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Martin’s 5: Has Dak Prescott Hit The Rookie Wall?

Brian Martin

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Dak, Vikings

Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!

Unfortunately, the Dallas Cowboys were unable to invoke that magic that has worked for them nearly the entire 2016 season last week against the New York Giants. It is only the Cowboys second loss of the season, but the second defeat from the Giants.

It's funny how one single loss can create so many ?'s from a team that has been one of the best, if not the best teams in the NFL this year.

If you're anything like me, then you have an abundance of things you're wondering about heading into this week's matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This isn't the same Buccaneers team we have seen in years past. They are one of the hotter teams in the NFL right now and could give the Cowboys all they can handle.

The Cowboys recent struggles on offense and the fact there is a hot team up next on the schedule, has really overloaded the things I'm wondering about this week. Below are just a few of them that are running through my head.

One: I recently had a chicken and egg debate about whether the rookie wall is a real thing or not. Personally, I believe that it is and it really started me thinking about if we have seen Dak Prescott reach that point in his rookie season? Typically, a college players season ended about a month ago, so a lot of these rookie players in the NFL this year have already played in more games than they are accustomed to. That's not even taking into consideration the long off-season they had just gone through. Think about it. They have finished their college season, began their draft preparation process, gotten drafted, gone through OTA's/mini-camp/training camp, and are now winding down their first year in the NFL. They really haven't had a break during that time span accept a short bye week.  So, it's only natural that these first-year players start to struggle a little bit later in the season. Prescott has struggled here the last few games, whether or not it is him hitting the rookie wall has yet to be determined. The remaining games left on the Cowboys schedule will ultimately tell the story.

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Two: Let's stay with Dak Prescott here for just a little bit longer, because I'm wondering how long Jason Garrett and the coaching staff will continue to stick with him as he starting QB if he continues to struggle? Prescott has really struggled these past couple of games and if that continues this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you have to think the organization starts to seriously consider reinserting Tony Romo into the starting lineup.  The Dallas Cowboys have been one of the best teams in the NFL and have a really good chance of playing far into the playoffs, possibly reaching the Super Bowl. That might not happen if Prescott continues to play the way he has been. If Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones are serious about going all way this year, they might have to make a really tough decision, which might mean benching Prescott for Romo.

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Three: The running game for the Cowboys offense hasn't quite been the same since Geoff Swaim was injured and I wonder how they can fix it? The Cowboys have been using Gavin Escobar and sometimes even going to a heavy set with offensive lineman Joe Looney at times, but both players limit what the offense can do with either player on the field. Defensive coordinators should know by now that Escobar isn't a very good blocker and Looney isn't a threat in the passing game. That means they can really focus their attack  on Ezekiel Elliott and try to shut him down. I recently wrote an article suggesting that the Cowboys should sign Brandon Pettigrew. I think Pettigrew could come in and instantly make an impact in this area.

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Four: The Dallas Cowboys offense has had to square off against two pretty good defenses these last couple weeks, which has resulted in them not putting up as many points as they had been earlier in the season. What I'm wondering is if it is more of the defenses they are playing or if it is just the offense struggling to find their rhythm? Honestly, I think it's a little bit of both, but the offense has to find a way to put points on the board regardless of the caliber defense they are playing. I don't think it's a coincidence that the offense was firing on all cylinders when Cole Beasley was more involved. He is a matchup problem for anyone that is trying to cover him and I think he needs to become more a part of the game plan once again, especially in third-down situations.

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Five: The defense for the Dallas Cowboys was supposed to be the weak link of this team, but last week against the New York Giants they were the ones keeping them in the game. I wonder if they can continue to play at a high level, because it would certainly help with the postseason just around the corner? Last week they were able to create several turnovers and get the ball back to the offense. Unfortunately, the offense wasn't able to capitalize. There were however a few missed opportunities that could have been game changers, but it is really encouraging the way this defense is starting to come together. Hopefully they can continue to play at this level, especially Sean Lee, who was a man possessed against the Giants.

Is there anything you are wondering about this week?

Use the comment section below to share with us what thoughts you might have stuck in your head this week.



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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Tony Pollard is Just What the Doctor Ordered in Dallas

Matthew Lenix

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Tony Pollard is Just What the Doctor Ordered in Dallas

The Dallas Cowboys have what many believe to be the best running back in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott. However, you can never undervalue the importance of depth at any position. When the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft came around, the Cowboys added another weapon to the backfield by selecting Tony Pollard out of Memphis.

If you’re looking for a dynamic player maker with the ability to take it to the house at any given moment, Pollard is your man. The former Tiger averaged a touchdown every 13 touches in college. That’s an absolutely insane statistic when you think about it. He also tied an NCAA record with seven kick returns for touchdowns. Long story short, he can get you six points at the blink of an eye.

The versatility in his game is outrageous and undoubtedly the reason why he was drafted. In addition to running for 941 yards on 6.8 yards per rush, he also had 104 receptions for 1,292 yards. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has to be salivating about the possibilities with his new toy. Having a running back that can not only carry the load as a runner but also line up at receiver keeps the defense honest. You never know what angle the offense is going to come from.

This has to be a sigh of relief for Ezekiel Elliott. Now, the Cowboys don’t have to overexert him and can bring Pollard in on third downs if need be. Not just to give Elliott a breather but to change the pace of the offensive attack. You can hand the ball off, throw it to him or run jet sweeps when he is on the field. This sets up a potential combo at running back that could be the leagues very best shortly.

