It’s a great time to be a Dallas Cowboys fan. Not only are they off to a 2-0 start, but the Philadelphia Eagles have already dropped a game, allowing the Cowboys to take an early division lead. When you look around the league, the Cowboys look like one of the better teams in the NFL right now. In fact, they made NFL.com’s top five list in this week’s power rankings. Not bad for a team some were writing off to not even make the playoffs this year.
It’s still early, but it definitely has a good feel right now, and a big reason for that is their rising star quarterback Dak Prescott. After a hot start to the season, and now qualifying with enough passing attempts - Dak has jumped Tom Brady and Drew Brees on the top career passer rating list (stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference). The next player ahead of Dak just so happens to be the highest paid player in the NFL.
Despite cracking the top three list, things haven’t always been smooth for Prescott. Our own Michael Strawn put together a nice chart showing the fluctuation in his passer rating over his career. After a promising start, Dak hit some hard times that seemed to start after getting his clock cleaned in that infamous Atlanta debacle. As the team has put some additional pieces around him, Prescott has started to trend up again.
In just two games, the Cowboys have already eclipsed the amount of games last season where they’ve put up 450+ yards of offense. In those same two games, they’ve already passed the amount of double-digit wins from a year ago. I guess they don’t really have to worry about regression to the mean in close games this season if they’re going to string together more games where they win comfortably.
Whether it’s the addition of Amari Cooper on the field or Kellen Moore on the sidelines, the Cowboys offense has started off red hot. While those changes help in a big way, the biggest change could be Prescott himself. The Cowboys young quarterback has been deadly accurate with his throws so far this year. Out of his 62 attempts this season, only two of them have been considered bad throws (data courtesy of advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference).
Last season, Prescott had a bad throw percentage of 16.9%. Dak’s always been an accurate thrower, finishing in the top 10 in completion percentage last year, and finished fourth in his rookie season of 2016. Many will attribute this to his conservative nature where he’ll just play it safe and dink and dunk. With an 82% completion percentage this year, that has to be what he’s doing right?
NFL Leaders in Yards Per Attempt:— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) September 16, 2019
1. Dak Prescott ................. 10.9
2. Pat Mahomes ............... 10.7
3. Lamar Jackson ............. 10.5
4. Tom Brady .................... 9.5
5. Russell Wilson .............. 9.0
The 2019 version of Dak Prescott features him throwing the ball up the field. In the season opener against the New York Giants, Dak was hitting on big plays as he found Amari Cooper on a deep pass for 45 yards and Michael Gallup for 62 yards. And on Sunday against the Washington Redskins, he was back at it again.
Counting this 51-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith, Dak now has nine touchdown passes of 50+ yards since entering the league. In that same span, only Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers have more as both of them have 11. Prescott is taking more deep shots, allowing him to get more bang for each throw. In fact, even though he has roughly 20 fewer passes than the other starting quarterbacks in his division, he still has more yards and more touchdowns.
NFC East QBs through 2 games:— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 16, 2019
Dak Prescott: 51 of 62, 674 yards, 7 TDs, 1 INT, 142.9 rating
Case Keenum: 56 of 81, 601 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs, 111.2 rating
Carson Wentz: 53 of 82, 544 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 89.7 rating
Eli Manning: 56 of 89, 556 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 78.7 rating
His pocket awareness has gotten better. A healthier offensive line this season plays a big role, but Dak’s been more attentive to his surroundings. Last season, the Cowboys only had two games where Prescott was sacked one time or less. They’ve already matched that this year. Prescott has been really smart with his run-pass-option decisions and has exploited defenses for nice pick ups with his legs.
But it’s his arm that’s doing the most damage. Prescott has been extremely accurate with his throws. His touch on his passes and ball placement have been very receiver friendly and set them up to keep churning out yards after the catch. He’s done a great job of stepping into his throws and delivering bullets to his receivers. His reads through his progressions have been outstanding, and Dak has spread the ball out extremely well. In just two games, nine different receivers have caught passes from him and every single one has a catch rate greater than 70%. And five different players have caught touchdown passes.
Prescott is playing out of this world right now. What he’s put out there on the field is MVP-caliber play. This is extremely satisfying, not only because he’s clearly the future of this franchise and their success will be largely affected by how he performs, but also because this type of quarterback play can help this team win a Super Bowl. Will he keep it up? Who knows, but just knowing that this type of performance could show up on any given day has to make fans extremely excited about the possibilities.