So much of what teams do when it comes to player evaluation is seeing what they've done in order to project where they might go as a player, especially as they get ready to pay players. New contracts get handed out not only for what a player has accomplished in their career but also for what the team thinks they will accomplish in the future. Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott is no different.
Last offseason we took a stab at projecting Dak Prescott's 2018.
After looking at the entire roster, accounting for the additions and subtractions, this is what I came to for Prescott's 2018 season.
"Goes 325/490 for 3,776 yards and 27 touchdowns, 50 carries for 300 yards, 8 rushing touchdowns, and 6 interceptions with a passer rating of 102."
Here's Dak Prescott's first three seasons, and if you look at 2018, you'll see I wasn't far off aside from passing touchdowns and passer rating.
On the rushing side of things, Dak didn't quite reach the eight rushing touchdowns that I projected and it took him 25 more carries than I projected to get him to 305 rushing yards.
While his final numbers for the season were pretty close to my preseason projection, if you look at what he did after Amari Cooper came into the fold, for those nine games in the regular season, he far exceeded my projections.
His final nine games prorated over a 16 game season would put Prescott at 71% passing, 4,388 yard, 25 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and seven rushing touchdowns. Basically, it looks as though good Dak Prescott is back.
Prescott's career has had an up, down, up pattern through his first 48 games.
Where's Dak Been?
Recall his first 24 games or so were really good by NFL standards for quarterbacks until Tyron Smith went down with an injury and Chaz Green was forced into action in the Atlanta Falcons game. No quarterback could have played well with that kind of gaping hole on the left side of the offensive line.
That touchdown to interception ratio over his first 24 games is remarkable and the 102.4 passer rating is excellent for a rookie and second-year quarterback.
Unfortunately, from Atlanta in his second year to the Washington Redskins game in the middle of his third year, things didn't go according to plan. Over that 15 game span, the Dallas Cowboys were 7-8 as a team and Prescott's numbers took a nose dive.
Over this 16 game stretch, every statistic you could think of just went in the tank. His passer rating dropped more than 20 points. His touchdown to interception ration made Eli Manning look like a good quarterback. His completion percentage and yards per game were the lowest than at any other point of his career. It was a terrible stretch that had many of us wondering if the Cowboys were making a mistake going with Dak Prescott.
Even the first half of 2018, wasn't as bad as the last half of 2017. Prescott's passer rating over the last half of 2017 was only 74 and he completed only 62% of his passes while during the first half of 2018, Prescott had a passer rating of 87.4 while completing only 62% of his passes.
The second half of 2017 was marked by the Tyron Smith injury and the Ezekiel Elliott suspension. Though, I'd argue it was the injury that kept Tyron Smith out of action that had a greater impact on Dak Prescott's game. In the three games that Smith missed that season, the Dallas Cowboys went 1-2, averaging only seven points per game. Smith played in the Chargers game that the Cowboys only scored six points, but one could argue he may not have been fully healthy for that game.
In the four games that Ezekiel Elliott missed, but Tyron Smith played, the Dallas Cowboys went 3-1 and averaged 23.5 points per game.
Yes, Ezekiel Elliott matters to the offense, but I'd argue that Smith's absence had a greater impact on the effectiveness of the Cowboys offense than Elliott's.
In 2018, the Dallas Cowboys offense was inconsistent, yet again. This time, however, it wasn't because Elliott was missing, or that Tyron Smith was out. No, this time, the Dallas Cowboys couldn't get consistent play from their wide receiver group.
When the Dallas Cowboys made the move for Amari Cooper, the entire offense woke up from its year-long hibernation.
After Amari Cooper arrived, Dak Prescott saw his passer rating jump back up above 100. Go figure, having a legit threat on the outside actually helps a quarterback. No offense to Allen Hurns, rookie Michael Gallup, Deonte Thompson, Tavon Austin, Brice Butler, and whoever else they ran out there last season, but those guys weren't scaring anybody.
Amari Cooper's arrival opened up the offense for everyone to be more productive, most importantly Dak Prescott.
Cooper's ability to create separation, make contested catches, break tackles and take receptions for long gains took a lot of pressure off of a passing game that was living six to seven yards downfield. Cooper's presence brought out the best in Dak Prescott and has led to a lot of optimism for what Prescott could be in 2019.
Good Dak has completed on average 67.6% of his passes. Even though he had a down first half of last season, Prescott still completed 67.7% of his attempts, which was good for 10th in the NFL in 2018.
