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Great Expectations: How Can Dak Prescott Improve from 2016?

John Williams

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Dak Prescott

As the 2017 NFL season draws near, the Dallas Cowboys will be increasingly scrutinized by fans and the media. This article is the first installment of a series in which I will set out some realistic expectations for various Cowboys players.

The first player up is the face of the franchise, the newest starting quarterback to wear the Dallas Cowboys star on his helmet; Dak Prescott.

Dallas Cowboys 2017-18 Schedule: Game Predictions For Entire Season 15

Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott #4 (Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports)

What a Rush!

Rushed into action due to injuries for the incumbent starter, Tony Romo, and first backup QB, Kellen Moore, Dak Prescott won 2016 NFL Rookie of the Year honors and turned in a rookie season for the ages.

Prescott tied Ben Roethlisberger's NFL record for wins by a rookie quarterback with 13.

His quarterback rating was third in the NFL in 2016, behind Tom Brady and Matt Ryan -- you know, the guys who played in the Super Bowl last year. Prescott was just ahead of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, two guys who will likely have their own gold jackets and shrines in Canton within the next decade. Dak's quarterback rating (QBR) of 104.9 set a new rookie record, besting Robert Griffin III's 2012 season.

He played with a poise that is uncommon for rookies in this league, and the determination to successfully lead the Cowboys to several comeback victories.

What he displayed in the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers is something that should excite Dallas Cowboys fans around the world.

Getting down 25-3 early to the Packers, Dak Prescott was able to rally the team and slowly chip away at the lead. They were eventually able to tie the game and, if not for an epic Jared Cook catch that will be a feature in Aaron Rodgers' Hall of Fame highlight video, your Dallas Cowboys would have had a shot in overtime.

But the past is the past.

It's behind us.

So What do we Have to Look Forward to in Year Two?

The games in which Dak Prescott struggled most were against the New York Giants -- both losses, the Philadelphia overtime win, and the Minnesota Vikings win. In both losses to New York, Prescott had them close enough to win. It wasn't great play by him, but Dallas was there with a chance to win in the final few minutes of each game.

Against the Eagles and the Vikings, he and the offense started off slow. But as the game went on, Prescott was able to make big plays to help the team shrug off the slow start and come away with a victory.

Throughout the season, he showed he can make adjustments, battle back from slow starts, and have his team in position to win the game.

Dak Prescott seems to be a natural leader who has already won over the locker room.

The Encore

Since year one was such an overwhelming success for Dak Prescott, we have to ask: just how high is his ceiling in year two?

Whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of the "sophomore slump" narrative.

Yes, defenses have more tape on Prescott entering his second season. But in turn, Prescott has more tape too, tape of himself against NFL competition and tape on that NFL competition. Prescott knows what needs to improve in his second season. And if 2016 is any evidence, we got a glimpse of the kind of work ethic and commitment he has.

I don't foresee a drop in performance from Dak. He was incredibly efficient and seemed to move the team down the field at will.

La'el Collins, Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, Dak Prescott

A Statistical Jump?

Statistically, he was really good.

He put up a passer rating of 104.9, threw for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns, only four interceptions, and he also ran for 282 yards and six touchdowns. I don't anticipate much, if any decline statistically for Prescott in his second year, and here's why...

The Dallas Cowboys are a run-first team.

They are one of the few whose goal at the outset of every game is to get the run game established. This allows them to control time of possession, get a lead, and then use the run game to keep it.

This offense caps Dak Prescott's passing output a bit.

It's definitely possible the numbers see an increase, if only because he will likely play in all 16 games in 2017 (remember he only played a drive in the season finale).

Remember that Tony Romo also played 15 games in a run-first offense -- in 2014 -- and had just over 3,700 passing yards. Romo threw for more touchdowns (34) than Prescott (23), but if you include Prescott's rushing touchdowns, his 29 total touchdowns wasn't far behind Romo's total.

Win Total

Because Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys earned a first-place schedule for 2017, there's a good chance they don't see a 13-3 finish this season.

Vegas sports book, Westgate Superbook, has Dallas set at 9.5 wins for this season.

If I were a betting man, I'd take the over.

I do think that nine wins is a solid floor for a team that looks to be getting better despite several key offseason departures. While nine wins is the floor, I think that 12 wins is the ceiling, which would be a good season by anyone's standards.

3 Reasons Why QB Dak Prescott Will Thrive In 2017

QB Dak Prescott #4 (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Where Can He Improve His Game?

