Nothing better than a little mid-summer smack talk between fans of two of the biggest rivals in football. Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott: Who is better? Who will be more successful? With both guys entering just their second year in the league it's unfair to give either one of them the title quite yet.
But one thing's certain, Dak Prescott was light years ahead of Carson Wentz last year when evaluating both quarterbacks.
When comparing both player's stats, Dak Prescott leads in almost every category.
Rushing Touchdowns: 6
Total Passing Attempts: 459
Average Passing Attempts Per Game: 28.7
Yards Per Attempt: 8.0
Completion Percentage: 67.8%
Interceptions Percentage: 0.9%
Yards Per Game: 229.2
20 + Yard Completions: 38
40 + Yard Completions: 8
Quarterback Rating: 104.9
Rushing Touchdowns: 2
Passing Attempts: 607
Average Passing Attempts Per Game: 37.4
Yards Per Attempt: 6.2
Completion Percentage: 62.4%
Interceptions Percentage: 2.3%
Yards Per Game: 236.4
20 + Yard Completions: 39
40 + Yard Completions: 6
Quarterback Rating: 79.3
When comparing the two, you'll notice that Dak Prescott won more games, threw for more touchdowns, a higher completion percentage, less interceptions, a lower interception percentage, a higher yards per attempt percentage, more 40+ yard completions, and a much higher quarterback rating.
What did Carson Wentz lead in?
Wentz did throw for more yards on the season, 115 more to be exact, on 148 more passing attempts than Prescott... Take that for what it's worth. Wentz also had more attempts per game, more yards per game (seven more yards than Dak), and just one more 20+ yard completion.
So when we look at the two players, statistically it isn't even close to who was the better quarterback between the two last year.
But comparing stats is a very lazy way to evaluate players. The truth is in the film as well, and while I'd love to sit down with everyone and break down the entirety of both player's seasons, but that simply can't be done.
What I can do, that is the next best thing in my mind is compare the two quarterback's games against teams both teams played.
Wentz VS Cleveland Browns
The Eagles won their first game of the season against the 1-15 Cleveland Browns 29-10.
Wentz had a very solid rookie debut going 22 of 37 for 278 yards and two touchdowns. Wentz had a 59.5 completion percentage and had a 101.0 QBR.
Prescott VS Cleveland Browns
Prescott also defeated the Browns in week nine, defeating them 35-10. Prescott was great in this game playing in enemy territory. He finished the day 21 of 27, 247 yards and three touchdowns.
Prescott had a 77.8 completion percentage and a WHOPPING 141.8 QBR.
Wentz VS Chicago Bears
Wentz backed up his impressive rookie debut with another good performance against the Chicago Bears.
The Eagles won 29-14 playing in Chicago and Carson completed 21 of his 34 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown. He completed 61.8% of his passes and had a QBR of 86.6.
Prescott VS Chicago Bears
Prescott again played great against the Chicago Bears in week three, going 19 of 24 for 248 yards, one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown. Dak had a great completion percentage at 79.2% and a 123.6 QBR.
Wentz VS Pittsburgh Steelers
Three weeks in a row Wentz had impressive performances. This one was probably his best of the season.
Playing at home, Carson Wentz threw for 301 yards on 23 completions and tossed a pair of touchdowns to defeat the Steelers, 34-3. He ended the night with a 74.2 completion percentage and a 125.9 QBR.
Prescott VS Pittsburgh Steelers
Unlike the Eagles, the Cowboys had to play the reigning AFC North Champions on their own turf. Prescott still didn't bat an eye and went out and won the game 35-30.
Dak finished the day 22 for 32, throwing for 319 yards and two touchdowns. Both rookies played tremendous games against the Steelers.
Wentz VS Detroit Lions
Wentz was handed his first loss in an away game against the Lions, losing 23-24. He still didn't have a bad day at the office, going 25 for 33 (75.8%) for 238 yards and two touchdowns.
