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Dak Prescott Has Golden Opportunity Without Elliott

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys en Español: Dak Prescott #14 Según los Jugadores, ¿Realmente Lo Es? 1

Sunday night felt better than any night has felt as a Dallas Cowboys fan this season. Coming off of a gigantic road win over a division rival, the second win in a row for the Cowboys, Dallas was in firm control of their own playoff destiny.

Since their debacle in Denver, the Cowboys had improved each week. Now they looked to finally be hitting their 2016 groove and appeared ready to make a run in the NFC East.

Monday night, however, their world was shook.

With the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott putting the team's star running back and (arguably) best offensive player out until mid-December, most fans believed it was time to cancel the season. Yes, just end it.

At 4-3 and with plenty of season ahead, the Cowboys looked to be done in the eyes of many. But while most of Cowboys Nation panicked, my mind went somewhere else.

To the quarterback of America's Team, Dak Prescott.

Dallas Cowboys: Ranking Top 5 Most Indispensable Players 5

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 01: Dak Prescott #4 warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on January 1, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Despite what some on the outside may say, Prescott has had himself a hell of a season. Not only are his numbers and his analytical value better than they were during his fantastic rookie season, he also looks more comfortable during this sophomore campaign.

Prescott is the leader of the Cowboys' prolific offense, though he rarely receives the credit. "They" point to his offensive line, ignoring that with two new starters in the line-up this season that same offensive line has struggled.

"They" point to his receiving weapons, while still attempting to argue that Jason Witten is washed up and Dez Bryant has lost a step.

And, of course, "they" point to Ezekiel Elliott, the league's reigning rushing champion who enters his suspension third in the NFL in yards this season.

While Dak Prescott ran away with Rookie of the Year honors a season ago, and is one of (if not the) most promising young quarterback in the entire NFL, some still reach for ways to discredit what he has done.

In some ways, Dak Prescott has been perceived as being in the exact opposite light as his predecessor, Tony Romo. While Prescott has been surrounded by one of the league's top offenses, Romo's supporting cast was not nearly as impressive for much of his career. Where Prescott has "relied" on his elite running game, Romo was often asked to make things work by himself.

At least, that's what his detractors would tell you.

But now, with Ezekiel Elliott out and the Cowboys schedule as daunting as can be, he has a chance to silence all doubters. If Dak Prescott can be the quarterback he has been his entire life, and play the way which we believe he can, those same critics will be left with no ammunition.

Dak Prescott doesn't need to prove anything. He is a great young talent, and will be the Cowboys quarterback for a long time. But by stepping up over these next six games, he will not only save the Cowboys' season, but also put his stamp on this franchise once again.

Spoiler alert: he is going to show everyone just how special he is.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

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8 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    PREACH!!!!!

  • TreFKennedy88

    Over these next 6 games we gotta go 4-2, with a W over the eagles. As much as we all love Dak, 144 passing yards ain’t gonna cut it. Now is the time Dak and Dez get this connection going because they aren’t gonna give us anything. The o line has to get better and the defense has to get better because to have a realistic shot of winning the east or a wild card we have to go 7-2 these last 9 games, worse case 6-3, I believe in our team but this is the crossroads of our season

    • Stuart Brereton

      144yds won the game didn’t it? He didn’t have to go crazy throwing the ball given the conditions, because the running game was working great. He made the throws when he had to, ran when he had to, and helped us secure a win. At the end of the day, the win was what mattered most, not his passing yardage.

      • TreFKennedy88

        Tell that to the chiefs, falcons and eagles the next 3 weeks because if you think Dak throwing for 144 yards is gonna beat any of the aforementioned teams you’re sadly mistaken

        • Adam Googs

          The weather called for that particular game plan. Pound the ball with Zeke, (33 carries) move the chains, and limit mistakes. If you think Dak’s performance at home will be anything like in that monsoon, you’re sadly mistaken

          • TreFKennedy88

            I know Dak will ignite the offense at home

  • Russ_Te

    High confidence in Dak, Morris and McFadden.

    With Elliott starting i really believe it’s a great move to throw on 1st down in the 1st quarter. Boxes are either overloaded or keying on Elliott, you get easy hits and that backs the secondary the hell off of Elliott. We saw it work in DC, even in the rain.

    It’s different for however many games Elliott is out. Dallas will not face the same overloads on early downs. I still like the approach, since in theory it will loosen the defense for Morris whether it is 7 up or 8 up. But if Dallas returns to the predictable 1st down hand off, that will work better for Morris than for Elliott – defenses just will not be as worried about him gashing them.

    So you can strap the offense to Dak for 6 weeks, or change nothing and I think either works out pretty well. For comical value I would not mind seeing Dallas open in 4 WR and Morris. Now the defense is buying pass, you’ve got 5 or 6 in the box and Morris finds plenty of running lanes.

    You’d have to get out of it at some point, but I’d like to see that. I also think the 6 weeks will be decisive for McFadden. He just turned 30, has low NFL miles and is not likely satisfied with going inactive every week. If not mistaken he becomes the 3rd down RB now. If he breaks a draw or swing pass for a long score, we’ll have an RB controversy and McF will either want a promotion or want out.

