Ed. Note: Large number of GIFs to come, don't panic!
Dak Prescott is the future of the Dallas Cowboys franchise. Everyone has seen it. But after the win against Chicago a reporter asked him "is there anything you can do better at this point?' Dak's response was accurate and on point.
He went on to point out that he was a rookie fourth-rounder who had just made his third NFL start. The number of things he had yet to learn were astronomical.
Good man. And getting better every day in true Jason Garrett fashion.
I say all this because when going through the game against the San Francisco 49ers, I did not, as often is this case, try to show the little things that the player does that don't get noticed. Instead, the focus was on showing a little bit of where Dak is. So, when a couple of plays have a negative outcome, the intention is not to denigrate Dak Prescott, but to illuminate where he is and where he can grow. He's an amazing draft pick and going to be a great player. In a team chock full of historic QBs, he has the potential to be one of the very best.
Here is one play that he's going to really regret... probably already does and has learned from it, actually. Dallas is in a pretty standard set up, Jason Witten tight right, Cole Beasley in the slot, Brice Butler off screen below the picture and Terrance Williams wide right (blue arrow).
Dallas runs a bootleg play-action, with all the flow to the left, Witten leaks out into the flat, while Williams heads upfield. The safety on Williams's side sits back deep, leaving an enormous area for Williams to exploit.
They have watched the film, and know this bootleg always goes to the TE in the flat. After seeing Witten and Geoff Swaim get big gains off this play, the man covering Williams comes forward to guard against Witten. The safety, meanwhile, is sitting back on a deep route. Willams begins screaming for the ball, which should be already on its way. Note that Dak Prescott is on the hashmarks.
He waits. Witten actually seems to give up. The safety is now aware of Williams and breaks for him.
Dak still holds the ball. Even the man who came off of Williams now knows that Witten is not getting the football and moves back to his original assignment. Look how far Dak has come (at a light jog) without throwing the ball.
Now, he finally winds up and throws, badly. Look at the "footwork" on this delivery.
This was the kind of thing I saw on his tape that made me say "yeah... maybe late fourth round" when I looked at his college film last spring for BTB. It's the first one like that I've seen this year, though.
More often, his shortcomings involve still working on his reads. Like the bootleg above, I saw several plays that involve reading only half the field. Dallas has 2 TEs here, both lined up away from the line. Terrance Williams is off screen at the bottom.
Dak is looking left at Witten, who is bracketed. Possibly influencing Dak's reads on this play is Chaz Green getting completely roasted at the exclamation point. But take a look at the hashmark on the offensive right, near the 40-yard line. That blur is Geoff Swaim getting ready to blow right by a flatfooted Eric Reid.
Dak throws to Brice Butler, running a dig about three yards past the line of scrimmage. A little bit of a low throw allows the defender to catch Butler immediately and drag him to the ground. Once again, the accuracy issue is still a very real one for Dak. But imagine if this ball had been thrown about halfway along the blue arrow in front of Swaim. It's not that good, because the red arrow points to a deep safety about two yards offscreen, but it still could have been a nice play if Dak had quickly come off his read to the left, and moved to the center where Swaim has open territory.
Now for something really nice. Dallas has Witten tight left, and three WRs right. Williams at the far right is going to fake an in and then run a deep fade. The 49ers are in a zone look and this is bad for them as they are out-manned to the offensive right. Witten (blue circle) and Ezekiel Elliott (blue square) draw a lot of attention and keep it that way.
You can see the CB and LB on the offensive left focus immediately on Witten and Elliott as they go into their patterns, with the safety on their side also occupied. Meanwhile, as Beasley and Butler both get free releases in the blue rectangle, they also have single coverage with a LB and a safety, though Butler will end up bracketed. Williams begins his inside move.
Williams sells his move very well and heads for the pylon. Butler's deep seam route draws the safety over with the Mike LB underneath. Beasley, meanwhile, breaks in so hard that he appears to be falling down. On the other side, Witten and Elliott have effectively taken three 49ers completely out of the play. At this point Dak realizes Terrance Williams can win his one-on-one.
Dak delivers a beautiful back-shoulder throw. Look at how the combination of the throw and the early win by Williams forces the CB to run himself right out of contention for this ball, as he tries to make up the ground he lost.
That one was a great call, a great read, a great route, and a great throw. Maybe my favorite Cowboys play this season and done with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, La'el Collins and Tyron Smith all on the sideline. That's a significant achievement and it really bodes well for the team this year.
And, obviously, as time goes on, we'll expect to see much more of the latter type play from Rayne Dakota Prescott.