Wentz threw a big interceptions (his first of the year) on the final drive of the game that would hand the team its first loss of the season.
This is where things started going downhill for Carson Wentz.
Prescott VS Detroit Lions
One of Prescott's most impressive games of the season came in week 16 at home against the Lions.
The Cowboys won the game 42-21 in one of Dak's and the team's most dominant performances of the 2016 season. Dak finished the night 15 of 20 for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Prescott was just about perfect that night, completing 75.0% of his passes and raking up a season high 148.3 QBR.
Wentz VS Minnesota Vikings
One of Carson Wentz's worst performances of the 2016 season came against the Minnesota Vikings, though it didn't result in a loss for the Eagles.
He finished the game throwing 16 completions on 28 attempts (57.1) for only 138 yards and one touchdown, while throwing a pair of interceptions.
Wentz also fumbled three times in this game and had a rough quarterback rating of 52.4. Minnesota's defense was very stout the first few months of the season and definitely gave the rookie a lot of problems.
Prescott VS Minnesota Vikings
Like Wentz, Prescott wasn't himself that Thursday night in Minnesota. Prescott did manage the game well and was able to finish the game with the win. Dak threw only 18 passes all night, completing 12 of them (66.7%).
On those 12 completions, Prescott threw for 139 yards and one touchdown. Prescott used his legs more in this game, rushing six times for 37 yards. Prescott also had the fumble bug in this game, putting two on the ground.
Wentz VS Green Bay Packers
The Eagles and Cowboys had two totally different outcomes in their regular season matchups against the Green Bay Packers.
Wentz struggled again in this game against the mediocre defense of the Green Bay Packers. Wentz went 24 for 36 (66.7%), throwing for 254 yards and no touchdowns. Wentz did have a rushing touchdown on four attempts for 33 yards.
The Eagles lost this game, 27-13, and any chance of making the playoffs.
Prescott VS Green Bay Packers
Another game that went the opposite direction for the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys. Dallas won the game 30-16 in the tough conditions at Lambeau Field thanks to the rookie quarterback himself and some help from the defense.
Prescott finished the day with a 66.7 completion percentage, completing 18 passes on 27 attempts and tossing three touchdowns in the victory. Prescott did throw his first interception of the season against the Packers, but that had little effect on the game.
Wentz VS Cincinnati Bengals
The wheels finally fell off of the Wentz wagon in week 13 when the struggling Cincinnati Bengals crushed the visiting Eagles 32-14. Wentz was asked to do a lot in this game and was obviously not up to the challenge.
Wentz finished the game 36 of 60 for 308 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Both his completion percentage (60.0%) and his QBR (58.2) where one of the lowest of the entire year for the rookie.
Prescott VS Cincinnati Bengals
Dak Prescott walked all over the Cincinnati Bengals in their week five match up. The Cowboys won the game 28-14 while Dak had yet another solid day at the office. Prescott finished with 227 yards on 18 completions and had an impressive completion percentage (75.0%) and QBR (117.9).
Wentz VS Baltimore Ravens
Wentz was handed his fifth consecutive loss in week 15 against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens won a close game, 27-26 and Wentz struggled yet again, going 22 for 42 (52.4%) and throwing his 14th interception on the season. This game was another one of his worst from a completion percentage and quarterback rating aspect.
Prescott VS Baltimore Ravens
This was a game the Cowboys' coaching staff put on Dak's shoulders and he responded perfectly. Dak went out and played one of his best games of the season after the Baltimore Ravens were focused on stopping the run.
Prescott threw for 301 yards on 27 completions and also tossed three touchdowns in the 27-17 victory. He had a 127.2 quarterback rating and another great completion percentage of 75.0%.
Wentz VS NFC East Opponents
I lumped all the NFC East games the two quarterbacks played into one section to save you some time. Carson Wentz went 2-4 in divisional games in 2016.
