Dak Prescott led the Dallas Cowboys into battle with the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon.
That is a statement that I never felt applied last season when Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassell were the replacement starters for Tony Romo. The demeanor of the other 10 men in the huddle was different this time under Precott. The Cowboys might not have prevailed on the field, but their quarterback gave them a chance at victory and it was clear from watching the body language of the team that his teammates felt that they could win with the rookie passer at the helm.
Prescott did not put up the kind of numbers that he delivered during the preseason. That is to be expected. From today forward he will be facing the 'ones' from each team that the Cowboys play, and it they will now be playing for keeps. Still Dak turned in a credible performance for the team. 25 for 45 passing for 227 yards and no touchdowns will not set the world on fire, but the rookie was plagued by drops on some balls that should have been caught. Had Cole Beasley and/or Dez Bryant made catches on their end zone targets the whole story would have been different.
There were some misfires on Prescott's part as well, but he did enough to put his team in a position to win the game as time was running down. That is about as much as anyone should expect out of a rookie mid-round selection making his professional debut. While he should not be pleased with his outing, neither should Dak dwell on it. There will be many days in the future where he and his teammates will walk off the gridiron having won contests such as today's game.
He also appeared a little too inclined to go to the 'security blanket' provided by Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. They are a reliable tandem but neither is the man who is going to light up opposing defenses. Perhaps this was by design, perhaps it was what he felt most comfortable with. Prescott has got to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers to force opposing defenses to respect those options. To be successful Prescott is going to have to make the other side respect what he can do with Dez Bryant. Having his top-gun catch one ball for eight yards will not get it done at this level.
The most important thing will be to take what he learned in his first professional game and apply them to the future. The is little doubt, based on what he has demonstrated so far, that the young quarterback will do just that. I expect that in the future Prescott will be reminding his receivers to make sure they get out of bounds to stop the clock as the game winds down. That was perhaps the most important thing he learned on Sunday afternoon. The quarterback must make absolutely certain that everyone understands the game situation. I do not know if Dak made Williams aware or not, but having a mistake like that cost the team should reinforce the importance in the quarterback's mind.
Prescott will build on his experience. He is not fully ready to be the Cowboys starting quarterback but his day is coming. There will be growing pains along the way; there always are. He will make mistakes that cost his team the game as he learns to make the plays that win many more for them. He took a big step into the Cowboys future on Sunday.