Prescott during his good stretches has had a passer rating of 102 or better. That's over the course of 33 games bookending the 15 game stretch where he and the offense struggled over the last half of 2017 and the first half of 2018.
It's interesting to note that after Amari Cooper came into the fold, Dak Prescott's rushing numbers dropped off a steep cliff. He went from averaging 5.7 yards per carry and 23 yards per game before Amari Cooper to 1.97 yards per carry and 7.7 yards per game after Amari Cooper. I don't know if Dak was making a concerted effort to stay in the pocket and not run as much or if teams figured out a way to take that aspect of Dak's game away.
Hopefully, in 2019, Dak returns to the effective runner that he is.
Where's Dak headed?
There is a lot to feel optimistic about heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season in the NFL. He's shown that he can be a good passer, maybe not a great passer in this league, but also has the work ethic and mental makeup to continue to make improvements in his passing ability.
With Jon Kitna installed as the Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach, Dak has an experienced voice in his ear that can help him fine-tune his mechanics and help him in game preparation. Having an experienced voice like Kitna in his ear in-game will also help Prescott better see what the defenses are trying to do to him as the game progresses, which will allow him to get the offense into better looks.
Kellen Moore's presence as the offensive coordinator means the offense won't look near as predictable as it had become under former Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. Moore's desire to use more pre-snap motion and a plethora of formations, he'll keep the defense off-balance and work to find mismatches for the offense.
Having Amari Cooper for the whole offseason allows Dak Prescott to get better acquainted with his number one receiver, which should make them more efficient in the passing game. Michael Gallup in year two will be a better receiver. If the playoff games against the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams are any indication, Gallup is an ascending player in this offense.
The offensive line will be better in 2019 because they'll have Travis Frederick back and Connor Williams will be a better and more consistent player from start to finish than he was in 2018. Even if they suffer an injury on the offensive line, they have really good depth and won't experience near the drop off in talent that they did in 2017.
For his career, Dak's averaging 226 yards per game. Through the good stretches of his career, he's averaging 241 yards per game. 15 yards may not seem like a big difference on a per game basis, but that's an extra first down per game and translates to another 240 yards over the course of a 16 game season.
As a runner, I think Dak returns to averaging about five yards per carry, and if schemed to run in some QB power or QB draw plays, he could be more effective in the running game. For his career, Dak's averaged six rushing touchdowns per season, literally having six rushing touchdowns every season he's been in the league. That's a trend that will continue in 2019.
He's been too effective of a red zone runner for Kellen Moore to pull back on that aspect of his game. If anything, Dak will be used more as a red zone threat and his touchdown numbers will go up this season.
Conclusion and Projection
Dak Prescott is an ascending player. He's weathered bad play in games and stretches during a season and bounced back with good games. He's been resilient for the Dallas Cowboys and should continue to improve upon what's already been a really good career through 48 games. The changes to the offensive coaching staff should only help to amplify what Prescott's already been able to accomplish in his first three seasons in the NFL.
Based on what we've seen out of Dak's good stretches of football and believing that that's the quarterback that the Dallas Cowboys are about to hand a big, fat contract too, here's what Dak Prescott's 2019 season will look like statistically.
Final Projections: 68% completion percentage for 3,800 yards, 26 touchdowns, six interceptions, 75 carries for 400 yards, and six rushing touchdowns.
John Williams from InsideTheStar.com takes you Inside the Quarterback room to breakdown the Dallas Cowboys signal callers heading into 2019.
Cowboys Start 2-0, Will They Finally Make it Count?
Starting an NFL season 2-0 has always drawn headlines, and especially when it's as rare as it is for the Dallas Cowboys. The question now is if, unlike in years passed, the Cowboys are finally going to build something special on that solid foundation.
Over the last two weeks, wins against the New York Giants and Washington Redskins have given Dallas the doubly-good record of 2-0 both overall and in the NFC East. While neither team is seen as a contender this year, division games tend to go off script and be more competitive than what's on paper.
The Cowboys have handled their business so far this year and in impressive fashion. Can they keep it up?
Before 2019, Dallas has only had a 2-0 start three other times in the last 20 seasons. All of them occurred during Tony Romo's run as starting quarterback, but only once with Jason Garrett as head coach.
The most recent was in 2015. Coming on the heels of an impressive 12-4 finish in 2014 and the agony of the Dez Bryant "no catch" call in the playoffs, big things were expected in Dallas that year.