The Washington Redskins swept the Eagles in the two games they met in. Wentz went 11 of 22 for 179 yards and a 50.0 completion percentage when playing at FedEx Field. At home, Wentz was more on his game. He went 32-46 (69.6%) for 314 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Carson Wentz split the series against the New York Giants, losing on the road in week nine and winning at home in week sixteen. Wentz, again played much better at home than on the road, a common factor in his rookie season. In the road loss, Wentz completed 27 passes on 47 attempts for a completion percentage of 57.4% and a QBR of 64.5 and also threw two interceptions in the game.
At home Wentz wasn't great but did manage the game well, going 13 of 24 for 152 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Wentz was finally able to win a game after losing five straight.
Different team, same story. Wentz was able to win his home game against the Dallas Cowboys in week 17, but couldn't get the job done at AT&T in week 8. Throwing for 245 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles week seventeen win, Wentz was able to get the season finale win against mostly Cowboys backups.
While he couldn't get the job done on the road, Carson Wentz did play good against the Cowboys at AT&T stadium in week eight. Going 32 for 43 (74.3%) throwing for 202 yards and one touchdown, Wentz played a solid game against Dallas. But Dak Prescott is the one who came out on top finding Jason Witten wide open in the end zone to win it for the 2016 NFC East Champions.
Dak VS NFC East Opponents
Dak lost three of his games to NFC East opponents, sweeping the Washington Redskins, splitting the series with the Philadelphia Eagles, and getting swept by the New York Giants.
Dak was great in the series against the Washington Redskins. Combining for 487 yards, one passing touchdown, and two rushing touchdowns in his two meetings with the Redskins. Dak posted two 70.0%+ completion percentages and two 100+ quarterback rating against the Redskins in each of his matchups as well.
We have to say Prescott had a split series against the Philadelphia Eagles because he did start the week 17 matchup. In the final game of the season in Philly, Dak threw eight total passes before putting on his baseball hat and watching the rest of the meaningless game from the bench.
In the game that mattered, Dak may have made the play of his life in overtime in week eight. Dak struggled a lot in the first half of the game, but things started to heat up for the Cowboys' rookie quarterback in the second half. Prescott was almost perfect in the second half and was able to pull out the game-winning drive in overtime to win the game 29-23.
The only team that seemed to have Dak Prescott's number last year was the New York Giants, and rightfully so. The Giants spent loads of cap space in rebuilding their defense and it worked.
The Giants had Dak's number last year
Prescott was 25 of 45 for 227 yards in his first game against the Giants. Prescott played a decent game in week one against the Giants but fell short in his NFL debut. In their second meeting, it was a similar result for Prescott. 17 of 37 for 165 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and posted his worst quarterback rating of the year (45.4).
The first argument we'll hear to defend Carson Wentz is he didn't have the offensive weapons that Dak Prescott had. While there is some truth to that, it wasn't all Prescott's supporting cast that led to his success and it wasn't Carson Wentz' supporting cast that led to his failures.
Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott both had great offensive lines in their rookie years. Both offensive lines are top five to top ten offensive lines in the NFL, so that argument gets cancelled out.
ProFootballFocus.com currently has the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line ranked number one heading into the 2017 season.
Where are the Dallas Cowboys?
With the departure of Ron Leary via free agency and the retirement of Doug Free, PFF is expecting the Cowboys OL to drop off quite a bit in 2017.
The running backs where the biggest difference between the Carson Wentz-led offense and the Dak Prescott-led offense.
It's no secret that Ezekiel Elliott was one of, if not the best running back in the NFL last year and that helped the team, but more importantly Dak Prescott out a lot.
Elliott finished the year with 1,631 yards on 322 carries (5.1 YPC) and scored 15 touchdowns. He also added 32 catches for 363 yards and a touchdown.
The Eagles didn't have a true bell-cow back last year and used more of a running back by committee style.
