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Cowboys News: Is Dak Prescott really just a "system guy"?

Latest Cowboys headlines: Is Dak Prescott a product of the Cowboys' offense? Is Jeff Heath ready to start at safety? Why Doug Free retiring was a good thing.

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Star or system guy? Judging Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott - Bucky Brooks,
Dak Prescott earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors last season, yet Bucky Brooks sees him "just" as a system guy. See if you agree with his argumentation.

I'm sure the sight of their QB1 on this list will make plenty of Cowboys fans @ me on Twitter, but hear me out before you compose your 140-character missives. The 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year certainly looked like a star as a surprising first-year starter for "America's Team," but he landed in a perfect situation for a young quarterback with the league's best offensive line and a pair of elite playmakers at the RB1 (Ezekiel Elliott) and WR1 (Dez Bryant) spots. Not to mention, he had one of the most reliable tight ends in NFL history at his disposal (Jason Witten), which provided the rookie with a security blanket when things got chaotic in the pocket.

Now, I certainly understand that the Cowboys' offense was originally constructed with Tony Romo in mind, but the rookie quarterback clearly benefited from the star-studded group around him. He had the luxury of leaning on a powerful running game or a quick-rhythm aerial attack that allowed the offense to operate with an efficient point guard at the helm. To that point, the Cowboys crafted a system on the fly that played to the strengths of Prescott's game as a quick-rhythm passer with outstanding athleticism. The team operated extensively out of spread and empty formation in obvious passing downs, which put the rookie in his comfort zone based on his experience at Mississippi State. As a result of a brilliant scheme and player deployment, Prescott posted a passer rating above 100 in 11 regular-season games and recorded a ridiculous 23:4 TD-to-INT ratio, helping the Cowboys take the division crown.

Naturally, Prescott supporters will suggest that the young QB's poise, charisma, leadership skills and overall efficiency as a passer keyed Dallas' resurgence -- but I don't think the team initially envisioned the fourth-round selection as a legitimate franchise quarterback, based on reported attempts to snag Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook on draft day before settling on the Mississippi State star. That certainly doesn't diminish what Prescott has been able to accomplish against long odds, but it does speak volumes about how the Cowboys viewed the field general as a prospect.

It's on Prescott to prove to defensive coordinators around the league that he can continue to thrive when opponents sit on his fastball (Prescott's ability to work short and intermediate areas as a passer). If the Cowboys' QB1 can play well when forced out of his comfort zone, we will be able to move him into the "star" category.

Ranking divisions by quarterback: NFC South reigns supreme - Adam Schein,
Adam Schein believes the NFC East has the second-best group of QBs in the league behind the NFC South (Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Jameis Winston).

You could start a riot debating the individual rankings of these four signal callers, which speaks volumes about the division. Dak was absolutely fantastic in Year 1, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and guiding Dallas to the playoffs. And the best is yet to come. I still think Wentz is going to be a star. Last year was about a learning curve. Now, with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in the fold, Wentz's development will really kick into gear. Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The two-time Super Bowl MVP is tough and clutch and still great. And Cousins has become a big-time, reliable starter in Washington. I've argued for years that the former fourth-round pick deserves a new contract and should be treated like a franchise quarterback.

NFL1000: Ranking the Best Offensive Schemes - Doug Farrar, Bleacher Report
Earlier this week, Farrar ran through the best offensive schees in the league, and had the Cowboys ranked third behind Kyle Shanahan's Pre-Snap Passing Game and New England's Option Routes.

3. Dallas' Option Running Game

Prescott rushed just 57 times in his rookie season, but he got maximum value out of those runs, gaining 282 yards and scoring six touchdowns. The threat of Prescott as a runner gave Elliott opportunities he wouldn't have had otherwise because defenses had to key on them both as runners.

When Prescott took the ball, especially near the goal line, the theory was often simple: Read the defense, and if it didn't look optimal to give Elliott the ball, Prescott would take it himself after faking to Elliott. As the interior defenders bit on the inside fake, Prescott would use his speed to get outside and gain extra yardage. At other times, he would drop back to pass, see clear rushing lanes and take the ball right through them.

It wasn't a complex set of schemes, but those schemes were highly effective—and as Prescott continues to develop as a passer, they should be even more effective because defenses will have to worry about the passing game as well.

Eventually, the Cowboys would be wise to focus more on Prescott's passing given the injury rate for running quarterbacks. For now, it's good for Linehan and the rest of Dallas' coaching staff to know that while his development happens, Prescott is a key cog in what looks to be the most effective option package in the NFL today.

Dak Prescott has “no knowledge” of how machine-generated autographs ended up on his trading cards - Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk
Trading card company Panini cleared Dak Prescott in machine-generated signings.

Panini America, the Irving, Texas, based trading card company that has an exclusive autographed trading card agreement with Prescott, released a statement Friday night. It came a day after ESPN reported that an autograph authentication company refused to verify Prescott’s signature in a recent card set.

Panini absolved Prescott after an investigation and announced it had signed the second-year player to a long-term extension.

