While Dak Prescott has put up big numbers and won plenty of games during his run as the Cowboys' franchise quarterback, one knock on him has been being too reliant on the talent level of his receivers. If Prescott wants to earn the “elite” label from more of the football world, elevating his offense regardless of other personnel is a key next step.
This criticism of Dak is heavily based on the 2017-2018 seasons. As Dez Bryant and Jason Witten declined with age and then left the team completely, Dallas' offense struggled to produce. There were other factors, such as Ezekiel Elliott's suspension and Travis Frederick's health issues, but the lack of firepower in the passing game was evident.
This led to the midseason trade for Amari Cooper in 2018. While it was the right move for uncorking the offense, it also left Prescott with this stigma of not being able to do more with the receivers he had.
Part of the issue for Dak was the work of his predecessor. Tony Romo helped make undrafted Miles Austin a Pro Bowler and got several good years out of the marginally talented Patrick Crayton. In 2011, Romo was given a lot of credit for the one-hit-wonder of Laurent Robinson, who never produced much before or after his single season in Dallas.
Prescott probably doesn't get enough credit for his accomplishments in this regard. Cole Beasley, also undrafted, went from cult favorite to household name once Dak arrived in 2016. Dalton Schultz, just a 4th-round pick, has been one of the league's most-productive tight ends the last two seasons. Cedrick Wilson has stepped up and performed when the starting receivers have missed time.
Still, the memory of 2017-2018 hangs over Dak and has been a big topic this offseason. With Cooper now in Cleveland and fear that Michael Gallup won't be ready for Week One, many are reasonably concerned about how the offense will function early this year. Even free agent James Washington, perhaps this year's version of Laurent Robinson, will now miss time with a foot injury.
The risk is mitigated by CeeDee Lamb, now entering his third year and poised for a breakout. Schultz is also still around, playing for his next contract, and Gallup should be back sooner than later. The group is already stronger than when it was just Beasley, Williams, and a bunch of castoffs from around the league in early 2018.
While he still has some premier weapons, Prescott could quickly find himself leaning on the likes of rookie Jalent Tolbert, inexperienced Simi Fehoko, or longtime special teamer Noah Brown as a major part of the passing game. Naturally, fans are concerned about what this means given the last time Dallas was low on talent at receiver.
Dak Prescott can't afford to look overly dependent on his receiving talent in 2022 if he wants to silence critics and establish his true worth as an NFL quarterback. With lesser depth at WR than he's enjoyed the last two years, Dak's opportunity to prove himself may not be far away.