We all saw it with our own eyes this past weekend in the Dallas Cowboys’ win over their arch-rivals from DC, the Washington Football Team. Despite the victory, Dallas QB Dak Prescott threw two bad interceptions and was sacked four times. Prior to his performance in DC, I had a gut feeling for a few weeks that Prescott had been playing sub-par football.
Before commenting, I wanted to do some research. I wanted to look at Prescott’s film before his 2020 broken leg injury and then checked that vs film before and after this season’s calf injury which caused him to also miss some playing time. Let's forget the numbers, this is the eye test, or the “eye in the sky” test if you prefer. Some interesting things came up.
What I didn’t see was any drop off in arm strength or any real issue with mechanics after his broken leg forced him to miss much of the 2020 season. With the exception of his (unconscious I’m sure) effort to protect his calf at times, Prescott is the same guy physically.
I am no doctor, but I HAVE stayed at plenty Holiday Inn's. I think I’m qualified to surmise that Prescott’s calf injury, this year, was probably going to require a four- or five-week recovery period. However, Prescott is wired much differently than a normal person and is so driven/unselfish that he returned a couple weeks too early IMO. When it came to pushing off his back leg, Prescott was favoring his calf, which was to be expected.
What I also saw on film was a quarterback who has muscle fibers that are less twitchy because of his. leg injuries. Prescott simply does not have the same suddenness in his movements both inside the pocket and as a runner. But, having said this, those deficiencies are not what’s holding him or the Cowboys offense back. It’s there, but not my concern when I watch Prescott’s team on offense.
My concern is seeing a QB who is now hesitant to cut it loose with his passes at times. I am also seeing a QB who is holding the ball a bit longer than in the past and one who is showing impatience and coming off his primary target far too early at times. Prescott doesn’t appear to be definitive and isn’t as confident now with his decision making, two traits that were once his calling card throughout his rise to Tier 1 QB status.
And for once, I’m buying what GM Jerry Jones is selling. You might remember that several weeks ago, Jones hinted at a possible kink in the offensive efficiency hose due to poor wide receiver play. After jumping into the film room, I agree with Jones. Prescott is just not comfortable partly because he’s not trusting what he is seeing with his receivers.
I see his decision making not being as sharp because his receivers are: 1) not running their routes with the same precision as they did early in the year 2) they themselves are returning from various injuries and their timing isn’t in sync. Prescott knows that for the Cowboys offense to run on all cylinders, he must have the receiving corp performing at a high level. It is deep and talented, but only if ingrained in the entire offensive flow and process.
On the bright side for Cowboys fans, Prescott has recently seemed to find a connection with fourth-year pro Michael Gallup. These two are on the same page because Prescott trusts Gallup and Gallup catches everything. He also runs precise routes and sees things in a similar way to Prescott. I don’t think fellow receiver Amani Cooper has been 100% for most of the year and the Uber talented CeeDee Lamb lacks consistency as a route runner and adjustment maker when compared to others. It’s no time for panic. However, it’s just some of the little things that add up, or don’t add up, that allow certain teams to either take the next step or not.
That being said, Prescott also has to be better. The two very bad interceptions last week were totally his fault. He made that game in which the Cowboys dominated and were clearly the best team, much closer on the scoreboard then it should have been. Prescott’s accuracy and his ability to drop balls in over underneath coverage have always been just good enough but nothing special.
I actually think that it’s just a matter of time until all of the Cowboys offensive weapons get back on the same page in BIG D. To do just that, Prescott’s confidence and decision-making must return to top of the league form as well. He has to regain that sharp and quick sense of processing. An NFL season is so long that these things have a way of turning around. I have faith in Dak returning to the Dak of old.