reason the Redskins put up the 13 points on offense that they did.

Peterson ran hard "All Day" and made life difficult for the Dallas Cowboys defense.

Third Star

Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

After last week's performance, I wrote a piece predicting that a breakout game was imminent for rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup.

He delivered the best game of his career Sunday afternoon against the Washington Redskins hauling in three receptions on five targets for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Gallup's touchdown reception was a beautiful double move that left the Redskins corner in the dust on his way to his first career touchdown. It was a huge play at the end of the first half that put the Dallas Cowboys on the board. They hadn't really gotten much going prior to that drive. It was a nice step forward for Gallup who has been making strides since some early season struggles.

The Dallas Cowboys have needed someone to step up on the outside to take some of the pressure off of Cole Beasley in the slot and Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. With another solid performance under his belt, Gallup is proving that he is a starter for the Dallas Cowboys now and in the future.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Who were your 3 Stars of the game in the Cowboys disappointing loss Sunday?



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Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins 5

Well, here we are again. The Dallas Cowboys lose another close game, but this time it might hurt a little bit more since it was to the division rival the Washington Redskins. This was definitely a game that could've gone either way since neither team played well, but in the end things just happened to go the Redskins way this time.

One or two things going just a little differently for the Cowboys likely would've been enough to secure the victory Sunday afternoon and I'm not even talking about Brett Maher's missed field goal. For instance, what if Quarterback Dak Prescott would've taken the safety instead of fumbling and letting the Redskins defense score a TD. That mistake it definitely hurt!

I could sit here and play the "what if" game with you all day, but we have nearly two weeks to do just that since the Cowboys are now on their bye week. Today, I want to share with you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from the first of two meetings between these two teams. Enjoy!

The Good

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

In yet another sloppy performance on the road, there was very little good to take away from the first meeting of the 2018 season between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. I think the one thing I will remember the most, in a positive way, from this matchup is Wide Receiver Michael Gallup's long touchdown pass from Quarterback Dak Prescott.

Michael Gallup continues to make plays when given the opportunity. In another offense with a better play caller and maybe even a better QB, Gallup would likely be in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but has failed to make much of an impact with the Cowboys so far. Hopefully that will change after the bye week though.

If I'm the Cowboys coaching staff, I'm going to find ways to get Michael Gallup more involved in the passing game coming out off the bye week. Other than Cole Beasley, he is the only one who is having much of an impact and definitely needs to see more targets. I would make that a top priority moving forward.

The Bad

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

There is so much that I could put in this section, but I think the worst thing that happened Sunday afternoon when the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Redskins was the fact that we will have nearly 2 weeks of having to listen and talk about it. For me, that is the bad!

Yes, you read that right. Now that the Cowboys are heading into their bye week, we have two entire weeks to dissect and analyze everything that has gone right or wrong this year, especially what happened against the Redskins since it's the freshest in our minds.

This was definitely a tough loss, and one that could come back and hurt the Cowboys when it comes to playoff seeding at the end of the season. Too many mental mistakes and penalties definitely assisted in the letdown, but in the end they just weren't good enough to win on the road. That's absolutely something that needs to change since they haven't won a road game all season.

The Ugly

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

I'm going to have to go with both the offense and defense for the Dallas Cowboys as the ugly against the Redskins Sunday afternoon. Neither unit really played all that well, even though they both probably played well enough to win the game if just a few things would've gone just a little bit differently.

On the offensive side of the ball the Cowboys couldn't get anything going for nearly the entire game. The Redskins did an excellent job of bottling up Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott couldn't get anything going in the passing game until the fourth quarter. They did have a few big plays called back due to holding penalties, but overall it was a pretty sloppy performance.

Defensively things weren't much better. The Cowboys have been pretty good at stopping the run this season, but for some reason couldn't find an answer of how to stop Adrian Peterson. The defense probably played better than the Cowboys offense, stopping the Redskins in the red zone on several occasions and only giving up one TD, but in the end it just wasn't enough.

What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Redskins?



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