Speed, quickness, and agility are all wrapped up in the Tony Pollard package. The Cowboys now have a running back that can line up at multiple positions if need be. Also, this prevents a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the body of Ezekiel Elliott. This combination has all the potential to set the NFL on fire in 2019.



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CB Byron Jones Not Expected To Return Until Week 1 Against NYG

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones

Coming off what was clearly the best season of his career thus far, Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones underwent surgery to hopefully fix a nagging hip injury.

While he earned both his first All Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2018, his first season as a full-time cornerback, Jones still has a lot to prove in the upcoming season. Some still criticize him for his lack of interceptions, and there's no doubt his stellar play slowed down a bit towards the end of the year.

I'm willing to wager that the slight decline had a lot to do with his hip troubles, but nonetheless he must come up with his elite level play once again to earn himself a nice contract somewhere in 2020.

Oh, did I forget to mention it's also a contract year for Byron Jones? As it is for so many important Dallas Cowboys, it seems.

So when will Byron Jones be able to return to the Cowboys' lineup? Well, the initial date reportedly set by Jones and the team was late July, giving him a chance to practice and play a bit before the season opener in September. But, according to the Team Site this week, that date may be pushed back a bit, and we might not see Byron Jones until that season opening game against the Giants.

"As for Jones, all along the Cowboys have been targeting his return for the season opener, but hopefully at that. So, don’t expect to see much of Jones in training camp, and if so, certainly no more than individual and walk-through drills." - Mickey Spagnola

Ultimately, as long as Byron Jones is good to go when the regular season starts, that's all that matters, but the fear of rust when Jones returns is a real one.

It's tough to go from no live football straight to the meaningful games, but if anyone would be able to do it it would be the guy with the freakishly athletic traits. The guy who can get out of the bed in the morning and set athletic records at the Combine.

And, of course, that guy is Byron Jones.



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Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

Matthew Lenix

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Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

When the 2016 NFL Draft came around the Dallas Cowboys were in search of the heir apparent to Tony Romo. Unfortunately, coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season, Romo would find himself on the shelf again after suffering a broken bone in his back during a preseason game against the Seahawks. However, the Cowboys had an ace in the hole, in the form of Dak Prescott who they drafted in the fourth round.

The idea was the groom him for a few years before taking the keys to the car so to speak from Romo, but fate had another idea in mind. Prescott would be thrust into the starting lineup against one of the Cowboys most hated rivals to start the season, the New York Giants. Added to that, was the pressure of living up to Romo's stellar resume as the franchise's all-time leading passer. After struggling in a tough 20-19 loss, no surprise there for a rookie quarterback, Prescott began to take flight.

Over the next eleven games he wouldn't suffer a single loss as the Cowboys were sitting pretty at 11-1. What made this streak more impressive was the efficiency of Prescott. He threw 19 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions over that span. In the process, he set an NFL record for the most passing attempts to start a career without an interception with 176. This broke the previous record held by Tom Brady of 162. It didn't stop there, as he also set a rookie record for completion percentage (67.8), was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

The Cowboys would finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the franchise only winning two postseason games in 21 years, Prescott was definitely under the microscope. After the offense struggled to produce points in the first half and fell behind 21-3, Prescott lead a furious comeback. Helping the team storm all the way back to tie the game at 28 and again at 31. He finished with 302 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first playoff start against future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Even though the team lost 34-31, Prescott proved how much of a gamer he was as he basically went yard for yard and point for point with one of the NFL's elite signal-callers. It was clear the Cowboys were in good hands going forward.

2017 started off well as the Cowboys were 5-3 and firmly on pace for another playoff run. Unfortunately, All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott lost his fierce battle with the NFL over domestic violence allegations, and Dak along with the offense struggled. After a 9-7 season and falling one game short of a Wild Card berth, the pressure on Prescott heading into the next season was immense.

Once 2018 came about Prescott had more pressure than ever with Elliott back for a full season. After a slow 3-4 start the Cowboys traded for Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, providing the team with it's first true number one receiver since Dez Bryant. Putting even more expectations on Prescott to turn things around, and boy did he ever.

He would complete 71.6% of his passes in the final eight games of the season, and the Cowboys won seven to finish 10-6. Now, with another division title under his belt, came a playoff matchup with Super Bowl-winning Quarterback Russell Wilson.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were hanging on to a 17-14 lead. They faced a 3rd and 14 inside the redone with just over two minutes left. After dropping back a few steps, Prescott scrambled for 16 yards setting up a first and goal from the one-yard line. The team held on for a 24-22 victory but here's why that scramble was so important.

If the Cowboys don't convert that 3rd and long that would've set up a field goal attempt. Assuming it would have been successful, that would've only put them up 20-14. Giving Seattle a chance to more than likely win with a touchdown and an extra point or two-point conversion. Prescott essentially won the game with that 3rd down run. Proving once again there's no situation he can't handle.

He's set an NFL record for completion percentage in the first three years of a quarterbacks career at 66.1 percent. No quarterback has won more games than him since 2016 except Tom Brady. No one has more game-winning drives than him since he entered the league. His 13 primetime victories are tops in the NFL over the last three seasons. Simply put, Dak Prescott is a winner and doesn't fold under pressure, instead, he embraces it. There are no bigger lights in the NFL than the ones that shine in Dallas. With those lights come huge expectations and pressure, and it's clear this young man is made of the right stuff to handle it.



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