How can Dak Prescott top his best-in-NFL-history rookie campaign? By elevating his game against the best defenses the NFL has to offer.
Last year, the New York Giants had the second best real quarterback defensive rating in the NFL. And it showed up against Dak Prescott, who overall posted a 104.7 quarterback rating on the season, but didn’t do nearly as well in his two appearances against the Giants, his only two losses.
Let’s revisit Dak’s stats from last year.
We’ve highlighted his two worst games, both of which were against the Giants. In those two games, Dak went 42 of 82, for 392 yards, one TD and two INTs. His completion percentage was 51% (versus 67.6% on the year), his ANY/A was 3.61 (versus 7.9 on the year), and his quarterback rating was 58.59 (versus 104.7 on the year).
His other “bad” game was the first game against Philadelphia, when he went 19 for 39, for a 79.8 quarterback rating. Yet the Cowboys won that game after Dak rallied them from a 23-13 fourth quarter deficit to win 29-23 in overtime. Dak also didn’t have much time to get into a rhythm in the end-of-season game against Philadelphia, when he was pulled after throwing just eight passes.
If you removed these four games, this is what Dak Prescott’s stat line would look like.
These are 2016 MVP Matt Ryan numbers. Ryan’s quarterback rating was 117.1, and his ANY/A was 9.03. If Dak posted a 118.64 passer rating, it would be the fourth highest single season of all time. Moreover, if you give Dak credit for his rushing totals, in which he ran 57 times for 282 yards and six touchdowns, those numbers would look even better.
Last year, Dak played in only six games against teams that ranked in the top-10 on defensive real quarterback rating, and one of those was the meaningless last contest against Philadelphia, when he was pulled early. But only the Giants got the best of him and the Cowboys. This year, he’s likely to face stiffer competition, with the Giants still up twice, but also Denver, Kansas City, Arizona, the LA Chargers, and Seattle on the schedule.
How can Dak beat these teams, especially when he’s facing the loss of Ezekiel Elliott in games against the Giants, Broncos, and Cardinals the first three weeks?
If preseason is any indication, the formula seems to be:
- Dez Bryant returning to his healthy, unstoppable ways
- Continued mind-meld with Cole Beasley
- Using Jason Witten on some down-the-field throws to supplement his normal chain-moving possession catches
- Much better reception rate with Brice Butler
- Additions of Rico Gathers as an explosive tight end option, and Ryan Switzer as a Cole Beasley clone with better after-the-catch running ability
- More shotgun and empty sets, and perhaps a more judicious use of his running ability.
Dak will need to continue protecting the football. But he’s certain to see the field better, understand the playbook better, and be able to execute plays better than he did last year. All of this bodes well for Dak figuring out the Giants, and once he does, the rest of the NFL better beware!