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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Brett Maher’s 62-yard FG Gives Cowboys 6-0 Halftime Lead over Eagles
Brett Maher drilled a 62-yard field goal, a new Dallas Cowboys record, to give his team a 6-0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles at halftime.
A holding penalty by Tyron Smith seemingly took the team out of field goal range, but Maher bailed him out with the monster kick.
The lead could be bigger it not for some Dallas mistakes. Dak Prescott threw an interception on an otherwise strong drive, and Maher ended another drive with a missed field goal.
However, the Eagles have also struggled. A strip sack by Tyrone Crawford ended their last drive of the half. Randy Gregory also got a sack on Carson Wentz earlier in the game.
Overall, though, Philadelphia just isn't converting downs and being stifled by this exceptional Cowboys defense. They only have 70 total offensive yards at the half.
Ezekiel Elliott is putting together a big day, already with 72 rushing yards and another 20 yards receiving. Rod Smith also has 24 yards of offense, adding to the major production from the RB position.
Speaking of position production, the Cowboys tight ends have already accounted for six catches for 37 yards. Blake Jarwin has four of those receptions, which is a new career high.
The Eagles will get the ball to start the second half.
Cowboys Vs Eagles Leads NFL in Playoff Leverage for Week 14
The Dallas Cowboys are certainly playing like a playoff team as of late, but aren't in the clear yet when it comes to holding off Sunday's opponent -- nor the Washington Redskins -- in the NFC East. At 7-5, the Eagles and Redskins sit a game behind the Cowboys with identical 6-6 records.
The Cowboys going 5-0 from their first win at the Eagles in week 10 to their third divisional game of this stretch would go a very long way in cementing the Cowboys mid-season turnaround. As has always seemingly been the case in this division though, the same is said of the defending Super Bowl champs.
With a loss, the Cowboys stand just over a 50% chance at the postseason. A win would add 42 percentage points to this figure, setting up the Cowboys favorably through a December schedule that features the Colts, Buccaneers, and Giants.
NFL playoff leverage week 14
The only team with more at stake today is the visitors of AT&T Stadium. The Eagles gain 47 percentage points on their playoff hopes with a win, though even this marginally moves the needle over 50% for them. An Eagles loss all but ends their chances of repeating as NFC East winners.
Though the Redskins are reduced to their third quarterback in Mark Sanchez, their early kickoff at the 4-8 Giants provides hope that they'll remain in contention through the regular season. In a division that will be dictated by the moves made at the trade deadline, it sure feels like the Cowboys and Eagles are pulling away however - with Dallas in prime position to lap the competition starting Sunday.
If the Cowboys and the Giants win today, Dallas would have to lose out, and the Redskins or Eagles would have to win out in order for the Cowboys to lose the division. In other words, Dallas and NYG winning today would mean one more victory and the Cowboys clinch the NFC East.
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper has made a bigger difference than Dallas could have ever hoped for. With the Eagles secondary banged up again for their meeting with the Cowboys, a home team with sights set on playoff football could begin to fine tune their offense to match a defense that set the tone against Philadelphia last time out.
National pundits may be forecasting a "classic" late season collapse for the Cowboys, but fans know better than this. It was in fact early season losses that dug the hole the Cowboys are viciously fighting out of. Asking for this opportunity against the Eagles is as good as it gets for Jason Garrett's young team, once 3-5 after eight weeks that feel like ages ago.
So does any dominant stretch of football from the Eagles, though the Cowboys shouldn't be quick to find out just how much Philly wants to play spoiler.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dak Prescott Exploits Eagles’ Secondary
It's rivalry weekend for the Dallas Cowboys as they get ready to host the Philadelphia Eagles. It will undoubtedly be a special game since the Eagles are practically playing to save their season this time around. Tables have turned for these two teams with now the Cowboys as home favorites for this fun matchup.
As always, here's this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist. Enjoy!
Wish #1: Get Jourdan Lewis Playing Time
Cornerback Jourdan Lewis did a fantastic job versus the New Orleans Saints last week and I'm intrigued to see if the Cowboys will continue to find a job for him and get him on the field. Lewis had an interception and some other key plays in just eight snaps. Lewis has been an interesting narrative this year.
He's a good player and getting him more involved could result in good things for this team. We'll see if the Cowboys use him in this important divisional game.
Wish #2: Get The Early Big Lead, Rest Elliott
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has done an amazing job for the Cowboys over the past four weeks. Both in the passing and running game, Zeke has been able to consistently move the chains as he's received a huge workload to carry the offense and control the time of possession. He currently leads the league in touches per game.
If the Cowboys are able to get a big lead early, I wish we get to see a lot of backup RB Rod Smith. As much as we all love to watch Zeke be fed, this time Cowboys Nation should appreciate seeing him on the sideline a bit more than usual. For that to happen, though, an early considerable lead is required.
Wish #3: Improve on Red Zone
So far, the Dallas Cowboys have been able to efficiently move the ball and get first downs. What they have struggled with though, is the red zone. Many times, we've seen the offense settle for three instead of getting seven.
This Saturday I argued why, if the Cowboys are able to improve on red zone, this could be a playoff caliber unit. This team shouldn't struggle as much in this area. With Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, Amari Cooper lined up and a mobile QB, Scott Linehan's squad simply needs to do better.
Wish #4: Dak Prescott Gets 300 Yards
The Philadelphia Eagles have placed CB Jalen Mills on IR. With Ronald Darby out already, the Cowboys are about to face a very injured secondary. Philadelphia ranks 26th in passing defense. Dak Prescott's stats have greatly improved since week 7.
However, a big 300-yard performance has yet to occur. I wish he gets just that against the Eagles. For this, he'll certainly need help from his receivers, including Amari Cooper, who has been outstanding with a Star on his helmet.
What are your wishes for this week's matchup versus the Eagles?
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