When the Dallas Cowboys drafted quarterback Dak Prescott, there wasn’t a lot of fanfare made about the pick. After all, he was a fourth-round pick taken on the third day of the draft when some picks were made during commercial breaks and NFL Network and ESPN felt no obligation to carry every pick live.
The intent was that, if veteran Tony Romo would get injured, Prescott would be an option, but not a primary option. Dallas has been known for years for having veteran backups in the event Romo would get hurt, which has happened more than a couple of times in recent seasons.
When it happened again this year during the preseason, Prescott took the job over and hasn’t looked back. Not only does his team have the best record in the league, Prescott has been as good as any quarterback in the league. He has thrown for 2,835 yards with 18 touchdown passes, just two interceptions and a passer rating of 108.6 – behind only Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.
Complicating matters is that he is dangerous with his feet. He doesn’t run often, but, when he does, good things happen. He has five rushing touchdowns this season – the most among NFL quarterbacks, which has got the notice of the entire Minnesota Vikings defense.
“He’s playing really well and doesn’t look like a rookie,” safety Andrew Sendejo said. “He doesn’t get rattled and makes plays on his feet. He has good mobility and can extend plays, which makes our job in the secondary a little harder because you can’t lose your receiver because he can move around, extend plays and deliver the ball when he shouldn’t still have it.”
More than one Vikings player referenced Pro Bowl QB Russell Wilson as the type of player Prescott looks like. From the beginning of his career, Wilson looked like a poised veteran, not a wide-eyed kid in over his head.
Prescott has many of the same intangible qualities that made Wilson an immediate success and one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL.
“He’s definitely a Russell Wilson-type guy,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “He’s making plays with his arm and can get out of the pocket and make plays with his feet. He’s a smart quarterback when he’s throwing the ball. He doesn’t take a lot of chances. He makes a lot of good choices. He’s a smart player and you can see that all day on film.”
Unlike Wilson, who spent the early part of his career with a pedestrian receiver corps, Prescott is blessed with a deep and talented group of targets. Dez Bryant is one of the best receivers in the league. Tight end Jason Witten is a future Hall of Famer. Cole Beasley is dangerously quick in the slot. Terrence Williams is a smooth route runner who can create size mismatches.
Prescott has found a way to incorporate all of them into the passing game and hasn’t made the typical mistakes that rookies tend to fall into – forcing balls into coverage, getting fooled by disguises and having a clock that goes off in their head prematurely that tells them to get rid of the ball. Only Tom Brady at 0.4 has a better interception percentage than Prescott (0.6) among quarterbacks that have thrown more than 200 passes this season.
“He’s looking good,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “He’s making great throws, accurate throws and great decisions. He isn’t turning the ball over. He’s playing like he’s been around a long time and is doing a good job with that offense.”
Another player who made the Wilson comparison was cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. When he watched film on Prescott, he didn’t see a rookie. He saw a savvy veteran who has backed up his play with the NFL’s best record at 10-1.
He doesn’t get shaken by pressure and doesn’t feel like he has to make the risky throw when it isn’t necessary. He will take deep shots if his receiver has the best chance to catch the ball and will check down when the pass could be put up where it shouldn’t. You can’t teach a lot of those traits. Some players just have it and Prescott appears to be one of those players.
“We have to be very disciplined against him,” Munnerlyn said. “He’s very poised. He makes plays. He’s an up-and-comer and you can see that confidence in the way he carries himself on the field. He reminds you a little of Russell Wilson because he has a good feel for a pass rush, can extend plays with his feet and, if nothing is there, he has the quickness to take off and run. We’re going to have to compete every play and finish because he has the talent around him and the talent himself to make you pay for mistakes.”
There are very good reasons why Dallas is 10-1 and looking to clinch a playoff berth in just the 12th game of the season. The defense has overachieved. Ezekiel Elliott is having an MVP season. The offensive line is a stone wall for defenders. They all add up.
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But, just as important, has been the play of Prescott. Dallas never won 10 straight games in a season during their glory days in the 1970s or the 1990s. They have with Prescott at the wheel and, while having a stout offensive line is a big help, it isn’t the only reason why he has succeeded so completely.
“Having a really good offensive line helps, but you can’t take anything away from a rookie who comes in plays as well as he has played at quarterback,” safety Harrison Smith said. “It just doesn’t happen very often. You’ve got give him a lot of credit. He’s the real deal.”