For how absolutely astounding Dak Prescott was in his rookie year, even winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, a slight regression toward the mean had to be expected. Or at least it should have been expected.
And that’s what happened. His completion percentage went down, his yards went down, his passer rating went down, and his interceptions went up. Phrases like “sophomore slump” and “last year was a fluke” quickly became part of the narrative. Still, a stat line of 62.9% completions, 3,324 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions is nothing to scoff at. The first three games without Ezekiel Elliott, where the offense went deadly cold, didn’t help the perception, though. The Atlanta game specifically tanked many people’s opinions of Prescott and the Cowboys as a whole.
And yet, here’s this gem of a stat from Pro Football Focus:
Dak Prescott handled the blitz well in 2017. pic.twitter.com/uyCGAoyGZb— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 16, 2018
Prescott had a passer rating of 109.9 when facing blitzes, which led the league. For contrast, Prescott’s passer rating for the whole of the 2017 season was 86.6, and his passer rating in his spectacular rookie year was 104.9.
The fact that Prescott against the blitz fared this well - better than Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Jared Goff, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and literally everyone else - despite being in the midst of a tumultuous season with big ups and just as big downs is something that should comfort those with doubts about the young quarterback.
One of the reasons Prescott did so well undoubtedly has to do with line, which is one of the best in the league and therefore helps against the blitz more so than your average line. Yet, Prescott still deserves credit too. It largely has to do with Prescott’s ability to read fronts before the snap and then, once the ball is snapped and the blitzer is revealed, he goes through reads quickly and throws to the open man.
That last part is a trait that’s been talked to death at this point, as his ability to spread the ball around quickly without turnovers is what the Dak-friendly offense is supposedly trying to capitalize on. Another big aspect of Prescott’s game that helps him against the blitz is his pocket mobility. In 2016, most of Prescott’s big passes came when he was outside the pocket, and his ability to move decisively with agility not only makes him a legitimate threat as a runner but makes it increasingly hard to sack him - one of the few similarities between his and Romo’s game.
As Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan work this offseason to retool the offense towards a Dak-friendly style that still pounds the ball up the middle with Zeke, they should find significant comfort in Prescott’s ability against the blitz. Obviously the goal is to never allow pressure on your quarterback, but knowing that Dak can not only handle it, but be one of the NFL’s best against it, is yet another reason to be confident in this young man as the franchise quarterback going forward.