    • Adam Googs

      They should also do a lot of RPO with Morris since the best season of his career was his rookie year with RGIII. They ran that play like 90% of the time, resulting in big runs for whoever ended up with the ball

Star Blog

Linebacker Group Key to Cowboys’ Defensive Success in 2018

John Williams

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Less Is More For Sean Lee And Cowboys' LBs?

In 2017, it was evident just how much the Dallas Cowboys were hurt by their lack of linebacker depth. When Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens were injured, especially Lee, the defense struggled. Look to the games against the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams and it's easy to see just how ineffective the defense was without their top two linebackers.

With more and more teams employing RPO and read-option concepts, more is expected of linebackers as they read the quarterback.

With teams like the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tennessee Titans all on the 2018 schedule, the Dallas Cowboys' linebacker corp is going to have their hands full each and every week defending quarterbacks who are really good at utilizing these concepts.

While the edge defenders are instrumental in containing the run concepts in the read-option and RPO, the linebackers are the next line of defense against the run and their discipline in the run-pass action is monumental to defending the passing concept of the RPO.

Jeff Ratcliffe from Pro Football Focus broke down who the best and worst teams using RPOs were in 2017 by quarterback yards per attempt and quarterback yards per carry.

The Philadelphia Eagles ran the most RPOs and, as Ratcliffe described in his article, "For Doug Pederson, no run concept could not have an RPO attached to it."

The Kansas City Chiefs were second in the NFL in the amount of RPOs utilized with quarterback Alex Smith, now with the Washington Redskins, under center. Speaking of the Redskins, with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, they accrued the highest yards per attempt of any team in the NFL when throwing out of an RPO.

So, if you do the math, you can bet that the Washington Redskins will utilize a lot of RPO and read-option concepts in their offensive game plan.

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, the Cowboys' week one opponent, ran RPOs the fourth most of any team in the NFL and had 5.5 yards per carry when Cam Newton kept the ball himself. Cam is one of the best running quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Newton is the only quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to rush for double-digit rushing touchdowns twice in his career. Before he did it in 2011, no quarterback had accomplished the feat since Daunte Culpepper in 2002. The Dallas Cowboys and their front seven will have their hands full containing Newton in week one.

Also according to PFF's Ratcliffe, the New York Giants were the fifth best team in 2017 when the quarterback decided to keep the ball and run as they averaged 5.5 yards per carry out of RPOs. That has to be the most shocking element of his post. When you think of Eli Manning, you don't think of a running quarterback.

That just shows you how effective the RPO and read-option can be in the NFL.

With the speed of the game light years faster than it was 20 or 30 years ago, teams are having to use more and more misdirection to gain an edge in the run and pass game.

Another team on the Dallas Cowboys schedule was very effective throwing out of RPOs: the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the AFC Championship Game, they made a lot of headway against the New England Patriots using this concept.

Mike Renner on Twitter

Will be interesting to see how the Pats gameplan for the Eagles RPOs. Jaguars shredded them with same RPO 4 times in first half last week https://t.co/gYJWIPYIjj

In 2017, the Jaguars averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, the fifth best number in the NFL, just 0.3 yards per attempt behind the Philadelphia Eagles, who were fourth in the league when throwing out of RPOs.

This note from Jeff, I found particularly interesting:

"When the quarterback did pull, league-wide last year, the average yards per attempt was 6.52 and there was a 78.8 completion percentage. Once again, easy money."

Jeff Ratcliffe - Pro Football Focus

Most of the NFL is beginning to employ more and more RPO and read-option concepts into their offensive game plans, making the defense's job a lot more challenging. Especially at the linebacker level.

No longer can the linebacker just simply read run or pass based on the way the quarterback drops or turns to hand off, but they have to determine:

  • Is the quarterback giving the ball to the runner?
  • If the quarterback kept it, is he looking to run?
  • If he's going to pass, where's the ball going?

All of that has to be decided within one to two seconds of the play. A linebacker is taught to read and react to the play as quickly as possible, which can create a significant advantage for the offense if the linebacker reads wrong.

The whole point of the read-option and the RPO is to create a lose-lose situation for the defense.

No matter what they do, it's a wrong choice.

If they read pass and drop into coverage, the ball carrier gets an advantage as he begins to go downhill. If the linebacker reads run and begins to attack the line of scrimmage, the QB pulls it and throws it to the spot vacated by the linebacker.

Having linebackers with elite athleticism, range, and coverage ability, like the Dallas Cowboys do in Sean Lee and potentially Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, will help them minimize the damage potential as they face increasing RPO usage.

Even if we talk about standard run and pass play calls, the defense was a much better unit when Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens were in the game. Points per game, rushing yards per game, and passing yards per game were all lower when those two were available. When the team had to rely on Jaylon Smith and Damien Wilson as their top two linebackers, they were lit up like a pinball machine.

