It has been an ugly start in 2018 for third-year quarterback Dak Prescott. Through five weeks, Prescott is ranked 24th in yards, 28th in passer rating, 31st in completion percentage, and 32nd in average yards per completion. These numbers are absolutely unacceptable, and this is coming from someone who has been a big supporter of Dak Prescott since coming into the league in 2016. There are plenty of questions surrounding the scheme, play-calling, and personnel surrounding Prescott, but there are things he can improve on first that have nothing to do with any of that other stuff. Stats are stats, and sometimes they lie, so today we will take a look at the tape from the 19-16 loss to the in-state rival Houston Texans, to see if the numbers match the tape.
Prescott has struggled to sequence is body
Body sequence is something you can look at in any sport. In baseball hitters use it to synch up their hips, hands, and barrel of the bat to create power. In tennis, you use your base, hips, and shoulders to create power and placement. In golf, if your upper body out-fires your lower hips/legs, you’ll continue to pull the ball badly. In football, if your lower half is pointing one way, and your upper body is pointed another, you won’t be accurate with the football. This has been one of Dak Prescott’s biggest issues.
Play 1: Throwing mechanics start with the lower half
First off, this is bad pocket management from Prescott. There is literally zero reason for him to start to fade to his left when he sees the DB blitzing. It seems as if Prescott has lost all faith in his blocking, and that shows here with how quick he’s starting to bail out of a clean pocket. When Prescott pulls this football back to fire, he’s actually in pretty decent shape to throw an accurate football. That all goes south when instead of driving through this football he pulls off of it which causes a wide throw. Prescott’s weight is distributed so poorly here that after he releases the football his front foot slips, which makes his front shoulder and upper body fall away from his target even more. This all comes from poor mechanics, due to poor weight distribution, and not driving through the throw, that all happens when your body isn’t in a position to do those things.
Play 2: Poor weight footwork leads to near pick six
Similar to the play above, Prescott is releasing this football off of his toes, with zero positive weight distribution in his lower half. This is what happens when you try and throw a ball of your toes, it normally sails high. This can’t happen, and so far it’s happening far to often on Prescott’s short throws.
Poor pocket awareness leads to rushed and inaccurate throws
When Prescott is comfortable in the pocket, he normally showcases pretty decent arm talent and accuracy. The problem is, he hasn’t been comfortable in the pocket much this season. So of that falls on the inconsistency of the offensive line, and some of it falls on his inability to step up in the pocket, reset his feet, and fire the football.
Play 1: Poor pocket awareness leads to another rushed throw
On this play, there is plenty of room for Dak Prescott to step up in the pocket, reset his feet and upper body, and deliver and accurate football to Michael Gallup. Instead, Prescott stands in the pocket without moving, and allows the Houston defender to get in his face while delivering the football. This causes Prescott to throw off of his back foot which results in an underthrown ball that Gallup is unable to haul in. Awareness of the pocket is one of the most underrated traits in a quarterback's game, and so far this year, Prescott has struggled with it.
Play 2: Prescott has to step up, reset, and drive the football. He does none of these things
Again, check out where Dak Prescott’s front foot is pointed, and where his follow through leg is when this ball is released. No follow through, leads to yet another poorly thrown ball that leads to an interception. It is up for debate on whether or not Tavon Austin should have hauled this in, but that has nothing to do with the fact that the ball was thrown 10-12” to high due to the lack of ability to finish his throws. He wasn’t able to finish this throw due to the blitzing linebacker coming through the “A-gap”. Prescott could have done himself a huge favor by stepping up in the pocket and by himself plenty of time to reset, and fire a much more accurate football in for Tavon Austin.
Lack of anticipation is killing Dak Prescott
It seems like forever since 2016 when Prescott was playing at an all-time-high. In 2016, Prescott showed the ability to throw with some anticipation, put the ball where it needed to be, and make plays with his legs when he needed to.
Here, the Texans showed a slot blitz pretty early, when the safety comes creeping down, this gives away that the Texans are playing man coverage with a safety who is 10 yards off playing man coverage on Cole Beasley. Prescott makes the right read, but he throws the ball too late, which cancels out any opportunity for yards after the catch. This has to be a ball that Prescott delivers as soon as he hits his back foot, instead Beasley catches the ball as he’s stepping out of bounds for a gain of eight, on 3rd and 9. Prescott also had an opportunity to run to his left here if he wanted to, and from the looks of it, he might still be running if he gets around the edge and breaks a tackle in the second level. In 2016, when Prescott didn’t like what he saw when scanning the field, he ran, and for the most part those plays resulted in positive plays for the Cowboys offense.
I’m unsure if his lack of running is coming from the coaching staff, ownership, or himself, but it’s something he needs to start doing more of if the Cowboys offense wants to have any success moving forward.
While the play of Dak Prescott has no question hurt this football team, the offensive scheme, play-calling, and supporting cast has not done their part either. Most of the offensive woes for the Cowboys are pointing back to Dak Prescott’s inability to make plays through the air, and after each week those questions are continuing to grow. If Dak wants to play better he needs to start from the ground up, because right now his footwork is a mess, which is throwing off his release point, drive through the football, and ability to avoid pressure due to poor body positioning. He has 11 weeks to figure it out, but his window is closing much quicker than most expected. Can Dak Prescott turn it around and be the franchise quarterback the Cowboys need?