No quarterback in the league is subject to more scrutiny than Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys. Some of that is due to the team, as the Cowboys’ passer will always be in the spotlight. The former fourth-round pick has been a relatively average starter over the past three seasons, and some believe he’s not worth the mega-extension he’s likely to sign. However, Prescott’s set to break out in 2019 and turn into one of the better quarterbacks in the league. While he won’t be on Patrick Mahomes’ level, he has the chance to be a borderline top-10 quarterback in the league.
Dak Prescott Set to Break Out in 2019
Prescott struggled early in the 2019 season, but it’s hard to blame him for the offensive performance. Entering the season, Prescott’s top options in the passing game were Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and a rookie Michael Gallup. This trio represented one of the worst receiving corps in the league and Prescott couldn’t turn this trio into a functioning unit. Through the first seven games of the season, Prescott completed 62% of his passes for just 1,417 yards, eight touchdowns, and four interceptions. His 87.4 passer rating would have ranked 27th in the league had he maintained that 16-game pace.
However, Prescott’s play dramatically improved when the Cowboys acquired a true top wide receiver in Amari Cooper. Now given a legitimate playmaker, Prescott transformed into an above-average starter. Over the final nine games of the season, Prescott completed 71.3% of his passes for 2,468 yards, 14 touchdowns, and four interceptions. His 103.0 passer rating would have been seventh-best in the NFL over a 16-game stretch.
Cooper will remain in Dallas for 2019, and Prescott is obviously a better quarterback with the former first-round pick in town. Additionally, Michael Gallup showed flashes as a rookie and should develop into a good WR2 opposite Cooper. The Cowboys lost Cole Beasley in free agency but added an adequate replacement in Randall Cobb.
Prescott’s can be great with the right players, and this is the best set of skill players he’s ever had. Dez Bryant was a great receiver, but he was on the downturn by the time Prescott took over. Additionally, Cooper’s transcendent route running is a better fit for Prescott’s skills than Bryant’s big-bodied physicality. This is the first full season where Prescott has had a legitimate WR1 play to his strengths, and the supporting cast features strong, promising playmakers.
The Offensive Coordinator
In addition to better receivers, Dak Prescott should get better play calling in 2019. Scott Linehan served as the Cowboys play-caller since 2015 and developed one of the more bland schemes in the NFL. While other teams across the league incorporate a variety of motions and elaborate formations, Linehan mostly lined his players up in the same spot and asked them to run the same three or four routes. In an era where offensive coaches are getting more and more creative, Linehan’s uninspired scheme failed to bring out the best in the passing attack.
Fortunately, that should change with Kellen Moore calling the shots. This is Moore’s first year as an offensive coordinator, so there may be some growing pains. However, early returns imply that Moore is going to bring a creative, modern element to the Cowboys’ passing game.
One of the best ways to modernize the offense is by utilizing Ezekiel Elliott in the passing game. Elliott is obviously a fantastic runner but is just as good out of the backfield. However, Linehan refused to use Elliott’s pass-catching prowess throughout the first two years of his career. He finally incorporated Elliott in 2018, and the results were fantastic. After never eclipsing 32 receptions or 363 yards as a receiver, Elliott ended the year with 77 receptions for 567 yards and three touchdowns. 52 receptions and 392 yards came once Cooper joined the team, and Elliott’s value in the passing game was a huge reason for the Cowboys second-half success.
Dak Prescott Natural Development
Prescott is at the point in his career where he should improve on an annual basis. Prescott is entering his age-26 season and has just three years of NFL experience under his belt. In today’s NFL, reading defenses and winning pre-snap is more important than ever. As Prescott gains more and more experience, he should continue to improve as a passer.
Prescott has already shown signs of growth over the past few years. His rookie year was his best from an efficiency standpoint, but that’s primarily because Prescott was placed into a perfect situation. The Cowboys put more of a burden on Prescott’s shoulder over the last two years, and the Mississippi State product has improved with the added responsibility.
Prescott improved on just about every notable statistic from 2018 to 2017, including completion percentage, yards, interception rate, passer rating, and adjusted yards per attempt. While some of this was due to Ezekiel Elliott playing a full season and the arrival of Amari Cooper, there’s no denying that Dak Prescott made a notable jump in Year Three.
Look for a similar jump in 2019. Dak Prescott should continue to improve and has the best receiving corps of his career. Amari Cooper is a legitimate WR1 and Michael Gallup looked good as a rookie. Randall Cobb can replicate Cole Beasley’s production and Kellen Moore should add a new dimension to the Cowboys’ passing game. Prescott will never be a top-three passer, but he’s in a perfect situation to develop into a borderline top-10 quarterback.
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