The Dallas Cowboys had a disappointing 2015 season as they struggled with injuries to key players like Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, which greatly effected their passing game. The draft and free agency brought some improvements to the running game, and the return of Bryant will help the receiving corps, but Tony Romo remains an injury risk, which makes the backup quarterback position all the more important. Enter fourth-round pick Dak Prescott, who impressed in his debut against the Los Angeles Rams. Joseph Ferraiola breaks down the rookie quarterback’s first NFL action.
Dak Prescott put on quite the performance in his NFL preseason debut against the Los Angeles Rams in their temporary new home at the LA Memorial Coliseum. Prescott was 10 of 12 for 139 yards and two touchdowns, and the lone incompletions were drops by Cowboys tight end Geoff Swaim. It was an extremely impressive debut for the fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State. He displayed the ability to throw accurate passes to the short, intermediate, and deep levels of the field. Prescott also showed off his mobility on one play in which he scrambled for 14 yards.
In profiling quarterbacks for the draft, Mark Schofield said that an area Prescott needed to improve was his ball placement. After going through film of the Mississippi State QB myself, I agree with his assessment. There are a number of throws where Prescott would make his receiver have to twist his body, making the possibility of a catch much more difficult than it had to be. Since he’s been drafted, he’s been able to work with an NFL coaching staff that should help him improve his ability to place the ball where he needs to.
And that’s what made Prescott’s first start, albeit the preseason, so impressive: his improved ball placement.
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It’s 3rd and 1 for the Cowboys on their own 29-yard line early in the first quarter. They are in 11 personnel with two receivers on the left side against press coverage. The receiver to the right, Cole Beasley (#11), is facing off coverage. The Rams front has seven men in the box. Prescott receives the snap and makes a quick decision to throw to an open Beasley on a quick slant.
Prescott does a good job of placing the ball between the zone defender Mark Barron (#26) in the middle and the corner Trumaine Johnson (#22) playing to the outside. It’s not a perfect throw, but it’s a solid one that gets the job done and allows his receiver to pick up yards after the catch.
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Prescott had two nice completions to Dez Bryant in this game. The first of which was a pass on 2nd and 9 that moved the chains. The Cowboys are again in 11 personnel facing a seven-man box again. Bryant is lined up to the left against press coverage. Prescott snaps the ball and the safety to the left side of the field steps up. Bryant runs his route past the safety and only has the corner to beat. When Bryant crosses the first-down point, Prescott throws a back-shoulder pass that only Bryant can come down with. The ball is placed high and toward the sideline away from the defender. Bryant is able to come down with it right against the sideline for a gain of 18 yards.
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Perhaps this throw was Prescott’s best of the game. Dallas is in 11 personnel in a trips formation with its receivers all facing off coverage. Prescott drops back and eyes his receiver, Terrance Williams (#83), when the ball is snapped. The combination of a pump fake by Prescott and a double move by Williams fools Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (#20), creating separation for Williams as he runs toward the endzone. Prescott throws a deep pass to Williams and drops it over his shoulder for a touchdown.
Improved ball placement, along with confidence and poise in the pocket, helped Prescott have success throwing in his NFL debut. It’s easy to get excited for a performance like this one, but it’s also important to keep in mind that it’s only preseason; we’re often too quick to judge or too quick to praise. And after all, any QB would be confident when throwing to a possession receiver like Bryant standing behind arguably the best offensive line in football. Prescott is a fourth-round rookie and one good half shouldn’t be enough to earn him the No. 2 quarterback job this season. The throws he made against the Rams were nicely placed, but he’ll have to continue his development in that area if he wants to one day be the heir to Tony Romo in Dallas.
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All video courtesy of NFL Game Pass.
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