The argument started as soon as the play happened. Just in case you didn’t see it live, let me set the stage. In the frustrating loss to the Houston Texans, the Dallas Cowboys were trailing 10-6 with 1:41 left in the first half, but had a chance to pull closer or take the lead with a first and ten on the Houston 39-yard line, after converting a fourth and one. They’d driven from their own 29, and had a bit of momentum going (if you believe in such). Dak Prescott dropped back and threw the ball to Tavon Austin. But the pass ricocheted off Austin’s hands and was intercepted by Kareem Jackson, ensuring the Texans would carry the lead into the second half. (It could have been worse if not for a great goal line stand by the Cowboys, but that’s another story.)
The pass was clearly high, forcing Austin to leap for it. But many put the blame for the interception squarely on the receiver. However, it was hardly a universal verdict, as our own RJ Ochoa found out.
We polled @BloggingTheBoys asking who was more at fault for the first interception in Houston, Dak Prescott or Tavon Austin.— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) October 8, 2018
It's about as close as it can get, but the majority says Tavon. https://t.co/Jo7Ft0sZ8i pic.twitter.com/8kHkroJSv4
So who is right here? Let’s get a couple of differing opinions.
Ball should have been caught https://t.co/zxOh9GKgw6— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) October 8, 2018
Trust me, I get accused of always defending the QB. But this ball is NOT a catchable ball. Dak off balance, ball sailed and this will be the result 9 of 10 times. So stop saying “it went through Tavon Austin’s hands.” It did not. It “touched them.” pic.twitter.com/GKCFig8bJx— Babe Laufenberg (@BabeLaufenberg) October 8, 2018
Obviously both can’t be right. But let’s just say I, for one, trust the eyes and screengrab evidence of a former NFL player on this. Prescott made a bad throw, and Austin really didn’t have a chance.
This may seem like much ado about just one play in a game where the Cowboys had plenty of clunkers on both offense and defense. However, this is something that is a much bigger problem. While we have been “treated” to seeing Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson make so many right-on-the-money throws the past couple of games, Prescott is not throwing dimes. He is putting balls in the general area of his receivers, and it is costing the team time after time.
That play was an example of just how bad the mistake can be, beyond the turnover that resulted. If that had been just a decently placed ball, just a foot lower, Austin could have hauled it in with a chance to use his speed and elusiveness for a big gain - possibly all the way to the house. Instead, that fragile momentum shifted back to the Texans, and we know the depressing results after things were done.
Prescott is only in his third season as an NFL quarterback, and may have room for significant growth as a passer. The problem is that there is not much evidence for that. After the seemingly great promise of his rookie year, when everything else around him seemed to be going so well, he now is having to try and carry the team at times with an offensive line relying on a backup at center and a rookie left guard. Defenses have figured out that he is limited in his accuracy and decision making, so they can sell out to stop Ezekiel Elliott and force things onto the passing game. Scott Linehan doesn’t seem to be coming up with ways to help his QB. And as for the wide receivers:
Through five games in 2018:— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) October 8, 2018
- DeAndre Hopkins, 594 yards
- Adam Thielen, 589 yards
- Julio Jones, 564 yards
Through five games in 2018 Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson, and Allen Hurns have 504 yards combined.
With these things around him, Prescott is not able to rise to the challenge. It is a huge problem for this season, and could spell big trouble for years to come.
The cries for solutions are loud. The problem is that there really aren’t any, at least for this year. People want Jason Garrett and Linehan fired right now, but that would just be tanking the season, which is not in Jerry Jones’ DNA. Jones himself has to take some of the blame for the offensive players he put around Prescott, especially those wideouts. The team also is suffering from the loss of Travis Frederick for most if not all of the season. That has an impact on both the running game and pass protection that can’t be quantified, but has to be somewhat significant given the problems with both. And those who still pine for the return of Dez Bryant are chasing a pipe dream. The team isn’t going to reverse themselves on him, and the whole idea ignores how his production and lack of chemistry with Prescott played out over last season.
Many of you are certainly going to disagree with the conclusion (and please, if you express your opinion in the comments, play by the site rules and be respectful of those who differ), but that picture in Laufenberg’s tweet looks pretty convincing. It would have taken a simply incredible catch for Austin to haul that in, and he would likely have been brought down much sooner than if it had been more on target to allow him to catch it in stride.
This one is on Dak. He needs to do better - if he can.