Ryan Mathews led the backs with 661 yards on 155 carries for a 4.3 yards per carry average and also had eight rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood also got their fair share of carries out of the backfield, combining for 750 yards on 171 carries and three rushing touchdowns between the two players. Darren Sproles had 427 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns.
When you compare the names between the two teams: Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, and Jason Witten sounds like a much better lineup than: Jordan Mathews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Zach Ertz, and Trey Burton, but their stats weren't as lopsided as you might think.
The Cowboys' leading receiver in yards was Cole Beasley with 838, the Philadelphia Eagles' leader in receiving yards was Zach Ertz with 816.
Cole Beasley hauled in 5 touchdowns to match with his 838 yards, and Zach Ertz hauled in 4 touchdowns to match with his 816 yards.
Where there was difference between the two teams was the leaders in touchdowns.
Dez Bryant led the Cowboys in receiving touchdowns last year with eight, while Zach Ertz led the Eagles with his four. Where it balances out is in receiving yards. The Eagles had six different players with 300+ receiving yards in 2016, compared to the Cowboys' five.
Also we seem to forget that Dez Bryant missed three games due to an injury that held him out of the San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Green Bay games.
Dak Prescott posted quarterback ratings of 114.7, 117.9, and 117.4 in the games his number one receiver missed in 2016.
In the two games that Zach Ertz missed in 2016, Carson Wentz also posted impressive quarterback ratings (86.6 and 125.9).
When we take an overall look back at both Dak Prescott's and Carson Wentz' rookie seasons, there isn't much difference between the team's supporting casts. Philadelphia's defense had a lot more talent on the field than the Cowboys defense, along with a great offensive line to protect Carson Wentz.
What does separate the two supporting casts was the running game.
Ezekiel Elliott was huge for Dak Prescott's success, but Dak Prescott was a success story of his own. Dak Prescott's numbers were right up there with some of the NFL MVP candidates and deserve just as much credit as anyone else on the Cowboys roster or coaching staff.
It's still to be seen if Carson Wentz can have more success in his second year as the Eagles starting quarterback, but one thing's for certain: with all the new weapons he has (Alshon Jeffrey, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins, LaGarrett Blount, and Donnell Pumphrey) there should be no more excuses for the former North Dakota State quarterback entering year two.
There's no way of saying who will have the better career between the two players, but right now there is no question who the better, more successful quarterback is, and Dak Prescott is the answer.
Linebacker Group Key to Cowboys’ Defensive Success in 2018
In 2017, it was evident just how much the Dallas Cowboys were hurt by their lack of linebacker depth. When Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens were injured, especially Lee, the defense struggled. Look to the games against the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams and it's easy to see just how ineffective the defense was without their top two linebackers.
With more and more teams employing RPO and read-option concepts, more is expected of linebackers as they read the quarterback.
With teams like the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tennessee Titans all on the 2018 schedule, the Dallas Cowboys' linebacker corp is going to have their hands full each and every week defending quarterbacks who are really good at utilizing these concepts.
While the edge defenders are instrumental in containing the run concepts in the read-option and RPO, the linebackers are the next line of defense against the run and their discipline in the run-pass action is monumental to defending the passing concept of the RPO.
Jeff Ratcliffe from Pro Football Focus broke down who the best and worst teams using RPOs were in 2017 by quarterback yards per attempt and quarterback yards per carry.
The Philadelphia Eagles ran the most RPOs and, as Ratcliffe described in his article, "For Doug Pederson, no run concept could not have an RPO attached to it."
The Kansas City Chiefs were second in the NFL in the amount of RPOs utilized with quarterback Alex Smith, now with the Washington Redskins, under center. Speaking of the Redskins, with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, they accrued the highest yards per attempt of any team in the NFL when throwing out of an RPO.
So, if you do the math, you can bet that the Washington Redskins will utilize a lot of RPO and read-option concepts in their offensive game plan.
