The Dallas Cowboys 28-14 loss on Monday night to the Tennessee Titans at AT&T Stadium was crushing to their hopes of making the playoffs out of a weak NFC East this season. Remaining in the hunt with a 3-5 record may be the only thing stopping the Cowboys from making immediate changes in personnel or coaching. This season's struggles, mainly on offense, have also not changed the long-term outlook for the Cowboys at the most important position in sports -- quarterback.
Just as Jason Garrett frustratingly remains the guy at Head Coach, and Scott Linehan at Offensive Coordinator, Quarterback Dak Prescott is on track for an extension following the 2019 season according to his owner and GM Jerry Jones.
Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, he's young and he's gonna get extended." - Jerry Jones on @1053thefan. Holy cow. The worst news of the year.
The Cowboys have yet to win on the road this season. With trips to Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Indianapolis still to come Dallas could play their way into a forced change at one of these three positions.
With so many new first-year coaches in the building, the Cowboys might not see a suitable replacement for Garrett and Linehan at The Star right now though. Without a first round pick, traded for Amari Cooper in favor of any 2019 receiver prospects, the same could also go for Prescott.
Extending Dak while remaining aggressive about upgrading at QB could be the smart choice for the Cowboys. Nothing about their current makeup points to this being the case, but a decision on Prescott's contract is not due until after next season.
Getting a passer that's accomplished more than Prescott on the team for next season is understandably difficult. The top free agent quarterbacks are likely Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown, who would both do little more than cash checks they don't deserve against the Cowboys cap.
Prescott can do the same thing for another year on his rookie deal, and beyond on a contract that pays him like the backup QB the Cowboys should be preparing for.
This lines up well with a crop of 2020 QB prospects that are already in the national spotlight, such as Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert. Of course, the Cowboys would have to struggle once again to pick high enough for either passer to be a possibility.
It also remains to be seen if Herbert will declare for this year's draft instead.
It's been quite the fall from grace for Dak Prescott, who managed nine wins in a season where Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was lost for six games just a year ago. Now, the Cowboys take Elliott out of games themselves with a game plan that relies on Prescott being someone he isn't.
The end result has been Prescott ending up on the losing end of too many games where he simply didn't do enough for the Cowboys, hardly an enviable position to be in at QB in today's high-scoring NFL.
Jerry on Dak: "He's gonna get extended." @1053SS and @RJChoppy: *stunned silence* https://t.co/kSrCjB8QP5
Who Prescott is on a merely factual level is a fourth round pick that's not consistent enough from the pocket to win games. The entire Cowboys organization can't be blind to the fact that running out this same coaching staff with Prescott under center in 2019 is a punt on an entire season, a stark contrast from their win-now approach with Prescott in 2016 and most of 2017.
That 2017 season that yielded nine wins, which would require a 6-2 record for the Cowboys from this point on, did ultimately result in the firing of/changing of seven coaches below Garrett and his coordinators.
What Jerry Jones doesn't see is a viable option for the team to move forward without Prescott. At least as of Tuesday morning, off a Monday loss, and at the very least not before the end of next season. What Cowboys Nation sees is a quarterback that would hardly be viable elsewhere, especially in a Dallas organization that's literally proving why they aren't a fit for a QB like him while talking about a contract extension.
A coaching change would be the only thing the Cowboys can do to create some optimism for Prescott, giving their new coach a proven commodity at quarterback and allowing him to make a decision from there. Jones didn't sign off from 105.3 The Fan without further votes of confidence in his top coaches, but talks of extending them are silently in the distance.
A Dak Prescott extension should rightfully be the end of the coaches responsible for handing him the keys and steering him off path from 2016 Rookie of the Year to reeling 2018 starter still feeling the effects from how last season ended.
The Cowboys desperately need further change, and if it's not coming soon at quarterback it should be expected elsewhere.
Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip
Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.
After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.
DallasCowboys linebacker @VanderEsch38 has been added to the 2019 Pro Bowl Roster. 🐺 Congratulations, rookie! → https://t.co/AYqEUy2tZx
The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.
Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.
But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.
Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.
The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way
In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.
This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.
A few Rams Passing Game Notes
- The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
- The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
- The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
- The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
- They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
- The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.
Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.
On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.
The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.
Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak
No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.
The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.
This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.
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