But even though the Cowboys moved to 2-0 with a Week 2 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the loss of Tony Romo to a broken collarbone in that game torpedoed the season. Dallas had to trot out the feckless trifecta of Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassell, and Kellen Moore at QB the rest of the year and only won two more games.
The other 2-0 starts for Tony Romo's Cowboys came in consecutive years from 2007 to 2008, again at times when expectations were high for the team based on perceived talent and upward momentum. Neither ended the way we hoped.
Coming off Romo's ascension to starting QB in 2006 and a surprising run to the playoffs, the Cowboys were one of the NFL's best teams the following year. They posted a 13-3 record in the regular season and were the top seed in the NFC for the postseason.
But that beautiful run ended in bitter disappointment when Dallas, despite enjoying a bye week and home field advantage, got shocked by the visiting Giants in their first playoff game.
Much like the 2015 season, Dallas went into 2008 looking to take things to the next level after a tough postseason exit. They actually started the year 3-0 and were looking like contenders again.
But again like 2015, a Romo injury struck a major blow to the team's efforts. A finger injury suffered in a bad overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals would cause Tony to miss the next three games. Dallas went from 4-1 to 5-4 during that absence.
Unfortunately, Romo's return did not right the ship that year. The Cowboys would suffer a horrific 1-3 slide in December and ultimately finish 9-7 and just outside of the playoff bubble. The season was capped with a humiliating 44-6 loss in Philadelphia.
This brief history lesson may not mean much to some of you. After all, every season is its own story.
But while major media will bombard you with stats about how teams who start 2-0 typically have certain outcomes to their seasons, the Dallas Cowboys have often defied those odds. We've found creative ways to ruin hot starts and overcome bad ones over the last two decades.
What really strikes me about this 2019 season is the level of expectation and how it compares to 2007, 2008, and 2015. True, expectations are always high around here. But even the most objective onlookers couldn't help but have high hopes for the Cowboys in those years based on what had happened the previous season.
Between the strong play after adding Amari Cooper and advancing to the the second round of the 2018 playoffs, Dallas had good cause to expect big things this season. Their approach to offseason business, such as adding veterans Robert Quinn and Randall Cobb and locking up key players to lucrative business, suggested that the Cowboys were going all in to try and win a championship with this roster.
So far the hype has been validated. Say what you want about the opposition these first two weeks, but I go back to the well-established history of NFC East play and how the results have often defied logic. Funky things tend to happen in division games, but the Cowboys have handled their rivals so far as if they were any other NFL basement dwellers.
But while the 2-0 start and two divisions wins are a great base for the 2019 season, we have ample evidence of how askew things can go from here. Thankfully, Dak Prescott has already proven to have more durability than our last starting QB. But much like we saw in 2017, an injury at left tackle or some other key position can do its own damage.
While players like Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and others will likely have many more years to try and win in Dallas, this is still a critical year for Jason Garrett. Coaching on the final year of his contract, Garrett would likely not see a new one if the team has another collapse. How much disappointment the Jones family will stomach this year depends on the final result.
But if you've been following this team as long as I have, your feelings about this year likely transcend any single coach or player. You've been waiting almost 25 years now to see the Dallas Cowboys get back to glory, and right now feels like one of the best opportunities.
It's an exciting time, but that long wait also comes with a knowledge of past outcomes.
Hopefully, this year, the strong start is the beginning of something truly special.
Inside The Numbers: Everything Points to Cowboys Win vs Dolphins
On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys (2-0) welcome the Miami Dolphins (0-2) to AT&T Stadium for week three of the NFL season. This game features two teams that are trending in vastly different directions. The Dallas Cowboys are one of the hottest teams to start the season and look to be positioning themselves for a run at the Super Bowl. The Miami Dolphins are heading the other direction as one of the worst teams in the NFL and positioning themselves for an opportunity to land the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft next spring.
While there are things the Dallas Cowboys can clean up, this game has the makings of a blowout at home against a Dolphins team that has allowed 102 points in their first two games.
The Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins have only played 14 times in the course of their history, with each winning seven of those contests. The Cowboys are 2-0 in the Jason Garrett era against the Dolphins with the last win coming in November of 2015.
That win in 2015 would be the last time that Tony Romo would start and win a game for the Dallas Cowboys. The next week against the Carolina Panthers, Romo would be lost for the season.
Though the NFL prides itself as an "any given Sunday" league because of the parity between teams, this is one of those games that has a Dallas Cowboys blowout win written all over it.
