As is typical for Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks, Dak Prescott has been the number one story surrounding the team all offseason. After an incredibly impressive start to his young career, Prescott struggled greatly down the stretch in 2017.
Now, the Cowboys have to decide if Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the future or not. And, of course, that will come down to his performance this upcoming season.
Prescott has played in four drives thus far in the 2018 preseason, clearly not a large enough sample size to draw any serious conclusions from. But in those four drives we have seen both reason for excitement, and some of the same causes for concern.
Let's jump into the film and analyze what Dak Prescott has done thus far.
Opening drive game 2. CIN brings 3rd down pressure and Dak immediately snaps his eyes outside and gets it out to Gallup. Think we're seeing some trust forming there https://t.co/Iz46yKrZ4A
Hey, let's start with the good. Dak Prescott and rookie wide out Michael Gallup are developing quite the rapport thus far during the preseason, and that continued during last week's loss to Cincinnati. On their opening drive of the game the Cowboys faced a 3rd down and three.
They came out in an empty set, but recognizing the cover one blitz look, Prescott brought in Rod Smith to help pass protect. Smith does a nice job of picking up the free blitzer, but Prescott's trust in Gallup shines through here.
Prescott immediately snaps his eyes down to Gallup and finds him on the quick slant. Clearly, he trusts Gallup to get a clean release and beat man coverage here, and his trust is rewarded with a completion and a first down.
3rd and 10. Gallup's motion indicates man coverage, MIKE floats outside with Rod Smith and Dak takes it for a first down. Benefits of a mobile QB, play 11 on 11 and make the defense wrong. https://t.co/n5XsQqVF7K
One of the things which makes Dak Prescott so valuable is his mobility. While he may not have "Tony Romo improvisation" levels, his athleticism and mobility are even more impressive. Prescott's feet force the defense to play 11 on 11, and give him the chance to make them wrong: even when they are initially "right."
On this third down and long Prescott shows this ability off. Once again he recognizes the cover one, man coverage look. The 49ers middle linebacker is locked up with Rod Smith, and as soon as he swings out to the right, the defender is forced to float outside of the tackle box.
Once that backer flips his hips and gets outside, Prescott turns it up and runs for the first down. Plays like this will force defenses to utilize a spy or play zone coverage, which the Cowboys offense can then exploit. It's imperative for Prescott to use his legs more this season, especially on key downs like this one.
not much to gif from this game but here's one of the better deep balls we've seen Dak throw in quite some time. https://t.co/6ECvAGilka
Later on in that preseason opener, Dak Prescott threw his first touchdown of the season. And, ironically, it was on a throw many have questioned if he can even make. The 49ers come out in a single high safety look with man coverage on the boundary.
Only rushing four, Prescott knows he can trust his protection and be patient for the downfield routes to develop. After the snap his eyes quickly snap to the near side, looking at the near-side slot receiver's out route.
Prescott quickly works back to the other side of the field, though, and trusts Michael Gallup to beat man coverage on his fly route. With how quickly Prescott worked back to Gallup, it's fair to assume that was his plan all along, and the initial look underneath was an attempt to freeze the MOF safety.
Prescott then delivers one of the better deep balls we've seen from him for an easy touchdown.
Dak missed Jarwin twice during the 1st two drives. First wide outside the numbers then here high. Good coverage but this could've been dangerous with 22 over the top. https://t.co/4MFIdGBXXL
Now let's get into some of the not-so-good. On the Cowboys first scoring drive a week ago, Prescott missed Blake Jarwin for what could've been a huge completion. He actually missed Jarwin on back-to-back drives. First, he missed wide on a curl route. Then, on this play, he missed high after scrambling a bit.
Prescott initially looked down the field on the near-side, but the Bengals executed their cover three look successfully. He then dropped his eyes underneath, looking to dump it off to Rod Smith. He thinks better of it, though, when he notices the flat defender sitting right there ready to meet Smith for next to no gain.
I like how Prescott looked to extend the play and try to create something big, but he would've been better off taking off and running rather than trying to force it to Blake Jarwin. Prescott has the angle on the defender tasked with defending the far flat, and could've come up with a big gain had he taken off with it. Due to the inaccurate throw, however, this could've been picked off.
Bengals stay home on the play action roll out and he shoulda thrown this one into the stands https://t.co/T85T0n8Vys
Ironically, the two negative plays I've highlighted for this post include Dak trying to do too much. He's often criticized for being too conservative or dumping the ball off too quickly, but on these plays he should've taken the conservative route.
