The media expects it. Opponents are hoping for it. Coaches are counting on it.
However, despite the noise of “it” — a sophomore slump following the greatest rookie season by a quarterback in NFL history — Dak Prescott continues to do what he does best: ball. No matter if it has been in camp in Oxnard, practice back home at The Star, or in his two preseason appearances this August, the reigning Rookie of the Year has showed no signs of falling off in year two on the NFL level.
Last season, the kid out of Mississippi State was seen as more of a developmental prospect that would battle with Jameill Showers and Kellen Moore to learn from the face of the franchise, Tony Romo, until number 9 decided to hang it up. However, it did not quite work out that way.
When Kellen Moore went down with a season-ending injury early on during last year’s training camp, the fourth-round selection received the opportunity to show the coaches what he can do. While the scouts favored Showers at the time, the coaches went with their recent draft pick. All he did was wow the staff, the fans, the media, and everyone who laid eyes on his preseason debut against the Los Angeles Rams on national television.
Prescott completed ten of his twelve passes — both incompletions were dropped — for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He displayed incredible poise, moved the football down the field, and found Dez for one score and T-Will on another on a beautiful dime.
.@15_DakP out here looking like a Pro Bowler...— NFL (@NFL) August 14, 2016
Another perfect TD pass from the rookie! #DALvsLA https://t.co/WQKIAsaEK5
From that moment on, Prescott never looked back. He again put together a solid showing the following week against the Miami Dolphins back home in Jerry’s World. He showed off his poise, composure, and legs en route to another impressive performance that seemingly sealed his spot among the 53-man roster last August. However, nobody could have foreseen the kind of season that Dak would go on to have in 2016.
When Tony Romo went down against Seattle, fans panicked. Their most recent memory without Romo was the dreaded 2015 season that featured lousy quarterback play from the likes of Moore, Brandon Weeden, and Matt Cassel. The team went nowhere, only winning four games, and showed the kind of team that the Cowboys are without good QB play. Despite his stellar preseason, fans worried if Prescott would be a serviceable replacement behind center until Romo returned from injury.
Romo never did return as the starting quarterback, though. Dak Prescott was simply too impressive for the Cowboys to go back to the man that led the franchise for the past decade. Dak set the NFL world on fire by breaking rookie record after rookie record, leading his team to an eleven-game winning streak, and showing the poise and maturity that few in the sport possess. His knack of finding the open man, limiting turnovers, and hurting defenses with his feet when necessary proved to be a nightmare combination for defenses to prepare for. The Cowboys decided to roll with the player that watched as 134 guys and seven quarterbacks had their names called before he heard his in April of 2016.
Some may say that falling in the draft put a chip on Dak’s shoulder to prove everybody wrong. But, you see, Dak has always had a large chip on his shoulder that continuously pushes him to outwork everybody. The Haughton, Louisiana, native was told that he wouldn’t be a quarterback at the Division 1 level in college, that he didn’t have the arm to succeed in the SEC, and that he wouldn’t be able to lead Mississippi State to success.
He did all of the above. Dak set 38 school records at Mississippi State, led the Bulldogs to the program’s first ever number one ranking, and finished in the top ten of the Heisman Trophy voting in 2014. He was a two-time first team All-SEC selection and was one of the best players in college football. Despite that, he wasn’t seen as an NFL quarterback.
During his first season on the professional level, he caught the sports world by surprise. He threw for 3,667 yards and 23 touchdowns to four interceptions during the course of last year’s regular season. Dak completed just under 68% of his throws, posted a QB rating of 104.9 — good for third in the NFL behind only MVP Matt Ryan and Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady — and consistently showed up in big moments and big games. His clutch moments against the Packers in Lambeau, the Eagles at home, and the Steelers on the road all come to mind. His second half showing against Green Bay in the playoff showed just how talented the kid really is and can be for the Dallas Cowboys for years to come.