Inside The Star Staff Writer Brian Martin described three reasons why Dak Prescott will thrive in 2017. In addition to that, Prescott will improve because he has a few areas with room for improvement.

  1. First, Prescott showed a lack of awareness at times when facing pressure coming from the right side. He was very good at sensing pressure from his blind side, but struggled from the front side pressure (which is weird, should be the opposite). A full offseason to review 2016 film will allow him to work with quarterback coach Wade Wilson to detect that pressure with better efficiency.
  2. Secondly, as the season wore on, the team gave Prescott more freedom to use his legs. While I would prefer not to see many designed runs for the quarterback, such as they like to do in Carolina, I would like to see Dak scramble for yards when nothing is available down field.
  3. The final thing that he can improve on is his accuracy. Don't get me wrong, he was an accurate passer in 2016, but he can be better. Has to figure out how to lead his receivers better so that they will have opportunities for yards after the catch.

The Great Expectations for Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott improves upon his 2016 season and is in the conversation for NFL MVP honors, while leading Dallas to its first Super Bowl victory in more than 20 years.

Realistic Expectations for Dak Prescott

Prescott repeats his 2016 campaign, statistically speaking, while Dallas makes the playoffs as a division winner. The team advances to at least the NFC Championship Game.

The sky is the limit for Dak Prescott in his second year with the Cowboys. A few years down the road we may be talking about the organization shelling out the money to make him the top paid quarterback in the NFL.

What kind of expectations do you have for Dak Prescott in 2017?



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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15 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    People want Dak to fail so bad because they say he cant do it again, they say he cant put up numbers like Romo, they say he’s only good because of his supporting cast. I’ve never seen a second year player get so much hate thrown his way and whats crazy about it is most of it is coming from so called cowboys fans who cant get over Tony Romo. I think Dak bothers some people because of how special he can become. Nobody could control Dez until last season, Where you think that came from?? I think Dak has breathed some life back into Cowboys Nation that needed it. The haters gone hate because thats what they do. Prove them wrong Dak!! Lets go Boys

    • John Williams

      Sorry, if I misled you, but I don’t think I said that Dak was a product of his supporting cast or that he can’t repeat his performance.

      I actually think a repeat performance of his rookie year is all he needs to do.

      In no way am I a Dak or Romo hater. Love Dak and can’t wait to see what he does in year two. I am just of the mind that it is unreasonable to expect too much of an increase in his numbers statistically, aside from playing the extra game for the sheer fact that, he had a GREAT season.

      • Travis Diggs

        My post in no way was directed toward you personally It was directed to the outlets who keep putting Dak in this RG3 sophmore slump category. Two different qbs in two different situations. I understand it will be hard to duplicate 13-3 but people are expecting us to be 9-7 or miss the playoffs, thats ridiculous. I call them “haters” because the same people praise Derek Carr and these other young qbs but just act like Dak suppose to fall off with no real reasoning

        • John Williams

          Yeah, I totally agree. I think 9-7 is a possibility. There are some pretty stout defenses and teams on the schedule. I’m not saying he’ll be bad, but the defense will have to improve for the team to repeat the 13-3 record from a season ago.

        • John Williams

          Gotcha, my bad. Didn’t realize you were speaking in general, not as a response to the post.

  • Matthew Harrell

    I don’t see Dak having a season near as good as last year..I see an optimistic 9-7. As for Travis Diggs’ comments, that is not to say anyone who thinks this hates Dak, is a so-called fan or just can’t get over Romo. Please..been a fan since 1979. It’s called seeing reality and telling it like it is. He is a limited deep ball passer and doesn’t yet have the ability to stretch the D and move the ball at will. Now, I certainly hope I’m wrong, but I’m not. I’d love to see him lead us to 16-0 with a 150 passer rating, 50 TDs and 0 INT. Just because you watch every snap of every play and are objective doesn’t mean you “hate” and all the other nonesense. These Dak fan boys need to grow up. I’m a die hard Cowboys fan, will root for whoever leads us but I’m not going to blindly believe some kid is superman. I’ve seen a few of those wear the star. As for the article, seems to have been written by the president of the Dak fan club. The playoff loss was not a positive. Had he not stunk up the 1st half we might have won a game we absolutely had no excuse to lose at home with home field throughout lined up. Oh, he did so good almost coming back! Well, no cigar. That playoff loss was a bitter disappointment. We had a Super Bowl team and choked. No hate, biggest fan ever, just fact.