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, the Cowboys' week one opponent, ran RPOs the fourth most of any team in the NFL and had 5.5 yards per carry when Cam Newton kept the ball himself. Cam is one of the best running quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Newton is the only quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to rush for double-digit rushing touchdowns twice in his career. Before he did it in 2011, no quarterback had accomplished the feat since Daunte Culpepper in 2002. The Dallas Cowboys and their front seven will have their hands full containing Newton in week one.
Also according to PFF's Ratcliffe, the New York Giants were the fifth best team in 2017 when the quarterback decided to keep the ball and run as they averaged 5.5 yards per carry out of RPOs. That has to be the most shocking element of his post. When you think of Eli Manning, you don't think of a running quarterback.
That just shows you how effective the RPO and read-option can be in the NFL.
With the speed of the game light years faster than it was 20 or 30 years ago, teams are having to use more and more misdirection to gain an edge in the run and pass game.
Another team on the Dallas Cowboys schedule was very effective throwing out of RPOs: the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the AFC Championship Game, they made a lot of headway against the New England Patriots using this concept.
Will be interesting to see how the Pats gameplan for the Eagles RPOs. Jaguars shredded them with same RPO 4 times in first half last week https://t.co/gYJWIPYIjj
In 2017, the Jaguars averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, the fifth best number in the NFL, just 0.3 yards per attempt behind the Philadelphia Eagles, who were fourth in the league when throwing out of RPOs.
This note from Jeff, I found particularly interesting:
"When the quarterback did pull, league-wide last year, the average yards per attempt was 6.52 and there was a 78.8 completion percentage. Once again, easy money."
Jeff Ratcliffe - Pro Football Focus
Most of the NFL is beginning to employ more and more RPO and read-option concepts into their offensive game plans, making the defense's job a lot more challenging. Especially at the linebacker level.
No longer can the linebacker just simply read run or pass based on the way the quarterback drops or turns to hand off, but they have to determine:
- Is the quarterback giving the ball to the runner?
- If the quarterback kept it, is he looking to run?
- If he's going to pass, where's the ball going?
All of that has to be decided within one to two seconds of the play. A linebacker is taught to read and react to the play as quickly as possible, which can create a significant advantage for the offense if the linebacker reads wrong.
The whole point of the read-option and the RPO is to create a lose-lose situation for the defense.
No matter what they do, it's a wrong choice.
If they read pass and drop into coverage, the ball carrier gets an advantage as he begins to go downhill. If the linebacker reads run and begins to attack the line of scrimmage, the QB pulls it and throws it to the spot vacated by the linebacker.
Having linebackers with elite athleticism, range, and coverage ability, like the Dallas Cowboys do in Sean Lee and potentially Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, will help them minimize the damage potential as they face increasing RPO usage.
Even if we talk about standard run and pass play calls, the defense was a much better unit when Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens were in the game. Points per game, rushing yards per game, and passing yards per game were all lower when those two were available. When the team had to rely on Jaylon Smith and Damien Wilson as their top two linebackers, they were lit up like a pinball machine.
The Cowboys hope Jaylon Smith can return to the All-American type of player he was with Notre Dame, but if he doesn't, Vander Esch is a good insurance policy for 2019.
The Boise State product is good in the run game, but he excels in the passing game when he drops into coverage.
Having three linebackers that can play the run and pass like these three potentially can will be a huge key to the Dallas Cowboys success on defense in 2018. They will make life a lot easier for the rest of the defense if they are able to maintain play discipline against the read-option and the run-pass option.
Having these three linebackers and their dual-threat ability in the run and pass game will help the Dallas Cowboys be in far less lose-lose situations than they might otherwise be. And for the Dallas Cowboys to achieve the goals the hope to achieve, namely a sixth Lombardi Trophy, these three will be the key to that success.
Can TE Rico Gathers be More Than a Just Receiving Threat?