But for some reason, everybody expects him to fail. Sure, Ezekiel Elliott is set to miss the first six games of the 2017 campaign, but the Dak Doubters were out in full force even before Elliott’s punishment was announced. Many believed last season was a fluke or that a fourth-round pick simply cannot be that good. However, he looks to prove them wrong again.
Dak, by all accounts, has gotten even better this offseason. He has worked on his mechanics, improved his footwork, and knows what to expect in the NFL after going through a full season. His drive to get better sets him apart. 105.3 The Fan’s Jeff Cavanaugh says that Dak “looks like the league MVP” and “600%” better compared to last year’s training camp.
How much better does Dak look in practice compared to last year? I know it's pretty significant.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) August 22, 2017
I'd say around 600%. Last year Showers had days where he looked better than Dak. This year Dak looks like the league MVP. https://t.co/KgZ6Kwhq5J— Jeff Cavanaugh (@JC1053) August 22, 2017
He certainly has impressed this preseason. Against the Colts last weekend, Dak picked up where he left off last year. The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year played two series against Indianapolis and simply made things look too easy on his way to completing seven of his eight pass attempts for 106 yards and a 32-yard score to Dez Bryant. He finished the game with a perfect 158.3 QB rating. Not too shabby.
Dak Prescott was nearly flawless tonight. Total command of the offense. If you think he was a one-year wonder, you are insane.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) August 20, 2017
This past Saturday, Dak again looked like a seasoned veteran. Although the offense didn’t score as quickly against the Raiders as they did against the Colts, Dak completed 11/14 for 113 yards and a touchdown toss to number 82.
Play-action pass.@dak ➡️ @JasonWitten.— NFL (@NFL) August 27, 2017
Touchdown, @dallascowboys!#OAKvsDAL pic.twitter.com/tkL4rNwGhE
Bleacher Report’s lead NFL draft scout Matt Miller says that Dak is “Russell Wilson-esque”.
Prescott is just super poised. Russell Wilson-esque— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 27, 2017
Miller also says that he “would be shocked if (Dak) doesn’t take the next step this year”:
Dak Prescott has impressed me every week this preseason. Would be shocked if he doesn't take the next step this year.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 27, 2017
Our friends over at the Seahawks blog Field Gulls are impressed, too:
From great to greater. Prescott's played like a number one pick from day one, much like Russell, it's good, interesting football to watch.— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) August 27, 2017
Dak has carried the momentum he built last season over to the new year. He finished his 2017 preseason by only throwing four incompletions on 22 attempts for 219 yards and two touchdown passes. He finished his two appearances with a video game-like 138.4 QB rating, which is first in the NFL preseason through three weeks. Oh, and Prescott recorded zero turnovers. He looks to continue his superb play in the regular season for the Cowboys.
What’s more, Cowboys players and coaches all believe the second year quarterback will have another great season for America’s Team. Per The Star-Telegram’s Drew Davison, both Jason Witten and Scott Linehan are expecting big things from their young star. The GOAT proclaims that Dak “is special”.
“The guy is special,” said veteran tight end Jason Witten, who caught a 10-yard TD from Prescott. “To come into training camp and really the entire offseason and approach it like he has, really building off what he did last year – his communication, his calls, his accuracy – I mean, he’s made big throws not just tonight and last week, but throughout the entire training camp...”
Linehan asserts that his quarterback has “taken his game to another level”:
“Dak’s taken his game to another level,” Linehan said. “We’re really not approaching this season any different than we did [last year]. We just kind of pick up where we left off and work to improve on some things we weren’t good enough at last year.”
So, why all of the doubt surrounding the young Pro Bowl quarterback? Is it because of the irrational Cowboys hate and media scrutiny that followed Tony throughout his career? Is it because he was a fourth-round pick and that many don’t like to give late draft picks the benefit of the doubt? Maybe it’s because fans are bitter their team passed up on a budding star at the game’s most important position.
Whatever the case is, Dak Prescott is ready to prove them wrong. Again.