The Dallas Cowboys might be 2-2, but the offense will only go as far as quarterback Dak Prescott takes them. Trent Dilfer expands on how Prescott needs help.
Entering Week 5, the Dallas Cowboys (2-2) are only half a game back of the first-place Washington Redskins (2-1) in the NFC East. Dallas is at .500 through the first quarter due in large part to its solid defense. The Cowboys have allowed no more than 24 points in a game. However, there are major concerns with the limited offense going forward.
We do know that the offensive line isn’t what it was not even two years ago. The Cowboys have also seen many of their reliable targets leave the team for varying reasons. Tight end Jason Witten went to the Monday Night Football booth in his budding career as a broadcaster. Wide receiver Dez Bryant was released in the offseason and hasn’t found a new gig yet.
So what remains on the Cowboys offense in terms of weaponry? You guessed it: Dak and Zeke. Third-year starting quarterback Dak Prescott has proven in his first 36 starts as a professional that he is a franchise quarterback. He is 24-12 in those 36 games, having completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 7,744 yards, 49 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
However, Prescott is only completing 61.7 percent of his passes, averaging only 6.5 yards per attempt and just 188.3 yards per game, all career lows. So what gives? Former NFL quarterback and Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer puts it bluntly: Dak needs help.
“I think No. 1, you’ve got to surround him with better people,” said Dilfer. He would go on to use a great basketball analogy to help explain what might be ailing Prescott and the Cowboys’ passing game.
“At the end of the day, the quarterback is a distributor, he’s a point guard. He can’t average 10 assists a game if you’re dishing dimes to guys that are missing 12-foot jumpers. So he’s gotta get some guys that can knock down 12-foot jumpers, if everybody understands my analogy.”
We know that Prescott can be precise as a thrower, even if he’s running outside of the pocket to extend plays. The issue with the Cowboys receiving game has been largely two-fold: separation and yards after the catch. Frankly, he doesn’t have much of either with this Dallas passing game.
“We can’t truly stamp Dak one way or the other until he has some better people around him.” – Trent Dilfer evaluating Dak Prescott’s ceiling as a starting quarterback
Losing a safety valve in Witten in the middle of the field and a great jump ball receiver in Bryant on the outside has certainly dampened his consistency. Though he said he was working on it in the off-season, running back Ezekiel Elliott remains more of a runner than a dual-threat playmaker out of the backfield.
Though Dilfer does recognize some limitations in Prescott’s game, he doesn’t believe we can write off the former fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State just yet. Prescott was the 2016 NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year on a team that also featured Elliott as a rookie Pro Bowler.
“We can’t truly stamp Dak one way or the other until he has some better people around him.
But he does have some limitations. He needs to become a better progression passer. He needs to be more accurate with his eyes, redirect from No. 1 and then go to No. 2 or 3 in his progression.
I think he can do that. That’s definitely a learned skill that I’m sure he’s working on. But that’s on him and the Cowboys have to give him better people.”
Dallas has a big decision to make here soon. Since Prescott wasn’t a first-round pick in 2016, he will be entering the last year of his rookie deal next season. Though there are other more impressive quarterbacks in the NFL, Prescott has shown that he is at the very least a solid starting signal caller.
But how much is Cowboys owner Jerry Jones willing to pay him? An easy solution would be for him to ball out for the rest of the season and leave nothing to chance. “America’s Team” would love nothing more than for that to happen.
The NFC East looks winnable this year with the Philadelphia Eagles experiencing a bit of a Super Bowl hangover. The question remains if Prescott can lead one of the most limited offenses in all of football back to the NFC playoffs?
Dilfer spoke with FanSided on behalf of Panini America, the official trading card company of the NFL and the NFLPA.