Rico Gathers is trying to follow in the footsteps of Tony Gonzales, Antonio Gates, and Jimmy Graham as someone who has successfully made the transition from college basketball player to tight end in the NFL. Unfortunately, that transition hasn't gone quite as smoothly as he probably would've hoped.
To date, Gathers really hasn't been able to put a lot on tape. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad with the Dallas Cowboys, but did gain some valuable experience working with Tony Romo. Last year he was just beginning to show what kind of threat he could be in the passing game when he unfortunately sustained a concussion in practice, pretty much ending his season.
As you can imagine, Rico Gathers still has a lot to prove heading into the 2018 season. In no way is his roster spot guaranteed right now. He may still be the most talented and physically gifted TE on the Cowboys roster, but that will only get him so far.
I for one think Gathers can be a tremendous threat in the passing game. I think the flashes we saw in preseason a year ago are exactly the kind of weapon he can turn into for Dak Prescott. He is even working a route running guru, David Robinson, to become even better in the passing game. But, we all know the Cowboys coaching staff demands a lot more from their tight ends.
In the Cowboys offensive scheme, the tight end is an important position. They have to be able to block in several different areas depending on the formation, especially at the point of attack as an in-line blocker, sometimes being left one on one against a defensive end. That means they have to be assignment sound pre and post snap, with the ability to make the right adjustments in a split second.
For Rico Gathers, this is the area of his game holding him back the most right now. We all know what kind of threat he can be in the passing game, but the Cowboys coaching staff wants someone they can trust to leave on the field down after down. This is where Gathers will have to prove himself the remainder of the offseason.
The Dallas Cowboys knew Rico Gathers was a developmental prospect when they drafted him in the sixth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft. They didn't know how long it would take for him to be be able to contribute, but that time may be running out. Year 3 could be his last chance to prove himself in Dallas.
Gathers is a mismatch player in the passing game against smaller defensive backs, but that might not be enough for the Cowboys coaching staff to keep him around. I would personally get him involved in the receiving game, especially with all the new faces Prescott will be throwing to this season, but unfortunately I'm not making those decisions.
Do you think Rico Gathers is more than just a passing game threat?
Tony Romo Documentary in the Works
If you've missed seeing Tony Romo on the field, an upcoming documentary may be the cure. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback is reportedly the subject of a film chronicling his football career going all the way back to high school.
"Now or Never" will tell Romo's incredible story, going from undrafted to one of the top passers in the history of the Cowboys' storied franchise. It's being produced by a Texas-based company run by Christian Hanna (no known relation to James).
According to an article from MyRacineCounty.com, Romo's hometown newspaper, the tale of Tony's football career will be told going back to his days at Burlington High School in Wisconsin. It will follow him to Eastern Illinois University, the same QB hotbed that more recently produced Jimmy Garoppolo.
But what most of us will want to relive is Tony's amazing NFL career, which stands out among the most unexpected rises to stardom of any player in league history.
Romo, who was an undrafted free agent signed by the Cowboys in 2003, didn't play in a game for three seasons. He rose the QB depth chart through practice and preseason play, eventually becoming the backup and earning the respect of then-coach Bill Parcells.
In Week 7 of 2006, Parcells pulled struggling starter Drew Bledsoe at halftime and went with his intriguing young prospect. Tony's first pass in the NFL was one to forget; an interception.
About a decade later, Romo would retire as the Cowboys' all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He currently ranks fourth all-time in NFL history for passer rating.
Tony's career never saw the playoff and Super Bowl success of predecessors Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, but he remains a beloved figure in team history. The controversial end to his football career, losing his job to rookie phenom Dak Prescott in 2016, created a major rift among Cowboys fans.
While no longer playing, Romo remains one of the hottest names in football. His charisma and football acumen have him in a featured role with CBS Broadcasting.
From obscurity to "anointing oil" to one of the most discussed names in sports, Tony Romo's story is fascinating. This documentary crew picked a great subject, and we look forward to enjoying their work and revisiting the Romo Era once the film is released.
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