Bob Sturm has already admitted he made a mistake in his evaluation of Dak Prescott. He seems to be making up for that error, using each of his "Decoding Linehan" weekly columns to break down Prescott's game. This week, he offers video clips to show how Linehan has been using Prescott's versatile abilities to give defenses a series of bad choices.
But have the Cowboys' offensive minds altered their approach to the attack because, instead of having a star, veteran quarterback who does certain things well and other things that must be avoided (for his health), they have a rookie quarterback who can put you in so many personnel binds because of his combination of passing, running and frankly, a sturdiness that allows for a few more risks?
Basically, Dak Prescott gives you math issues as a defense. And if he can make you pay with his arm, then the legs take care of themselves.
Th[is]... is what offensive perfection looks like. Every stat up there is exactly where you want to see things -- an average of 3.7 yards to go on third downs is comical. I have kept these numbers for years and don't ever recall seeing anything that low. A 6.6 average to go on second down also is remarkably low. They hadn't been down there since the 2015 opener. This team is rolling with a ground game and aerial attack that are teaming up to hum along through three weeks with impressive ease. This looks like the Cowboys when Tony Romo is really in a groove, to be honest.
Brandon George strikes a similar theme, contrasting last year's backup quarterbacks with Dak Prescott, who has allowed Coach Linehan to call plays that even Tony Romo might not execute as well.
Dare we say this offense is now Dak-friendly?
The first two weeks, the Cowboys had Prescott on the move. They called run fakes to the left and bootlegged out of it to the right before completing passes downfield.
Prescott throws well on the run, something he often displayed at Mississippi State.
On Sunday against the Bears, the Cowboys called nine empty-set plays where Prescott was all alone in the backfield. That gave Prescott the option to run if the middle of the field was exposed.
Prescott is more comfortable in the shotgun with receivers five-wide. He was often in that position running Mississippi State's spread offense.
The Cowboys have also lined up running backs out wide and allowed Prescott to make a decision on what's the best option: a running back matched up against a linebacker in coverage or have the tailback motion into the backfield for a favorable run look.
49ers defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil is also impressed with Dak Prescott, as he tries to stop him and the Cowboys offense this week.
"He's playing like a quarterback that's been in the league for four or five years," he said.
What specifically has caught his eye?
"Route progressions," O'Neil said. "How he's getting rid of the ball. How he's checking plays based off of looks. How he's getting them in good run situations. How if it's not there, he's tucking it and running it and taking advantage of his athleticism. So, he's beyond his years right now as far as a rookie."
Does all this Dak Prescott praise mean Tony Romo's time may soon be up in Dallas? Drew Bledsoe reflects on how it happened to him, twice!
"When you're young in the league -- when you're young in life -- you think you're 10-foot tall and bulletproof," said Bledsoe, now 44, who was the first overall pick of the 1993 draft. "You think nobody can ever replace you, and that you're gonna be the guy forever. Eventually, you learn the lesson that it's a replacement business. Sometimes that hits you right between the eyes, which is what happened to me with (Tom) Brady, and again with Tony.
"It happens to all of us. I don't know if it's the time for Tony, but it's something that every quarterback has to confront."
But the news is not all about Dak Prescott, as amazing as he has been. La'el Collins has decided to give it two weeks to decide if he needs surgery on his big toe.
Collins said he is going to let it "calm down for a couple weeks, see what it does and just keep treating it."
He said the hope is that the ligament can heal on its own without surgery. If he had surgery, he would likely miss the season. It is possible he could go on injured reserve and return after eight weeks if it heals well.
Fortunately, Dallas has Ron Leary to step right in for Collins on the line, and he stepped in this week without missing a beat.
"I mean, it’s been hard; I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s been easy," said Leary, who was inactive for the first two games this season. "It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve been through. But I mean, sometimes you’ve just got to be a pro about things and just be ready because it can happen at any time."
When he walked into the huddle to start the second half against the Bears, it was "just like old times."
"There were big smiles when I came in," Leary said. "I love playing with them guys. I miss playing with them. It felt good to be back out there."
Looks like they also added some line depth. Makes sense, but a cast off Giants lineman? Does this mean IR this week for La'el?
The Cowboys will sign OG Emmett Cleary in the wake of the La'el Collins injury. Cleary was waived by the NY Giants on Sept. 3.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) September 27, 2016
Also on the health front. Will Demarcus Lawrence be ready to go after the 49ers game? What to make of this statement by Jerry Jones? Lawrence himself went on record to deny he was having any issues.
Jerry Jones said during his Tuesday morning radio interview that Lawrence, who led the team with eight sacks last year, is dealing with "some limitations ... physically."
"He's had some issues that he's dealing with that you have to keep your eye on," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan's Shan and RJ show [KRLD-FM]. "But he's fighting through it."
As for Dez Bryant's knee, there seems to be no further news as this is being written.
Switching gears again, with the play of this year's draft class, Will McClay gets a shout out. Let's hope he continues to stick around for a few more years.
There has been a lot of talk, and with good reason, about the outstanding play of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. [...] But the impact of scouting chief Will McClay’s rookie draft class goes deeper when you consider defensive tackle Maliek Collins, who is now a starter alongside Terrell McClain with Tyrone Crawford moving to end, and the play of cornerback Anthony Brown.
Fast forward to next year. If the Cowboys are able to get second-round pick Jaylon Smith on the field at middle linebacker, this rookie class could be the team’s foundation for years to come. Bravo to Will McClay.
Lastly, the "By the Numbers" posts are always a fun read. OCC is doing them now that Rabblerousr is no longer here, and hasn't missed a beat.
52.5%: The Cowboys' league leading third-down conversion rate after three games (last year, the Cowboys had a conversion rate of 34.6 percent, No. 27 in NFL). On defense, the team is allowing a conversion rate of just 37.5%, and the resulting third-down conversion differential of +15% (No. 5 in the NFL) is a key reason why the Cowboys have scored on 50% of their drives to date, while their opponents have only scored on 37% of their drives.