The Bengals stayed home on the Cowboys typical play action roll out here, forcing Dak to keep extending and waiting for something to come open. Clearly, nothing came open, but he tried to force the ball anyway. Prescott trusted Gallup a little too much here, and was lucky that this was only an incompletion.
Overall, despite some negatives, Dak Prescott has had a successful preseason thus far. He's been willing to use his feet, has developed some trust with rookie Michael Gallup, and has been getting the ball to Rod Smith out of the backfield effectively. While his yards-per-attempt numbers are rather low, this has more to do with play design and philosophy than it does Dak not being "willing" to create the big play.
Still, he and this offense are going to need to create explosive plays through the air if they expect to win anything meaningful going forward. Hopefully he can continue to develop a connection with these young receivers, and the offense can get back to where it was in 2016.
Cowboys Defense So Far So Good as Seahawks Up Next
Dallas may only be 1-1 on the season, but the Cowboys are officially tied for first-place in the NFC East, and fresh off a workmanlike victory over divisional rivals, the New York Giants. It was a game they should have won, and did win, but the takeaways so early in the season are that, although the offense has not clicked on all cylinders, the defense is getting high praise.
The Cowboys sacked New York’s Eli Manning six times and limited the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Saquon Barkley, to a mere 28 yards rushing. It was also a night in which Dak Prescott not only out-gained Barkley by 17 yards on the ground, but torched the Giants’ secondary on a 64-yard touchdown strike to Tavon Austin which proved New York’s Safety Landon Collins wrong when leading up to this game he remarked that the key to a Giants’ victory would be getting Prescott to throw. When Prescott was made aware of the comment in a midweek interview he replied, "…challenge accepted," and the third-year veteran made good on his word leading to the 20-13 victory.
However, Prescott ended the night with just 160 yards passing yet the ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 showed no signs of rearing its head as Prescott moved seamlessly in the pocket and ran the ball well.
As we move ahead to the Cowboys meeting in Seattle, we take a quick check over to one of the most reputable online sportsbooks in the industry - Intertops according to the reviews - where we can monitor the line on this pivotal NFC clash as the week progresses.
Seattle boasts a talented quarterback of their own in Russell Wilson but one who will find the sledding tough if the Dallas defense continues to shut down All-World wide outs like Odell Beckham Jr. and contain future rushing stars like Saquon Barkley. Outside of Wilson, Seattle is not loaded offensively, with their biggest target, Doug Baldwin, ailing with a knee injury and a backfield which consists of two young rushers in second-year man Chris Carson and a first-round rookie in Rashaad Penny who dealt with nagging injuries throughout the preseason and looked unsettled in Seattle’s 27-24 loss to the Broncos.
The Cowboys defense has already proven its worth in Carolina with Cam Newton under center and again last week against New York. The unit is surrendering an average of 14 ½ points per game and is incorporating more blitz packages than we’ve come to expect.
The difference this year is that the players they have on defense are capable of getting to the quarterback quick enough so that the coverage linebackers and secondary aren’t alone on an island for too long. The one concern is the status of Linebacker Sean Lee, who checked out of the game in the fourth quarter Sunday night and brought to mind his hamstring issues of a year ago, but apparently it was in fact cramping, and not straining, of the hammy which allowed Lee to return.
The bottom line in terms of the Cowboys' upcoming matchup on Sunday afternoon is that they will get the Seahawks coming off a short week, as Seattle played on Monday night and should be relatively healthy for the contest.
Dak Prescott may not have the formidable offensive line that he has had in the past, nor a top-tier arsenal of receivers, but he does have the elusive Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and is capable of extricating himself from pressure situations when no target is available.
If the Dallas defense continues to play at the current level, it will not only be limiting the opposition on the scoreboard but putting its offense in good field position throughout. So check out Intertops, one of the most trusted and reputable online sportsbooks, to see where this line goes because a Dallas win and an ATS cover are just days away.
Taco Tuesday: Cowboys DE Taco Charlton Starting to Dominate?
There has been quite a bit of talk about what a bad decision it was for the Dallas Cowboys to draft Taco Charlton with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Nearly everybody wanted someone different, not a player that needed time to develop.
Well, fast forward a year later and it looks as if the Cowboys made the right decision.
