Dak Prescott Shows Poise, Potential for Cowboys Against Rams

By Jeric Griffin

Preseason games in the NFL can be deceiving, but on the surface, Dak Prescott’s debut for the Dallas Cowboys in their first exhibition game of 2016 could not have gone any better. In the Los Angeles Rams’ first appearance back in SoCal, Prescott stole the show from No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, and while the Cowboys can’t count their chickens before they hatch, they have to be excited about what little they’ve seen from their fourth-round selection thus far.

Coming out of Mississippi State as one of the most decorated Bulldogs in history, Prescott drew comparisons to Tim Tebow as a quarterback in a fullback’s body with rough mechanics. Even though Prescott had a better spiral than Tebow, he wasn’t expected to make it at the next level. This first appearance against the Rams certainly doesn’t mean he’s the real deal, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.

Prescott showed incredible poise, especially for a rookie in his very first NFL work. He didn’t panic under pressure, didn’t telegraph his throws and didn’t have blinders on that we saw from Brandon Weeden last year that drove Cowboys fans nuts. Each of his 12 passes were decisive, accurate and right on target; his 10 completions included six different receivers, including the Cowboys’ top three wideouts; and his only two incompletions were flat-out drops by Geoff Swaim.

Under heavy pressure on a screen pass for Rod Smith on his first drive, Prescott patiently waited until a defender had both arms around him before tossing a perfect touch pass to Smith to set up a touchdown to Dez Bryant in the red zone. Sure, pressure is expected on a screen play, but any rookie would be expected to throw it away in that situation and Prescott looked like a 10-year veteran.

Speaking of that Bryant score, Prescott took advantage of the relatively safe play-calling by Scott Linehan early on, but he didn’t limit himself. On that first drive, Prescott completed superb throws on a back-shoulder fade and a goal line lob to Bryant for a pair of completions that can only be described as “Dez things.” But as athletic as Bryant was on those catches, Prescott’s reads and throws were veteran-esque; he didn’t look like a rookie on his first NFL drive.

Prescott’s ability to read coverages was also on display on his second drive when he completed a perfect 32-yard bomb over the outside shoulder of Terrance Williams for a score. The fact Prescott attempted these types of throws in this game is impressive, but watching him put this one where only Williams could get it – textbook on a fade route (this one on a double move by Williams) – was beyond impressive.

The high school spread offense that Mississippi State runs isn’t designed to produce NFL talent at quarterback. Over the past several years as it’s taken over at the college level, only a handful of passers from those systems have won starting jobs outright in the NFL with Cam Newton being the only one of any significance. But Prescott has evidently learned a lot from Tony Romo and the Cowboys’ coaching staff in just a few weeks.

The potential he showed in the first half of this exhibition has to make Dallas and its fans feel worlds better about the team’s backup quarterback situation, at least for the moment. As mentioned, preseason games don’t always accurately portray how players will perform when the games count, but Prescott certainly made the most of his first work for the Cowboys under the bright lights of Hollywood.

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