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.
Report: Cowboys’ Travis Frederick Ready for Start of Training Camp
With the Dallas Cowboys opening training camp with their first practice on Saturday, July 27th in Oxnard, California, a lot of information is coming out regarding who will be available when they report.
It was already reported that Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones will be placed on the physically unable to practice (P.U.P.) list to start training camp. Now, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network is reporting that Travis Frederick will avoid the Non-Football Injury list (NFI) and be ready to report for the starting of training camp.
Very good news for the #Cowboys: All-Pro C Travis Frederick, who dealt with Guillain-Barré syndrome last year, is expected to be active for the start of training camp. He avoids NFI and is ready to go.
Frederick has been out of action for a year after being diagnosed with Guillen-Barre Syndrome during last year's training camp. Guillen-Barre is a disorder that can affect the peripheral neurological system. Basically, the neurological system that doesn't consist of the brain and the spinal cord, which is the central nervous system.
There was talk that Frederick might have been ready to go for the playoffs at the end of last season, but the team continued to hold him out in order to get him back 100% for 2019. It looks like the time has come for Frederick to regain his spot as the leader and lynch-pin of the offensive line.
While Joe Looney was effective in 2018, there's no doubt the team suffered a drop off from All-Pro Travis Frederick to career backup Looney. Getting Frederick back in the middle of the offensive line is the most significant upgrade the Dallas Cowboys could have made this offseason on either side of the football.
Frederick is one of the smartest players on the team and does a lot for Dak Prescott and the offensive line in terms of setting protections. For Dak Prescott, he'll be able to have a little more faith that the front of his pocket will hold up if he needs to step up to make a throw. Frederick will also help Connor Williams as the two work combo blocks against opposing interior defenders. Frederick will immediately improve the Dallas Cowboys red zone offense as they'll be able to get more of a push on the interior.
It was almost expected that this would be the case, but hearing it for certain should give the Dallas Cowboys and their fans a lot of optimism for what's to come in 2019. Travis Frederick returning to the starting lineup is a huge addition for a Dallas Cowboys offense that looks ready to roll in 2019.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Cornerback
The Dallas Cowboys have spent a lot of draft picks the last few years to build up their cornerbacks group. There is a lot of potential heading into 2019, but Dallas needs these young players to take the next step if they want to compete for a championship. This weekend's start to training camp will be an important part of the process.
Dallas' best move to help the cornerback position was switching Byron Jones back there in 2018 after a few seasons at safety. Jones went to his first Pro Bowl and has positioned himself for a big contract extension.
Byron is currently set to play 2019 on his fifth-year option of $6.27 million, which is a steal for a CB of his caliber. Whether or not the Cowboys allow him to enter unrestricted free agency next year, or get a new deal signed, will be something to watch for throughout the upcoming season.
Jones' future may be in question, but we at least know he'll be the team's top corner this season. None of the other Dallas CBs can enjoy that same certainty in 2019, as depth chart positioning and job security are all in flux right now.
Here is the current CB depth chart headed into training camp:
- Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie
- Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis
- Michael Jackson, Donovan Olumba
- C.J. Goodwin, Chris Westry
- Treston Decoud
Will this list hold as is, or will we some shifting over the five weeks of training camp and preseason?
The battle for snaps between Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis will be an intriguing ongoing storyline. Awuzie was the starter last year, and will hopefully make a big developmental leap in his third year.
But Anthony Brown has proven himself a capable player despite being just a 6th-round pick in 2016. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Brown will certainly be pushing for a significant role this season to hopefully help his free agent marketability in 2020.
If things go like they did last year, both Awuzie and Brown will get plenty of playing time. The true enigma of this bunch is Jourdan Lewis, who is hoping to be more than just the number-four CB in 2019.
Though he was drafted a round later than Awuzie in 2017, Lewis was generally considered the superior talent by most draft analysts. He fell due to a domestic violence accusation a month before the draft for which he was eventually found not guilty.
Jourdan was looking good at the end of his rookie season, but the arrival of Kris Richard as Defensive Backs Coach last year seemed to cause a regression. Lewis only got in on a little over 18% of the total defensive snaps in 2018, while the top three all had 67% or higher.
Despite his few opportunities, Lewis still had one of the biggest plays of the year with his interception that sealed Dallas' stunning upset over the New Orleans Saints. His potential has been noted, with Coach Richard even calling him an "exception" to his general preference for bigger, stronger cornerbacks.
But even if the team likes Jourdan, can he beat Awuzie or Brown? Could he perhaps have more value in a trade, with two years left on that rookie deal, to a team in greater need at CB?
The idea of moving Lewis, which existed prior to the draft, gained steam when Dallas used a 5th-round pick this year acquire CB Michael Jackson out of Miami. He fits that prototypical build at corner, and perhaps the Cowboys are hoping he can show enough early to provide an adequate replacement if they want to trade Jourdan.
If not Jackson, prospect Donovan Olumba is another option. He nearly made the 53 last year but got squeezed out when Dallas only kept four cornerbacks. After a year on the practice squad, Olumba is back and could be ready for a roster spot.
Veteran C.J. Goodwin has bounced around the NFL since 2014 but has some real-game experience. If the young guys aren't in a position to be game-day active, perhaps he would be the best option. Dallas added him in the middle of the 2018 season and he was helping on special teams and as a reserve corner at the end of the year.
Undrafted rookie Chris Westry, listed at 6'4", is another intriguing player to watch in camp. That rare size is something you can't teach, and hopefully Richard can develop Westry enough to get something out of the physical gifts.
This should be a fun 2019 training camp at cornerback, with competition potentially at every spot on the depth chart except the very top. And while secure at number-one, even Byron Jones has his own question marks around his long-term future in Dallas.
We'll start getting some answers in just four more days!
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OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS
Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence and CB Byron Jones to Start 2019 Camp on PUP
The Dallas Cowboys will be missing two of their defensive leaders when they open 2019 training camp this Saturday. Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones will both start camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List as they recover from offseason surgeries.
Lawrence, who got a new five-year contract in April, immediately underwent shoulder surgery once his deal was finalized. DeMarcus reportedly was waiting for contract negotiations to be completed before he had the procedure.
Jones had hip surgery in late May. He is playing 2019 on the fifth-year option from his original contract, and is no doubt hoping for his own long-term extension sometime in the near future.
Sources: DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones will open Cowboys camp on PUP and won't practice in California https://t.co/jzWV5FjBO6 via @sportsdaydfw
Neither Lawrence or Jones, who are both coming of Pro Bowl seasons in 2018, are expected to be absent once the regular season starts in September. But either participating in this year's training camp is doubtful, and even preseason appearances are in question right now.
With DeMarcus out at DE, newcomers like Robert Quinn and Kerry Hyder will get plenty of chances to show their stuff. It's also a nice opportunity for Taco Charlton, assuming he's recovered from his own offseason surgery, to get some work against the first-team offensive line.
No Byron at CB will give Jourdan Lewis a nice opportunity to work with the starters as well. He was likely stuck at the 4th spot behind Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown but should now get more time on the field and against the best competition.
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