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Cowboys News: Who Is NFL's Best Rookie, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Or Ezekiel Elliott?

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Dakmania is spreading; why Morris Claiborne is finally living up to his draft pedigree; Demarcus Lawrence expected to make season debut on Sunday.

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NFL quarter-season awards feature Dak Prescott - Bill Barnwell, ESPN.
He's not the MVP, or even the Offensive Player of the Year so far. But Dak Prescott gets the nod in the hotly contested Offensive Rookie of the Year race ... at least at the quarter mark.

It's a three-person race right now between Prescott, his teammate Ezekiel Elliott and Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. I think you could make a case for and against each of the three candidates, [...] but I can't bring myself to pick a running back -- even an excellent one -- over a quarterback playing at a high level. That leaves Wentz and Prescott. Wentz has been steady as can be over his first three starts, avoiding turnovers altogether while taking sacks on just 3.8 percent of his dropbacks. Wentz's opponent-adjusted QBR of 67.7 is eighth in the league, and his numbers would look even better if the former North Dakota State star's receivers would offer any help: 6.9 percent of Wentz's passes have been dropped, the second-highest rate in the league behind Matthew Stafford.

At the same time, though, Wentz is excelling in the same low-risk system Alex Smith enjoyed in Kansas City. His average pass has traveled just 7.0 yards in the air, 26th in the league. His receivers are second in terms of yards after catch, which hasn't been a repeatable skill for quarterbacks, suggesting it's mostly random. The best pass defense he has played through three weeks is that of the Bears, who are 12th in DVOA. Wentz is doing an excellent job, and his ability to read defenses and quickly find his hot receiver for easy short-to-intermediate gains is going to ensure a high floor.

Prescott has just been a tiny bit better, especially when you consider that he has been without his franchise left tackle for two games and was missing Dez Bryant last week. I was concerned that Prescott was going to be a checkdown artist given how he played in the preseason, but the fourth-rounder has been able to throw downfield once the Cowboys started creating deeper routes for him over the middle of the field. QBR isn't a be-all, end-all statistic (even before a small sample), but it tries to encapsulate all that a QB does, and Prescott is 16.2 points ahead of Wentz and third in the NFL so far this season.

Cowboys' Dak Prescott is gaining attention, on field and at drive-thru - Todd Archer, ESPN
Dakmania is gripping the Metroplex, Archer writes.

Dakmania has been bubbling practically since Prescott threw two touchdown passes in the Dallas Cowboys' preseason opener. With the Cowboys off to a 3-1 start in the regular season in Tony Romo’s absence, and Prescott playing well, his presence off the field has grown.

It’s what happens to Cowboys quarterbacks. It happened to Don Meredith in the 1960s. It happened to Roger Staubach in the 1970s. It happened to Troy Aikman in the 1990s. It happened to Romo when he took over in 2006, when Romomania gripped the metroplex.

And it’s happening now with Prescott, and not just at a drive-thru.

Dallas Cowboys not just keeping it simple for Dak Prescott - Todd Archer, ESPN
The Cowboys have been more diverse on offense with Dak Prescott than they were with other backup quarterbacks during Tony Romo's absence, Archer explains. Even if they added a little more bootlegs, no-huddle looks, and empty formations, it's still the same offense the Cowboys would run with Romo - and a marked difference from what they ran with Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore under center last year.

"I mean, we're running our offense and the aggressive nature of our offense always kind of applies to situations in the game but there's nothing we're holding back with Dak when it comes to what we do on offense," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "We do the same things we do with Tony. It's no different."

Scott Linehan making Prescott, Cowboys’ offense look good - Drew Davison, The Star-Telegram
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are hogging the headlines in Dallas, but Scott Linehan may be the real reason for the Cowboys' success on offense.

"I couldn’t ask for a better offensive coordinator, play-caller to start my career off in this league," Prescott said. "He’s just been phenomenal in the play-calling, allowing me to feel comfortable in everything. The drop-back passes, the play-action, he’s just allowing me to play my game. A lot of credit to the way he coaches me."

Linehan’s reaction to the rookie quarterback’s praise?

"I paid him money to make him say that," Linehan said, chuckling. "He’s always going to be a person that sheds the light. That’s what leaders do. Tony [Romo] does it. All of the guys who have those qualities as leaders are always keeping guys pumped up and positive about what they say."

Cincinnati Bengals Q&A with Cowboys writer Todd Archer - Jay Morrison, Dayton Daily News
Bengals beat writer Jay Morrison caught up with ESPN’s Todd Archer for a Q&A to preview Sunday’s game. Here's an excerpt:

Q: Beyond the 3-1 record, what has impressed you the most about the way rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has performed?

Archer: Nobody saw this coming when training camp started. He was slow with his reads in a walkthrough. But once Kellen Moore went down on Aug. 2, he became a different player.

The thing that surprises me most is his accuracy. He has gone three straight games completing better than 70 percent of his passes. These aren’t just checkdowns either. And he is putting the ball in spots where the receiver can do something with it.

From his time at Mississippi State, everybody lauded his leadership skills. He’s shown that here, too, but all quarterbacks are leaders whether young or old. To me, I didn’t see him being this accurate.

Dak Prescott Voted Pepsi NFL Rookie Of The Week For Week 4 - Rob Phillips, Dallas Cowboys
This week's nominees included not one but two Cowboys rookies in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot, and with two players splitting the Cowboys fan vote, Prescott getting the honors is even more impressive.

Tony Romo had MRI last week, received positive feedback - Jon Machota SportsDay
Good news for Tony Romo.

Tony Romo received an MRI on his injured back last week. The feedback was very good for the Cowboys' franchise quarterback, a source said.

Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has watched Romo throw recently and said he "looks good."

