Rewind to the start of the season and there were doubts about how the Cowboys' campaign would play out. The off-season saw a fair few changes with a clear step towards up-and-coming talents but with Dak Prescott the shining beacon of the team.
He was seen as the star man that could carry his teammates through, such is his talent, to pull the strings from the quarterback position, so how exactly does his injury alter expectations?
What is the Situation with Prescott?
Prescott started the opening game of the season for the Cowboys and whilst things weren't exactly going smoothly against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was the Dallas quarterback who was looking to make a late rally. Unfortunately, in attempting to do so a coming together with Shaq Barrett – the Bucs linebacker – saw Prescott bust his thumb.
Prescott is due to have stitches out of his hand soon with another few weeks needed before he can get back on the field. It's obviously not season-ending but could it be a season-defining injury for the team?
Why Prescott Is Key To The Cowboys
In my very opening paragraph, I mentioned that Prescott was key to this Cowboys team. Despite that, a few sections of the fan base can overlook his importance, citing that they are better off without him. That thought process is well wide of the mark in my opinion.
The Mental Impact
Not only is Prescott a top-tier quarterback but he brings a hell of a lot to the field. He lives and breathes Cowboys and you can see that every time he plays owing to the passion that oozes out of him while his leadership skills — especially on this team — are so important.
Leadership and passion are two things that I'd say fall into the “soft” benefits bracket.
The other Prescott factor that falls into that category is the fact he's been through a fair bit of heartbreak and brutal rehabilitation in the not-too-distant past; then there is his popularity in the locker room, his teammates seem to be desperate to deliver for Prescott — they subconsciously play as though they'd die for him and I'm not sure other QBs have that same influence.
The Physical Impact
So, we've now looked at the aura that will be missing from the Prescott-less Cowboys but that's far from the only thing that disappears when their main man is out.
Obviously, he's capable of tossing the ball around well but so are some of the backup options. It's the other things he can do that go under the radar such as his ability to read opposition defenses and dictate things ahead of the snap whilst his mobility is seriously impressive too; that allows Prescott to maneuver well in the pocket and take off running when he needs too.
That is a string the Cowboys' backup quarterbacks don't have to their bows. It's not a constant issue but can lead to them becoming one-dimensional and subsequently predictable. In tight games, it will be a problem.
Who are the Backups?
In all honesty, there is only one backup option despite minor calls for Ben DiNucci, who isn't even listed on the team's depth chart, to get another chance. The only option the Cowboys have is Cooper Rush.
From a statistical standpoint Rush doesn't measure up particularly well and his involvement over Prescott will see the Cowboys' NFL lines drift, but he passes the “eyeball test” with reasonable ease and he's always been successful enough when starting games.
Rush doesn't do Hollywood, he doesn't take risks, he doesn't shout, holla, and organize. What he does though is playing the game to his strengths and rarely make mistakes. This means the Cowboys aren't as strong with Rush under center but nor are they going to become a pushover as was proven last week by edging out the Bengals.
What About Bringing in a New Face?
In theory, of course, the Cowboys could move to bring somebody in from the outside to play at quarterback. We're not sure that's going to happen though – unless something happens to Rush in the next week or so at which point they'll have a serious lack of personnel in the QB role.
If, however, they did opt to bring in a new face where would they turn?
They're not going to tempt an elite quarterback to Dallas at this stage of the season, especially with Prescott only a few weeks away from a return. Other obvious picks like Jimmy Garoppolo will now be unavailable to them owing to Trey Lance's season-ending injury in San Francisco.
For us, that means the Cowboys will have to make do with Cooper Rush and hope they can ride it out until mid-October when their main man returns.