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Playoff Primer: Dallas Cowboys Quarterbacks

Sean Martin

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Dak Prescott

We've looked at every position across the board for the Cowboys' loaded offense in this Playoff Primer series so far, and now it is time to talk about the most important position - the quarterbacks.

The story of the Cowboys' quarterbacks in 2016 has been unprecedented, as Dallas will remarkably enter the postseason with the league's best quarterback situation.

Dak Prescott has the keys to this 13-3 car, two wins away from a trip down the street to Houston for Super Bowl LI. Tony Romo will back him up, and Mark Sanchez will serve as the veteran QB3.

New year, new quarterback situation. It is time for Playoff Primer - the quarterback edition!

Dak Prescott, Packers

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Dak Prescott

In a week 6 meeting against the Green Bay Packers on the road, Prescott completed 18 passes on 27 attempts for 247 yards. He did throw his first career interception against the team he will now face in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, but Prescott got the win behind two scoring passes to Cole Beasley and another to Brice Butler.

So here we are as Cowboys Nation with this earth-shattering rookie as our quarterback in the playoffs.

Dak Prescott is the first rookie QB to lead his team into the playoffs as the starter since a trio of first-year signal callers in 2012. While Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck were first round picks with high expectations, Russell Wilson's rookie season had a similar feel to Prescott's - as he stayed within himself to bring an immensely talented team to the big dance.

The biggest difference between the 2012 Seahawks and the 2016 Cowboys is this though. The best overall unit on Seattle was their defense, which kept Wilson from having to "save the day" too often. Dallas' biggest strength is Dak Prescott's offense, and he has executed it for Scott Linehan almost perfectly.

The playoffs should be no different, as I fully expect Prescott to remain the cool, calm, collected, and poised quarterback that has distributed the ball to his targets on high-percentage throws all season long.

The story of whatever team comes out of the NFC is going to be written through their quarterback, and the big throws that will decide close games. Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, or Dak Prescott is going to represent this conference in the Super Bowl. When you stack up Prescott with these other experienced QBs, his task may seem daunting, but we said the same when he was charged with the task of simply keeping the Cowboys relevant until Tony Romo was healthy.

Dak Prescott benched Tony Romo by going on to win 13 games, and his rookie campaign isn't over yet. No truly intimidating passing defenses remain in his way, and his cast of play makers' desire to step up for him will be at an all time high.

Tony Romo

Ah yes, Tony Romo. The best thing Romo could have done for the Cowboys this season was give the speech he did to "concede" the starting QB job in full to Prescott before a week 11 home game against the Ravens.

Sure, it hurt to watch, and I even had a professor make me watch it in the middle of a classroom while wearing Romo's jersey, but nothing can keep Cowboys fans down when America's Team is 13-3, which they are thanks in large part to Prescott.

It certainly was amazing to see Romo execute a flawless touchdown drive in the season finale against the Eagles, which reassured a fact that many already believed - Tony Romo is without a doubt the best backup quarterback in the NFL.

If he is needed this postseason, emotions are going to be running wild. Either Dak Prescott was injured or wildly ineffective, or maybe Romo is taking a snap in victory formation in front of a rowdy silver and blue crowd.

Whatever the situation may be, we know that Jason Garrett potentially has a lottery ticket in the QB that largely deserves a ton of credit for making him the coach he is today. Tony Romo can take this Dallas Cowboys team to the Super Bowl.

Your backup quarterback probably can't? We cannot relate.

Mark Sanchez

Mark Sanchez cannot take the Dallas Cowboys to the Super Bowl. Simply put, we do not want to see Mark Sanchez take any real snaps this postseason. Sanchez's most recent action against the Eagles - albeit behind a backup offensive line - was a painful reminder of what happened to the Cowboys' offense in 2015 with backups that were simply not up to speed with the scheme.

Dak Prescott is the perfect blend between a scheme fit for Dallas, and a quarterback that has also changed this team's scheme to his strengths for the better. Tony Romo is Dallas' offensive scheme. Mark Sanchez is just a guy hoping to get a Super Bowl ring, far removed from the signal caller that led the New York Jets to consecutive AFC Championship games in his first two seasons.

If #3 is playing in the next few weeks, the Dallas Cowboys won't be winning three 2016 playoff games.


It is game week here at Inside The Star! The Cowboys host the Packers with a trip to the NFC Championship Game on the line this Sunday.

To get Cowboys Nation ready, I'll be shifting this Playoff Primer series over to the defense throughout the week.

Tell us what you think about "Playoff Primer: Dallas Cowboys Quarterbacks" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

Game Notes

Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Though it's still early in the 2018 season, the lead in the NFC East is up for grabs when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins meet this Sunday. Both teams would like their full roster available for the game, but the Week 7 injury reports indicate that won't be the case.

Here are the players either confirmed to be out of action tomorrow or are otherwise listed by Dallas and Washington:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - OUT
  • CB Chidobe Awuzie (ankle) - Questionable

The Cowboys are getting healthier, with Sean Lee finally off the injury report and set to return to action. Not only will Dallas get their elite linebacker back, but it means a deeper rotation while the team remains without Joe Thomas.

