Dak Prescott continues to be the biggest story for the Dallas Cowboys during the 2016 NFL preseason. He may be the biggest for the entire league as he continues to put up some truly unbelievable numbers despite being a late fourth-round pick who was in may ways little more than a consolation prize after the Cowboys coveted, but failed to get, both Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook. They look to have been incredibly lucky in how things played out, but the Prescott story is overshadowing one that is likely far more important for Dallas’ chances this season. Tony Romo is back, and in his first action this year it looked like he is very close to being in regular season form.
That could be crucial with the Cowboys facing off against division rivals the first two games of the season. The past two years, he has come out of the gate not looking that good. In 2014, he had something of a rough preseason and ran into a bit of a buzzsaw against the San Francisco 49ers before things righted themselves and the Cowboys went on a run to set up their playoff appearance. Last year, despite a somewhat heroic comeback in leading the team to a win over the New York Giants, he also looked a bit ragged for the first part of the game. That, too, was preceded by a less than solid preseason performance.
This year, he came out of the gate looking like the best version of himself. Although the rather ridiculous number of penalties on the first drive of the game tended to mask it, he was on target to his favorite receivers, and hit Dez Bryant and Jason Witten with some very accurate passes in the touchdown drive on his second and final series of the game. With the offensive line providing solid protection, despite the absence of Tyron Smith, that bodes very well for the start of this year.
Make no mistake, Dak Prescott’s tremendous start is all about potential for the future, not about some trumped-up quarterback controversy. Romo is the engine that drives the offense, and having that engine finely tuned and hitting on all cylinders will go far towards making the formula for this year work. Just in case you have forgotten it, that plan is to have the offense come out, control the ball, and score early, putting the defense in position to get some stops and takeaways, something that worked quite well the first two games of the preseason. Additionally, the special teams have had an impact play in each of the games so far, which is good news for that phase of the game. For Romo, the game against the Miami Dolphins was all about knocking the rust off, and that seemed to fall away quite quickly. Now he will have the so-called dress rehearsal game at the Seattle Seahawks to continue the process, and that is likely to be a better gauge of where he is than was an apparently overmatched Dolphins team. It would be a good idea to get Smith back on the line to make sure Romo stays healthy. He should also have the debut of Ezekiel Elliott to help keep the pressure off, although Alfred Morris has performed admirably as the starter while Elliott has been brought along in a most deliberate manner.
With a full slate of healthy receiving options, save for the loss of James Hanna, Romo is going to be a true weapon for Dallas. The running game has the potential to be even better than the formidable attack of 2014 with Elliott set to debut in Seattle and Morris and Darius Jackson showing what they can do in the first two preseason games, and things are about to get even better.
Cleared and ready to go!! God is GOOD!!— lance dunbar (@Dunbar_CDB5) August 20, 2016
Romo’s health will continue to be the biggest factor for the Cowboys, although Prescott’s stunning emergence offers some hope for the worst case, which we will fervently hope does not occur. If Romo continues to look like the very, very good quarterback he is when in good shape, then the plan for this year looks ready to pay off well. Despite some opinions to the contrary, he is the class of NFC East quarterbacks, and part of the top tier in the league. At worst, he is just outside the truly elite, and an argument can be made that he belongs in that group. His play makes that argument for those who are willing to look objectively.
The Prescott effect has been a real thrill ride so far, in a completely good way. Enjoy it to its fullest, and we all should hope it continues without any real setbacks. But the real excitement for this year is what Romo can do. With him and his supporting cast in top form, the Cowboys have a real shot at being one of the last teams standing in the playoffs. That is the goal. Right now, it looks to be very much within Dallas’ grasp.