    • John Williams

      I disagree. I think he has just as good a chance to repeat his 2016 and will likely improve. But even if he just repeats his performance, it will be a really good season.

  • TreFKennedy88

    Dak was on pace for 4100 yards before cooling off at the end of November, so I think he’ll get 4100-4200 yards, 30 td’s 6-8 int’s, 12-4 record, along with a first class trip to the NFC title game

    • John Williams

      I could see 4,000 and 30 combined Passing and rushing yards for sure, but not sure about 4,000 yards passing. That would mean he’d have to throw for 250 yards a game to hit that number. In 2016, he only threw for more than 250 yards 4 times.

      30 passing tds is harder than it sounds. only 4 quarterbacks through for that many TD’s. Tom Brady would have been the fifth if not for the four game suspension.

      • TreFKennedy88

        Dak can do it, he’ll have 4,000 yards passing and 30 passing td’s

        • John Williams

          He certainly can, but to me that means we are playing from behind a lot. The identity of the team is run first, which is going to limit his opportunities to throw. It’s just unlikely to me, not because he doesn’t have the ability to throw for 4,000 yards, but because his opportunities will be limited.

          Again, I see 4,000 combined rushing and passing yards and 30 combined TDs, well within his reach.

          • TreFKennedy88

            I feel like run first team is code for they can’t pass very good, or how they always say “Dallas has the best run blocking line” I feel like its code for we can’t pass block

          • John Williams

            It goes to the amount of run vs pass plays they call. Dallas is one of the few, if only that runs the ball more than they throw it. Their identity is as a running football team. The same as Seattle’s when they won the Super Bowl. That doesn’t take anything away from Dak or Russell Wilson, it’s just a realistic view of what the team prefers to do. Being good at run blocking doesn’t mean you aren’t also good at pass blocking.

  • ArmyVet78

    Actions will always Speak Louder than Words. I could care less what Dak Prescott say that will happen this coming season. Last year he did ok. He’s no superhero at least not yet. One of this season he might get there. One thing for sure in my book he has earned the title of Choke the Chicken. Three games that he should have won he Choked the Chicken real bad. The World Worst Game that he lost was against the Green Bay Packers. He really Choke the Chicken and left it featherless and with no life. Let’s see how he plays and carries himself both on field and off field. I’m going to be Prescott worst Critic Everytime that he screws up or is the reason the Cowboys lose a game.

    • John Williams

      If you’ll go back and watch that game, you’ll notice that Prescott was moving the offense in the first half, but drops by Butler and Williams and untimely penalties by the offensive line stalled drives and led to punts.

      He lost 3 games. 2 to the Giants who seemed to have a really good game plan for the Dallas offense and to the Packers where they nearly rallied back and pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.

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Report: Dallas Cowboys to Sign Free Agent Wide Receiver Brice Butler

John Williams

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5 Bye Week Adjustments Cowboys Hopefully Made

The Dallas Cowboys look to be making a move at the wide receiver position as they attempt to bring some life to the position. No they aren't trading for Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver Josh Gordon, but bringing back former Wide Receiver Brice Butler.

According to a report from Saad Yousuf from The Athletic, the Dallas Cowboys are set to resign the former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver but first have to release someone from the 53-man roster.

Saad Yousuf on Twitter

Cowboys officials are in the process of signing wide receiver Brice Butler, multiple sources tell @TheAthleticDFW. The team has to make a roster move to bring Butler onto the 53 and is trying to decide whom to release to make room for Butler before a final decision is made.

Brice Butler was signed in the offseason by the Arizona Cardinals but was released after training camp. It was a surprising move for the Cardinals. They don't have a ton of wide receiver depth aside from future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.

Butler's caught 73 passes on 133 targets for 1,177 yards and eight touchdowns in his five career. In 36 games with the Dallas Cowboys Brice Butler caught 43 passes on 81 targets for 794 yards and six touchdowns. In his time in Dallas, he averaged 18.5 yards per reception.

He never really got a lot of playing time with the Dallas Cowboys who had Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Jason Witten on the team for the duration of his time in Dallas. The Cowboys coaching staff placed a higher premium on Terrance Williams' run blocking than Butler's big play ability.

To the coaching staff's credit, Butler was never a consistent enough player to be relied upon week in and week out. In 2017, his last season in Dallas, Brice Butler was never targeted more than three times a game and he never caught more than two passes a game. Butler, however, only played 24.51% of the Dallas Cowboys' offensive snaps in 2017.