Tavon Austin elected to skip season-ending surgery on his injured groin, but his should be out a few weeks. That will put Cole Beasley on punt returns and perhaps create more offensive opportunities for Deonte Thompson and Brice Butler.

Awuzie remains limited in practice but has played the last few weeks despite the ankle injury. There is no reason to think he won't suit up in Washington.

Washington Redskins

  • WR Jamison Crowder (ankle) - OUT
  • WR Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) - Doubtful
  • S Troy Apke (hamstring) - Doubtful
  • RB Adrian Peterson (ankle, shoulder) - Questionable
  • RB Chris Thompson (rib, knee) - Questionable
  • G Shawn Lauvao (calf) - Questionable
  • CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) - Questionable
  • CB Danny Johnson (forearm) - Questionable

It's a rough time for Washington's offensive weapons. They will definitely be without slot receiver Jamison Crowder and likely starter Paul Richardson, who current lead all WRs in receptions. Josh Doctson will put into a major role, as will veteran Brian Quick off the bench.

Peterson and Thompson both practiced this week and should play, but have nagging injuries that could slow them down. Washington is already missing Rob Kelley and rookie Derrius Guice, who are both on injured reserve.

Starting left guard Shawn Lauvao is also nursing a lower leg injury, but practiced in a limited capacity all week. His backup is undrafted rookie Casey Dunn out of Auburn.

In the defensive backfield, starting CB Quinton Dunbar was a Friday addition to the injury report with a shin injury. He did practice with it, though, so will likely play. Backup safety Troy Apke is doubtful with a hamstring issue.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys are 0-3 on the road this season. Not only do you already know this, but they do as well, needing to build off a 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 6 at AT&T Stadium to claim first place in the NFC East at the Washington Redskins.

Although the Cowboys were given Monday and Tuesday off, they are focused on addressing one alarming reason why the team has struggled so much on the road -- particularly on offense.

Running Back Ezekiel Elliott pointed out the Cowboys lack of communication in early season losses at Carolina, Seattle, and Houston. "Seeing the same thing," was the issue Elliott addressed when discussing the Cowboys knowing their assignments in hostile territory.

Yesterday, Quarterback Dak Prescott told the media of a meeting between players and coaches that addressed this specifically.

David Moore on Twitter

Dak Prescott said players & coaches held a meeting before today's practice to "address the elephant in the room," which is poor communication among the offense on the road. "I know we'll take a lot from that conversation," The QB said.

Unlike Prescott's remarks about new "wrinkles" in the Cowboys offense prior to a 26-24 home win over the Lions, this has a tangible sign of progress for an offense that made scoring 40 on the Jaguars look impossibly easy. The Cowboys season high in total yards remains the 414 amassed against Detroit, after which Prescott confessed that he simply tells the media "things" that aren't necessarily true.

The Cowboys didn't necessarily do anything new against the Lions, but they most assuredly will this week against the Redskins, at least by way of signaling and remaining in sync on offense.

Prescott and Elliott's leadership is on full display here, and their on-field impact can be attributed as closely to the Cowboys successes or failures as any duo in the NFL.

Missing is a similar impact from Center Travis Frederick, who remains sidelined as he deals with GSB.

Joe Looney's play at center has been good enough to pave the way for Elliott's 586 rushing yards so far, second to Todd Gurley at 623 yards, but his ability to call checks for the offense is understandably much more limited.

Looney deserves all the credit in the world for his strong play in place of Frederick. The Cowboys have never asked for him to be anything he isn't, a reliable depth option that earned a second contract and with it the starting center job for the time being in Dallas.

He has the full support of his teammates, Frederick included. All of this is lovely to put down in writing until Looney and the Cowboys have been forced to step on the field with the crowd against them and attempt to sustain a drive, something Frederick will unfortunately not be a part of for a long while.

If the Cowboys offense isn't going to unveil new wrinkles in the scheme, there is one wrinkle worth mentioning that's new to the team's communication on offense this season. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan up in the box, his play calls are sent down to first-year Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, who has been in the ear of Prescott ever since playing with him from 2016-17.

Sure, these are things that could've been addressed before the Cowboys managed only eight points in week one, turned the ball over three times in week three, or punted away their best chance at victory in week five. The best teams in the league likely already have these things down to routine, and few would consider the Cowboys anywhere near the upper echelon of the NFL.

Following sixty minutes of football at a division rival they've won four in a row against, with an even more impressive five game win streak at the Redskins, the Cowboys could control their own path atop the NFC East.

That feels truly incredible for such a young team faced with a steep learning curve early in the season, adjusting to it on the fly as they prepare to leave everything on the field before a bye week.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Pass Rush Better than They're Given Credit For
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.

But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.

According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.

Brian Burke on Twitter

Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.

What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.

For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.

As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.

Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.

Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).

Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.



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