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.
Without players like Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith around him, Prescott appeared to hit a wall, and he never really recovered the rest of the season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.