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Claiborne finally proving worth in 5th season with Cowboys - Shuyler Dixon, AP
Dixon explains why Claiborne is finally living up to his draft pedigree.

In the minds of most, the biggest difference in the 26-year-old Claiborne is simple: health. He had a full offseason and training camp for the first time. He looked good in camp as well, frequently winning battles with 2014 All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant.

"Confidence comes through practice and preparation," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "Lack of confidence is when you are not doing enough. You don't feel comfortable. When you go out and get that many reps against Dez, there is a reality to your confidence."

While Claiborne has been among the best in the NFL statistically in coverage this season, he still doesn't have more than one interception in a season. He has plenty of time to change that — and change the synopsis of his career.

"I want to be the best. Sometimes it takes longer," Claiborne said. "When I got to middle school, I wanted to be the best in middle schools. It took steps. High school, same thing. College. And the pros, too. I'm not going to stop trying to take those steps no matter what happens."

DeMarcus Lawrence set to be activated to Dallas Cowboys roster - Todd Archer, ESPN
Lawrence, who led Dallas in sacks last season, is expected to make his season debut for the Cowboys on Sunday vs. the Bengals, albeit in limited action.

With guard La'el Collins moved to injured reserve earlier in the week after having toe surgery, the Cowboys do not have to create a roster spot for Lawrence.

"He looks great," linebacker Sean Lee said. "He had a really good camp, worked hard during training camp, had a really good offseason, so I think he’s ready to play. And I think he’ll have a big impact."

Cowboys' Jameill Showers moves to safety but not to active roster - Todd Archer, ESPN
A lot of sites jumped the gun on this, but it turned out that Jameill Showers remains on the Cowboys' practice squad after all, even if he was moved from quarterback to safety.

With Tony Romo returning soon from a compression fracture in his back, Showers would not get any time at quarterback. He is simply staying ahead of the game, so to speak.

"It was kind of a mutual thing," Showers said. "It was mentioned to me and I was like, 'I'll do whatever you want me to do.' I know it'll be easier for me to get moved up to play special teams playing safety."

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Practice Update: Tyron & Bailey Return; Dez & Dunbar Not Practicing - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
Looks like the Cowboys will get some of their Pro Bowlers back.

Judging by their roll call at practice, it seemed like things might be looking good heading into Week 5. Tyron Smith and Dan Bailey, both of whom have been battling back injuries this week, practiced on the final day of the week – lending some confidence that the two Pro Bowlers might be available on Sunday.

Dan Bailey looks good, but club will wait until Saturday before making decision - David Moore, SportsDay
Parts of the DFW Sports media whined and bitched last week when Jason Garrett announced Dez Bryant's injury to the 49ers media, and then whined and bitched some more when Garrett was even less forthcoming than usual in his press conference early this week.

But when the chance presented itself to do some real 'jounalizing' and figure out what really caused Bailey's back issues, nobody could be bothered, so they all went with the Cowboys' explanation: a soft mattress in the team hotel in San Francisco. For realz.

Anyway, looks like Bailey has slept better this week and could be ready to go on Sunday.

Dan Bailey was able to kick Friday and looked good, according to those who saw him, but a source said the club intends to wait until Saturday before making a decision.

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2017 NFL Playoff Picture: AFC, NFC teams that'd be in if postseason started today - Jared Dubin, CBSSports.com
We've been doing our own playoff tracker since Week 1 here on BTB. We're approaching Week 5 and CBSSports agrees that it's never too early to start thinking about the NFL playoffs.

If the season were to end today, the Cowboys would be the fifth seed and take on the Rams in the Wildcard round.

Bart Scott: 'I would choke the hell out of Odell Beckham' if he was on my team - Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com
The former NFL linebacker has a colorful take on what he'd do to Beckham, but his take on the coaching situation in New York is much more interesting:

"McAdoo is a young coach," Scott continued. "He needs to make sure that he lets everybody know he's the all-powerful, that he will sit anybody down. Right now, they're just walking all over him. It's kind of like when the substitute teacher comes in and you don't listen to him or anything because you don't care -- because he's just a substitute. McAdoo is going to have to pull a power play to show that he has power and nobody's above the rules."

Falcons lose three OTA practices due to 2016 violations - Conor Orr, NFL.com
The Falcons will be docked three days of Organized Team Activities in the spring of 2017 due to a violation of offseason workout rules in May of this past year, the league announced on Thursday.

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NFL Executives Blame ‘Confluence of Events’ for Ratings Declines - Joe Flint, Wall Street Journal
As befits a league whose executives are largely out of touch with reality, the NFL blames everything and everybody but itself for the recent drop in ratings.

The league said the large drop in ratings for prime-time games on ESPN, CBS and NBC is likely because of "unprecedented interest in the Presidential election."

Not everyone is convinced that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are solely to blame. Some industry analysts note that as the NFL continues to place product on more digital platforms, a negative hit to the broadcast partners is more likely. Others cite that the NFL may have hit saturation level with games on all day Sunday, as well as a Monday and Thursday game.

Interestingly, ratings for college football have been up this season.

Heavy NFL RedZone Users Miss Up to 38 Hours in Ad Time - Anthony Crupi, AdAge
Ratings are down for the NFL, and everybody has their pet theory about why that's the case. But perhaps the ratings drop is of the NFL's own making.

The sheer volume and metronomic repetition of the ads in a typical NFL game can make a lazy Sunday afternoon on the couch feel like running an Oklahoma drill without a helmet.

Last year, commercial time in regular-season games on CBS, Fox, NBC and NFL Network -- ESPN carries a lighter ad load than its fellow NFL broadcast partners -- averaged out to around 21 minutes per hour, or a little more than a solid hour per game. The average for pretty much everything else on TV? 15 minutes, according to Nielsen.