Don't look now, but Defensive End Taco Charlton is starting to live up to that first-round pedigree. In the first two weeks of the 2018 season, Charlton has already looked like a much improved player from what we saw a season ago. Imagine that, a little bit of time to develop and he's turning into a solid player.
I know I may be getting a little bit ahead of myself, especially suggesting that he is starting to dominate, but I can't help myself. I'm that excited about how much he has improved in one offseason. I may be alone here, but I have high hopes he could turn into something special.
In 2017, Taco Charlton failed to start a single game for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie. That's not really what you want from your first-round draft pick. To makes matters worse, in 16 games he only registered 25 total tackles, four QB sacks, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. As you can imagine, it didn't sit well with most Cowboys fans.
Luckily, it looks as if Charlton's offseason in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program has paid off. Already in 2018 he has accumulated six total tackles, one QB sack, one pass defensed, and recovered a fumble. If he keeps this pace up, we could be looking at #97 reaching double-digit sacks this year.
Now, I wouldn't call what Taco Charlton has accomplished so far this season dominating, but he is proving to be a starting quality DE along the Cowboys defensive line. It's a unit that has looked really good in the first two weeks of the season and is expected to be even better once Randy Gregory and David Irving are able to return to the field.
In the meantime, the Dallas Cowboys are happy to get plays like this from Taco Charlton.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
This is a play Charlton is expected to make. He was left unblocked, but we've seen players left unblocked before not make the play. So, it may not be as impressive as some QB sacks. But, I'll take the routine tackle any day over someone trying to make a splash play and failing.
If you're looking for an impressive play from Taco Charlton, take a look at what he was able to do against Odell Beckham Jr. in the passing game.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
In case you're wondering, that's Taco Charlton in OBJ's hip pocket 15 yards down the field in pass coverage. It looks as if that's where Eli Manning was wanting to go with the ball, but tight coverage by the Cowboys, and Charlton, across the board ended up resulting in a QB sack.
If you don't find that impressive, I don't know what will. A 275 pound DE covering arguably the best and highest paid wide receiver down the field is almost unheard of. I would count that as impressive.
What do you think of Taco Charlton's play so far in 2018?
A Look Around The NFC East: Week 2
The usually competitive NFC East got off to a shaky start last week, with half the division winning their season opener and the other half falling short.
Now entering week 2, the Eagles and Redskins have a chance to begin to distance themselves from the loser of the Cowboys/Giants game, and both of those 0-1 teams are looking to "save" their season. Yes, that sounds dramatic, but a home loss within the division to fall to 0-2 could be debilitating for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward.
Regardless, let's go around the division and see what each team has on tap for this Sunday.
The defending champs opened up their 2018 campaign just as we expected: with a home victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta sort of gave that game away last Thursday night, but if the Eagles can stack Nick Foles-led wins on top of each other they'll put themselves in a great spot to win the East when Carson Wentz returns.
The Eagles will be on the road this week for the first time, traveling to Tampa Bay to play the 1-0 Buccaneers. The Bucs pulled the upset of the weekend last week, defeating New Orleans 48-40. It's hard to imagine that "Fitzmagic" continuing against the vaunted Eagles defense, though.
Philly is a three point road favorite against Tampa Bay this Sunday.
My "sleeper" team in the NFC East, and pick to finish second in the division, looked rather impressive in their week one drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals. Of course, Arizona isn't a very good team, and will probably be picking top 5 in the draft next April. Still, it was a good showing for the Redskins to open the season.
Washington got Adrian Peterson going on the ground for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown, and Chris Thompson helped keep them on schedule offensively as well. Washington hasn't been talked about much this offseason, but is sitting at 1-0 with a game against the 0-1 Colts on the horizon.
Washington is a 6 point favorite against Indianapolis this Sunday, and has a good chance of starting 2-0 on the year.
New York Giants
Though we are just one week into the 2018 regular season, an important matchup is brewing within the NFC East. After falling to 0-1 with a home loss in their season opener, the Giants will travel to Texas to face the Cowboys on Sunday night football this week.
With both teams sitting at 0-1, neither can afford to put themselves into a nearly-insurmountable hole with a second straight loss. Since the merger 90% of teams who fall to 0-2 fail to make the playoffs, and it would be back-to-back seasons of missing out for both the Cowboys and Giants.
New York is a three point road underdog on Sunday, and it seems like most of the football world is leaning towards them and their weapons coming away with the victory.
Either way, this game will have massive implications on the 2018 season.
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