With 66 points scored in two games, the Dallas Cowboys currently rank sixth in the NFL in points for. The top two teams in the league, the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots have each had a shot at the Dolphins. The Ravens scored 59 points in week one and the Patriots scored 43 in week two.
It stands to reason with Reshad Jones ruled out of Sunday's contest and Minkah Fitzpatrick now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers that the Dallas Cowboys have a shot to score 40 points in this game. There's no reason to believe the Cowboys won't at least hit their 33 points per game average through the first two games of the season. Anything less than that would be the result of them taking their foot off the gas after generating a decent-sized lead.
On the flip side, the Dolphins have only scored 10 points in 2019. That was back in week one against the Ravens. In week two, they were shut out by the Patriots, which led to a change at the quarterback position. Josh Rosen will now be starting for the Dolphins, but their problems go beyond quarterback play, though it hasn't been good either.
Offensive Success Rate
The Miami Dolphins have run the fewest plays in the league and have the worst yards per play average in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys average 7.6 yards per play, which is the best average in the league.
The Miami Dolphins have a league-worst offensive success rate of just 31%, per Sharp Football Stats. The league average success rate is 47%. Sharp Football Stats defines a successful play as one that gains at least "40% of yards-to-go on first down, 60% of yards-to-go on second down and 100% of yards-to-go on third or fourth down."
The Dallas Cowboys success rate of 57% is tied for first in the NFL through two weeks with the New England Patriots.
The Dolphins are going to have a really difficult time keeping up with the offensive efficiency of the Dallas Cowboys.
Going into week two, the Miami Dolphins have been very susceptible to the deep passing game. Now with 2018 first-round draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick off to Pittsburgh in a trade earlier this week, the Dolphins secondary just became even more suspect. In the first two weeks of the season, the Miami Dolphins have allowed Lamar Jackson and Tom Brady to complete 5 of 7 passes beyond 20 yards downfield for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
In week one of the season, Lamar Jackson averaged 16.2 yards per attempt on 20 attempts. 16.2!!! That's an insane number. Tom Brady, in week two, only averaged 9.4 yards per attempt against the Dolphins. That's also a really good number but was only good for fourth in the NFL in week two.
Under Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore the Dallas Cowboys haven't been shy about taking shots down the field in the passing game. Through two weeks, Dak Prescott's completed six passes beyond 20 yards downfield and has an adjusted completion percentage of 87.5%. He's been incredibly accurate throwing the ball deep and should have opportunities for more big plays against the 0-2 Dolphins.
Heading to week three, the Miami Dolphins have allowed the most rushing yards per game of any team in the NFL. Now some of that is due to getting behind really quickly and by a large number against the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots. Though they've allowed a lot of yards, they've also allowed the most first downs by rush in the NFL with 21.
This bodes extremely well for a Dallas Cowboys offense that was able to build big leads against the New York Giants and Washington Redskins over the first couple of weeks. Those big leads in the second half allowed Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line to make their mark with the running game and grind out the clock.
Per Warren Sharp Football Stats, the Baltimore Ravens had a 54% rushing success rate against the Dolphins in week one. In week two, the New England Patriots had a rushing success rate of 60%. Both weeks were well above the average rushing success rate around the NFL.
Though the Dallas Cowboys rushing success rate is right at the league average of 47%, they're averaging 4.7 yards per carry and should see their success rate climb in week three against the Dolphins.
Among quarterbacks with at least 20 dropbacks in 2019, both newly named starter Josh Rosen and former starter Ryan Fitzpatrick rank in the top six of the most frequently pressured quarterbacks in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. Their combined pressure rate of 44% would be the third most pressured in the NFL.
The 10 sacks between the two quarterbacks would tie for first in the NFL with Houston Texans Quarterback DeShaun Watson (who led the NFL in sacks last season.
Under pressure, Josh Rosen has a completion percentage of just 12.5% and he's thrown two interceptions. That's the worst completion percentage among quarterbacks with at least 20 dropbacks per PFF. Rosen has a passer rating of zero when pressured.
This doesn't bode well for the Miami Dolphins who will have to face DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn this week. An offensive line that has a lot of problems keeping the quarterback upright isn't going to be able to hold up against these two. If the Dolphins attempt to provide help on the edges, it will create opportunities for Maliek Collins and the rest of the interior defensive line.
This bodes well for a defense that has played well but hasn't looked like the dominant force many thought they'd be in the 2019 season. Facing the hapless Miami Dolphins, the Cowboys look like a team that's about to feast.