If the Dallas Cowboys do make this move it's at a curious time. Sources tell 247 Sports' Mike Fisher that the Dallas Cowboys have zero interest at the moment in Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver Josh Gordon. You'd think their lack of interest would be because they still like the wide receiver room as it is.

If they do complete the signing of Brice Butler, you'd have to expect that Deonte Thompson would be the wide receiver on the chopping block. They cut him at the end of the preseason and then brought him back during week one.

This signing is unlikely to have an impact on the Dallas Cowboys week two matchup with the New York Giants, but will probably be completed early Monday to get Butler to Frisco to begin preparing for their week three matchup.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

I don't think this is a move that makes a lot of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. They've been down that road before and haven't received the results they wanted. Brice Butler does offer some big play ability, but it was thought that is why they brought in Deonte Thompson and Tavon Austin. Is it possible the Dallas Cowboys are already down on those two players after one game? They wouldn't be bringing Butler back if they didn't have plans for him.

Good or bad, do you think bringing Brice Butler back is the right move for the Dallas Cowboys?



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Cowboys, 49ers Are WR Josh Gordon’s Preferred Teams in Trade/Free Agency

Sean Martin

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Cowboys, 49ers Are WR Josh Gordon's Preferred Teams in Trade/Free Agency

It's Sunday morning and the Cleveland Browns are expected to make a questionable decision by tomorrow, which is far from news for a Dallas Cowboys team waiting around for a crucial Sunday Night Football home game tonight. With Cleveland expected to part ways with troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon though, the Cowboys have understandably been linked to Gordon, even more so now with the talented pass catcher stating his own interest in America's Team.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

As teams discuss potentially trading for outgoing #Browns WR Josh Gordon, I'm told he's got his eye on two in particular: The #Cowboys and the #49ers.

Before looking into this any further, it's necessary to point out an all-important missing detail. Without any reports of the Cowboys own interest in Gordon, the soon-to-be free agent is simply the latest player to say he'd like to play for the Cowboys - hardly anything new for the Jones.

The Cowboys need for a player like Gordon has never been more evident though. Heavily criticized throughout the offseason for how they handled their wide receivers, the Cowboys passing game was a non-factor in the team's 16-8 week one loss.

Signing or trading for Gordon could do little to fix this, but the risk may also prove worthwhile for Dallas. The Baylor Bears product did put up 1,646 yards in 2013 with minimal talent around him, and has a career 17.3 yards per reception.

His ability to take the top off a defense is something the Cowboys are sorely missing. What they won't miss from not acquiring Gordon is the off-field trouble, taking on a player that missed all of 2015 and 2016 due to suspension.

Last season,  Gordon was reinstated for the Browns final five games.

The NFL is, at least cautiously, easing their policy on players suspended for marijuana usage. Look no further than the Cowboys own Randy Gregory to prove this, as Gregory has already become a success story for the league by being with the Cowboys this season.

Whether or not Gregory plays on Sunday night (officially listed as DOUBTFUL) after suffering a concussion in his long-awaited return last week is yet to be determined. So too is Josh Gordon's future as the latest player on his way out of Cleveland.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

From @gmfb Weekend: The #Browns plan to release Josh Gordon after he showed up late, injured his hamstring during a photo shoot, and in general completely lost their trust. https://t.co/cX2HGZPBXi

I'm of the belief that Gordon won't last long on the open market, meaning this won't be the latest Cowboys story/non-story to drag through the presses. Any fan looking to pass time between now and kickoff against the Giants could probably find me saying the same about free agent WR Dez Bryant however.

Thanks to Bryant still being a free agent along with former Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey, the team has looked smarter than expected in the long-term on moves like these.

If there's a smart way to bring on Josh Gordon, Dallas should be considering that too.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys, 49ers Are WR Josh Gordon’s Preferred Teams in Trade/Free Agency" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Is Dak Prescott’s Relationship with Scott Linehan Broken?

John Williams

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Is Dak Prescott's Relationship with Scott Linehan Broken?

As the final whistle sounded last Sunday with the Carolina Panthers coming away victorious over your Dallas Cowboys, it was pretty clear there were a lot of things wrong with the offense. Many pointed to Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan and the play calling. Others to the offensive line. Others to Quarterback Dak Prescott. And others to the wide receivers.

There was plenty of blame to go around in an offensive performance that left Cowboys Nation struggling for answers. Simply put, there wasn't much good from that side of the football in their 16-8 loss. 

