02 Aug Dak Prescott – No Ordinary Rookie
Less than a year ago, Dak Prescott was running the scout team offense at Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, California. A fourth round draft choice from a mid-level SEC school, Prescott was nothing more than a scrambling quarterback in the eyes of the layman. Fast forward to the present; Prescott has established himself as one of the most polished quarterbacks in the NFL.
Any self-evaluation will bring about the epiphany of how much can change in one calendar year. For Prescott, sitting behind a potential Hall of Fame quarterback was an opportunity more than an easy pay check. With two quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart, Prescott buried himself in the playbook. Where a lot of rookies might seize the opportunity of a cushy job with a sizable paycheck, Prescott honed in on the skill set that made him a star at Mississippi State.
On this very day, one year ago, Dak Prescott was promoted to the backup quarterback role when Kellen Moore broke an ankle in practice. Just 23 days later, Tony Romo took a career ending shot from Seahawks defensive end, Cliff Avril.
With two dazzling pre-season performances already under his belt, Prescott calmly took the field and did what he does – dominate.
Accepting his role as heir to the throne, Prescott handled every moment with poise and professionalism. Maintaining a calm presence in the face of the pass rush, chewing up yards with his legs and burning teams with his big arm, he is the complete package.
Prescott rode that confidence and preparedness all the way to the number one seed in the NFC. The Cowboys season fell short in the NFC Divisional playoffs, but the rookie of year in NFL was hardly to blame for the loss.
Critics will point to the three all-pros on the Dallas offensive line. They will tell you about Zeke Elliot’s superior rookie season, or Dez Bryant’s super hero perimeter talent. But the rational film analyst will point to the tangible, as well as intangible, skill set that made Prescott one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
From the first drop back of his career, the moment was never too big for Dak. Opening day against hated rival New York, a free-rusher collapses the drop point. Before he can get set, Dak is forced off his spot. Throwing from an unestablished platform, with an adjusted arm angle, he rips the ball to the boundary with spin and accuracy.
A lot of coaches don’t trust rookies to make checks at the line of scrimmage. The philosophy is often that he isn’t going to see anything that the coaches don’t see pre-snap. Here, Prescott recognizes potential pressure, adjusts his protection, calmly slides in the pocket and delivers a strike to move the chains on third and long.
Another pre-snap read made perfectly, Prescott recognizes one-on-one coverage on his best receiver. He stands in the pocket until there are bodies surrounding him and anticipates where the route will be won. The throw is perfect and Bryant is right there to reel it in for a huge gain.
This is a play that most quarterbacks shouldn’t make, much less a rookie. The first read is a slant, and it’s not there. Second, Prescott looks to climb the pocket, but it is collapsing from the interior. Next, the lane to the right is closed off forcing Prescott to turn his back to the defense. He finds a platform to throw and has an easy touchdown toss to Jason Witten. This throw looks easy on the surface, but the ability to advance through progressions is anything but simple. Prescott makes it look like child’s play.
The go route often has two options built in: loft it deep down the field, or fire it to the back shoulder. This is the reason quarterbacks sometimes sky one down the field while the receiver has broken off his route – communication is key. With Prescott and Bryant, these reads are second nature. Prescott recognizes the tight coverage and sees the defender’s back turned – so he rips a fastball to the sideline. The ball is perfectly located for a big gain.
Displaying veteran-level pocket presence again, Prescott eludes the rush, resets and throws a perfect ball 50 yards down the field for the score.
There are quarterbacks in this league that play their entire career on edge – fearful of the consequences of failure. For Prescott, Sundays are a walk in the park. His terrific rookie season ranked him fourth in the Third and 10 2016 season grades. Playing the game with an unprecedented level of confidence and a fully-stocked arsenal of skills, there’s no telling how good this young man can become.