For the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott has only been sacked one time. He's getting the ball out much quicker in 2019 than he was in 2018. In 2019, Dak Prescott has the sixth-fastest time to attempt at 2.33 seconds per Pro Football Focus among quarterbacks with at least 25 dropbacks. In 2018, Prescott had the 10th slowest time at 2.66 seconds. Per Pro Football Focus, Prescott is the least pressured quarterback in the NFL at this point of the season. He's only been pressured on 15.4% of his dropbacks.
Dak Prescott is making quicker decisions after the snap in 2019 because he has a greater understanding of what he's seeing before the snap. The Cowboys offense allows him to get a read of the defense with their use of pre-snap motion, which then allows Dak to know where he wants to go with the ball, once he's confirmed the coverage after the snap. This allows for Prescott to get rid of the ball much faster than he has in the past, which is why he's not getting pressured as much. Of course it helps that the offensive line is playing better to start the 2019 season than it was a year ago.
I don't see a way that the Miami Dolphins are going to be able to create enough consistent pressure to affect Prescott in the pocket. This week looks like another big game for Prescott and the passing offense.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Dallas Cowboys will win this game. With the betting line set at 21 points, it would be a tremendous upset if the Cowboys didn't walk away with the W. Everything points to the Cowboys putting up their third double-digit win of the season and should be able to walk to another 30 point game for the offense. The Miami Dolphins are in tank mode and won't be able to put up much of a fight. When teams tank, it can kill morale and after trading two of their former first-round picks in Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick, it's obvious that the Dolphins are looking to the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Dallas Cowboys win this game in a rout and the offensive stars continue their excellent start to the season. The defense gets a couple of takeaways and begins to hit their stride in the sack department with the return of Robert Quinn.
Dallas Cowboys 41 - Miami Dolphins 9
Cowboys’ Trysten Hill to Make Regular Season Debut vs Dolphins?
A lot has been made of the Dallas Cowboys' decision to make 2019 second-round pick Trysten Hill inactive for the first two games of the regular season. With Taco Charlton also being inactive, people attempted to compare the two to make broad generalizations about Hill's present and future in the NFL. The problem is these two are vastly different players in different situations.
Speaking to 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Friday, Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones talked about where Trysten Hill was in his development and ability. It sounds as if Hill is ready to make his regular-season debut for the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
Trysten Hill will make his NFL debut Sunday vs. Miami. Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on @1053thefan: "He's ready to go. It's time for him to go. Rod's fired up about what he can bring to the table here. He's had a really good week of practice.
With Antwaun Woods and Tyrone Crawford likely out for this game, the Dallas Cowboys could use some help on the interior defensive line. Christian Covington and Maliek Collins are the only true defensive tackles set to be active for the Cowboys, which makes Hill's debut a foregone conclusion. With Crawford and Woods dealing with injuries Hill will have the opportunity to play a lot against a Miami Dolphins offensive line that has allowed 10 sacks in their first two games.
Crawford and Woods' absences means the Dallas Cowboys will have around 40-50 snaps to be distributed to the rest of the defensive line. Christian Covington will get the first shot to play the 1-technique defensive tackle. Kerry Hyder and Joe Jackson will get some of those Tyrone Crawford snaps since they can play both on the interior and on the edge like Crawford can.
There will be opportunities for Hill, especially if the Dallas Cowboys can get out to a big lead. If he's active, which all signs indicate he will be, then the Cowboys' coaching staff will use this game to get Hill as much experience as possible.
Trysten Hill is a player that Rod Marinelli and even Kris Richard are really excited about. They believe that he has what it takes to be an elite defensive tackle in the NFL, he just needs to refine certain aspects of his game. Hill has elite quickness and get off on the snap. He's very good at getting penetration and causing disruption in the backfield. He needs to work on his technique and playing with better leverage when engaged with blockers, but the tools and the effort are there for Marinelli to turn him into the dominant 3-technique defensive tackle that they've been looking for.
Facing the Miami Dolphins on Sunday will is an excellent opportunity for Trysten Hill to get some experience and earn opportunities to be on the gameday roster in the future.
Trysten Hill has the skills to be a force for the Dallas Cowboys. With the depth that the Cowboys have along the defensive line, it's not always possible to bring everyone you have to the gameday roster. With injuries and earned opportunities, the time has come for Trysten Hill to get an opportunity to show his skills in the regular season. That's a good thing for the Dallas Cowboys. Not so much for Josh Rosen and the Miami Dolphins.
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