Well, as this week has gone on in preparation for the New York Giants Sunday night, there have been answers to questions from within the organization that make me, an outsider, feel really awkward about the relationships inside the organization. Particularly on the offensive side of the football. 

There was this from Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan responding to Troy Aikman's critique of a lack of creativity in the play calling of Linehan.

"People have their own opinions. It's hard to be super creative when you're having loss-yardage plays, to be honest with you. But I thought we had some really good stuff for the game that we couldn't use. But he's entitled to whatever opinion he has about that. It's our job to go out and show him that we have some stuff that maybe he'll be impressed with."

Scott Linehan - via Jon Machota, Sports Day DFW

Then this from Wide Receiver Allen Hurns. 

Brandon George on Twitter

Cowboys WR Allen Hurns on loss to Carolina: "Statistically people are going to say we didn't play well. If you really break down the game, we created separation. That's what you want to do as a wideout.

With Dak Prescott speaking to the media on Thursday, some interesting nuggets of information came out about the communication that takes place on game day between Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, and Quarterback Dak Prescott.

Namely Dak described Kellen Moore as a "mediator" between the quarterback and the offensive coordinator.

“Kellen, I guess you call him the mediator at that point, when I come to the sideline. Me and him talk about what we saw and then he gets on the headset and he’s talking with Linehan. Then he’ll get back to me with what Linehan’s thinking with the plays and stuff that we’re working towards, so it’s been great.”

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys Quarterback

Count 1310 The Ticket's Bob Sturm as one of many confused by Dak's statement about Moore as the go between.

Bob Sturm on Twitter

Thought it was really interesting to day that Dak said he talks to Kellen Moore and QB coach Kellen Moore talks to Linehan. Linehan doesn't talk directly to his QB during the game. I think that is weird.

It's becoming clear that there is a huge disconnect between the play caller and his quarterback and this disconnect is affecting everyone on the offensive side of the ball.  

Everyone, after one week, appears to be placing blame on someone else, which is really odd to me. Normally, when a unified group of players is asked a question that may lead to finger-pointing, they don't really answer the question.

Above, you can see that Hurns basically said, it wasn't the wide receivers' fault. Linehan, reacting to Troy Aikman's comments about the lack of creativity in the offense, placed the reason for the lack of creativity on the players. And Dak Prescott appears to allude to a really odd communication structure.

It has me wondering, and I'm sure I'm not the only one, if there is a trust issue with the Dallas Cowboys offensive staff and players.

Trust is a very important aspect of any group of people who work together to meet a common goal. Football is no different. As far as team sports go, the NFL requires a strong sense of trust and commitment to one another to make the intricacies of an NFL offense work.

As Preseason Begins, Does Prescott Have a "Go-To" Receiver After All?

Oct 8, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) congratulates wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) after a touchdown in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The coach has to trust that the player he's calling the plays for. If the play caller doesn't trust the players to execute, he's going to be much more conservative than he should be. A play caller who trusts his players will allow them to play and will be aggressive in his game planning and play calling. 

The player has to trust that the play caller is putting the player(s) in the best position possible to succeed. If the players don't trust the play caller, they aren't going to buy in to the offensive scheme. If they don't buy in to the offensive scheme then there may not be the necessary effort put in to see the scheme succeed. 

From the outside looking in, the relationship between quarterback and play caller seems fractured.  It's not a good sign for the relationship of the two men tasked with guiding this offense that there is a mediator involved in their communication. If there is an issue in the relationship that is leading to poor communication, then the Dallas Cowboys leadership structure -- Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett -- need to make a change to better enhance offensive communication.

They aren't going to change quarterbacks at this point in the season. The move they can make that Head Coach Jason Garrett appears unwilling to make, is changing who calls the plays. If the relationship between Linehan and Prescott is such that Kellen Moore needs to act as "mediator," then the time has come to change the play caller. Whether it's Moore who takes the reigns or Garrett who returns to calling plays, the change may need to be made soon to salvage this season. 

Trust is a very valuable resource in any organization. It's the reason that Jason Garrett has remained head coach for as long as he has. The ownership trusts him. 

The lack of trust that appears to exist between Dak Prescott and Scott Linehan is something that not only hurts their relationship, but the chemistry with the entire offense. 

Football may be the greatest team sport in the world. And as such it requires a high level of chemistry . It requires everyone on offense and defense buying into their respective schemes and trusting each other to execute those schemes. 

Obviously a win against the Giants would go a long way toward healing whatever wounds exist between Prescott and Linehan. A loss however could potentially deepen a divide between the quarterback and his coordinator.



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