The Cowboys hope Jaylon Smith can return to the All-American type of player he was with Notre Dame, but if he doesn't, Vander Esch is a good insurance policy for 2019.

The Boise State product is good in the run game, but he excels in the passing game when he drops into coverage.

Having three linebackers that can play the run and pass like these three potentially can will be a huge key to the Dallas Cowboys success on defense in 2018. They will make life a lot easier for the rest of the defense if they are able to maintain play discipline against the read-option and the run-pass option.

Having these three linebackers and their dual-threat ability in the run and pass game will help the Dallas Cowboys be in far less lose-lose situations than they might otherwise be. And for the Dallas Cowboys to achieve the goals the hope to achieve, namely a sixth Lombardi Trophy, these three will be the key to that success.



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Star Blog

Can TE Rico Gathers be More Than a Just Receiving Threat?

Brian Martin

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Rico Gathers, Rams

Rico Gathers is trying to follow in the footsteps of Tony Gonzales, Antonio Gates, and Jimmy Graham as someone who has successfully made the transition from college basketball player to tight end in the NFL. Unfortunately, that transition hasn't gone quite as smoothly as he probably would've hoped.

To date, Gathers really hasn't been able to put a lot on tape. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad with the Dallas Cowboys, but did gain some valuable experience working with Tony Romo. Last year he was just beginning to show what kind of threat he could be in the passing game when he unfortunately sustained a concussion in practice, pretty much ending his season.

As you can imagine, Rico Gathers still has a lot to prove heading into the 2018 season. In no way is his roster spot guaranteed right now. He may still be the most talented and physically gifted TE on the Cowboys roster, but that will only get him so far.

I for one think Gathers can be a tremendous threat in the passing game. I think the flashes we saw in preseason a year ago are exactly the kind of weapon he can turn into for Dak Prescott. He is even working a route running guru, David Robinson, to become even better in the passing game. But, we all know the Cowboys coaching staff demands a lot more from their tight ends.

Rico Gathers, Dalton Schultz

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

In the Cowboys offensive scheme, the tight end is an important position. They have to be able to block in several different areas depending on the formation, especially at the point of attack as an in-line blocker, sometimes being left one on one against a defensive end. That means they have to be assignment sound pre and post snap, with the ability to make the right adjustments in a split second.

For Rico Gathers, this is the area of his game holding him back the most right now. We all know what kind of threat he can be in the passing game, but the Cowboys coaching staff wants someone they can trust to leave on the field down after down. This is where Gathers will have to prove himself the remainder of the offseason.

The Dallas Cowboys knew Rico Gathers was a developmental prospect when they drafted him in the sixth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft. They didn't know how long it would take for him to be be able to contribute, but that time may be running out. Year 3 could be his last chance to prove himself in Dallas.

Gathers is a mismatch player in the passing game against smaller defensive backs, but that might not be enough for the Cowboys coaching staff to keep him around. I would personally get him involved in the receiving game, especially with all the new faces Prescott will be throwing to this season, but unfortunately I'm not making those decisions.

Do you think Rico Gathers is more than just a passing game threat?



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Tony Romo Documentary in the Works

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - 5 Most Heartbreaking Losses Of The Tony Romo Era

If you've missed seeing Tony Romo on the field, an upcoming documentary may be the cure. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback is reportedly the subject of a film chronicling his football career going all the way back to high school.

"Now or Never" will tell Romo's incredible story, going from undrafted to one of the top passers in the history of the Cowboys' storied franchise. It's being produced by a Texas-based company run by Christian Hanna (no known relation to James).

According to an article from MyRacineCounty.com, Romo's hometown newspaper, the tale of Tony's football career will be told going back to his days at Burlington High School in Wisconsin. It will follow him to Eastern Illinois University, the same QB hotbed that more recently produced Jimmy Garoppolo.

But what most of us will want to relive is Tony's amazing NFL career, which stands out among the most unexpected rises to stardom of any player in league history.

Romo, who was an undrafted free agent signed by the Cowboys in 2003, didn't play in a game for three seasons. He rose the QB depth chart through practice and preseason play, eventually becoming the backup and earning the respect of then-coach Bill Parcells.

 - Tony Romo, #9

Former Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo

In Week 7 of 2006, Parcells pulled struggling starter Drew Bledsoe at halftime and went with his intriguing young prospect. Tony's first pass in the NFL was one to forget; an interception.

About a decade later, Romo would retire as the Cowboys' all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He currently ranks fourth all-time in NFL history for passer rating.

Tony's career never saw the playoff and Super Bowl success of predecessors Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, but he remains a beloved figure in team history. The controversial end to his football career, losing his job to rookie phenom Dak Prescott in 2016, created a major rift among Cowboys fans.

While no longer playing, Romo remains one of the hottest names in football. His charisma and football acumen have him in a featured role with CBS Broadcasting.

From obscurity to "anointing oil" to one of the most discussed names in sports, Tony Romo's story is fascinating. This documentary crew picked a great subject, and we look forward to enjoying their work and revisiting the Romo Era once the film is released.



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