Jeff Heath Studying NFL’s Best Safeties For Art of Making More Plays - Jonathan Auping, Dallas Cowboys
Auping writes that Heath was all over the field during this year’s OTA practices, recording numerous interceptions against the Cowboys’ offense.

In short, Heath has shown the potential of a defensive playmaker.

Coming into next season there will be a starting safety spot open opposite Byron Jones, and for Heath to seize that opportunity, or even someday join that list of feared safeties, he knows he has to study the other names on that list.

“I like watching all the good ones,” Heath said the last week of mini-camp. “I love watching Earl Thomas, Harrison Smith, Eric Berry, any of the ones that make a lot of plays. I just want to try to see what they see.”

“They’re making plays, but it’s not like the ball is just getting thrown to them,” Heath said of the top safeties in the NFL. “They’re seeing something. I try to see what they see [when I watch film of them] and put myself in that situation. So when I’m in that situation in a practice or a game I can try to do the same thing.”

20 Questions: Is Jeff Heath Ready To Fill Church’s Shoes And Win Safety Job? - Dallas Cowboys Staff
The staff writers at – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – weigh in on Heath's potential. Heres Broaddus' take:

Broaddus: As much as I hate losing Church, his replacement, Heath, has me interested in what could happen there. If you've followed me for any length of time here on I have been accused of being a Heath Apologist. When things weren't going well for him, I was more than willing to take a wait and see approach in order to fully evaluate the player. With Heath you get every bit of the physical play that you got with Church and similar ball skills. What Heath can do that Church can't is play with deep range. Having Heath in the lineup will allow Byron Jones to play down more in the box and in tighter coverage which is his strength. The defensive adjustments will be better and the scheme more flexible.

Doug Free retiring was a good thing - SportsDay Staff
Newy Scruggs is the sports anchor at NBC5 in Dallas-Fort Worth and the DMN offers up a best-of from his recent live chats, including this take on La'el Collins.

Question: Does La'el Collins ever live up to Doug Free at right tackle?

Scruggs: Doug Free retiring was a good thing. He was the weak link on the Cowboys offensive line. Collins is an upgrade. He has a chance to be a top player at right tackle, something Free was not going to be.

He was 33-years-old. I felt the Cowboys should have moved on from Free two seasons earlier.

Collins was a top prospect as a tackle coming out of LSU. The Cowboys line can be better in my opinion. I was tired of watching the Giants' Jason Pierre Paul working Free over during games.

Good luck in retirement to Doug Free but thank goodness Collins is taking his spot. With free agency coming up I think we will see Collins going full out for a chance at a big payday.

Cowboys seventh-round pick Jordan Carrell sees an opportunity - Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk
Williams, explains that Carrell faces an uphill battle to make the Cowboys’ final roster, but may eventually be a fit.

Rookie Jordan Carrell, who arrived in Dallas weighing 300 pounds, said he has lost weight and gained speed since the draft.

Carrell, though, remains a project, likely needing time to convert from the 3-4 defense he played at Colorado to the Cowboys’ 4-3. He appears a better fit at end than at tackle.

Dallas Cowboys youth movement could equal New Pick City - The Landry Hat
Just because Foxsports calls every ridiculous idea a hot take doesn't mean everybody should follow their lead.

Put safety Jeff Heath next to our sixth round pick – safety Xavier Woods – the interception machine. Yes, he’s going to replace Byron Jones our epic first round mistake (predictions: Go big or go home).

Two players eligible for 2017 NFL Supplemental Draft - Chase Goodbread,
Georgia Military College DL Tavares Bingham and Western New Mexico RB Marques Rodgers will be eligible for selection in next week's NFL Supplemental Draft.

Would Drafting Three Quarterbacks In One Draft Be A Good Idea? - Chase Stuart, FootballPerspective
Interesting question from Stuart, for which there may not be a clear answer.

There’s nothing more valuable in the modern NFL that a good quarterback on a rookie contract. Despite that golden rule, teams are not wont to spend multiple draft picks on quarterbacks in the same draft. Since the new CBA was adopted in 2011, only two teams have spent two picks on quarterbacks in the same draft, and no team has used three.

The base salary for fourth round picks in 2017 is less than $700,000. Three fourth round picks cost less than $2m on a team’s salary cap, which means the financial investment is close to meaningless.

Teams famously don’t know what they are doing in the draft, so spending three straight mid-round picks on quarterbacks is an acknowledgment that the best way to improve your chances of success in the draft is to have more chances. With three bites at the apple, your odds go up significantly that you’ll land the right player. And if two of the three are busts, who cares? The cost to acquire those picks is minimal, and the upside of one success is enormous.

But the real question is whether having three mid-tier prospects actually increases the chance that one of them becomes a star. If competition brings out the best in players, and if “iron sharpens iron“, then the peak value of the best of the three quarterbacks (or the peak of the best quarterback) should be more than the sum of the parts.

Former Eagles coach: “I was the anti-Christ in Philadelphia” - Curtis Crabtree, ProFootballTalk
Nothing new here; we've suspected it all along.

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