With the Dallas offensive line struggling to hold up as they had in years past, and with Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension starting immediately, pending more legal action by his attorneys, and with the talented runner, in all likelihood, being out until November 30 when the Cowboys take on the Washington Redskins, the pressure to perform at a high level will continue to mount on Dak Prescott.
Currently, he is on pace to throw for over 3,800 yards and 35 touchdown passes, which would easily top what he did as a rookie. While he has matched last year’s interception total with four in the first five games of this season, two of the turnovers came on passes that went through the hands of his wide receivers.
The overall play of the Dallas quarterback has been much better than the Cowboys’ 2-3 record.
He spoke on Wednesday about how he still feels like he could do more.
“No, I mean I’m just playing the game. I get out there and it’s just about what I’ve done through the week within the reps of our offense and just executing the plays that coach Linehan calls for me.”
The Cowboys’ victory in week three against the Arizona Cardinals was achieved mostly on the shoulders of Prescott. He sacrificed himself on a touchdown run in which he was flipped in the air. He made plays out of the pocket when things broke down. He completed 72 percent of his passes and threw two touchdowns.
In the five-point loss to the Los Angeles Rams the following week, he threw three touchdown passes and was intercepted once. Despite a rough start to the second half of that game, he did recover just in time to put the Cowboys in position to tie the game and had a two-point conversion called back because of a dubious holding penalty.
In the defeat suffered at the hands of the Green Bay Packers this past Sunday, Prescott delivered late in the game, almost answering Aaron Rodgers drive-for-drive. He put together a 17-play drive that ended with him scoring on an 11-yard run with 1:13 to play. His heroics were forgotten because of what Rodgers did to the Cowboys’ defense in the final 73 seconds.
If Elliott’s suspension takes hold, he will miss games against two division rivals (Washington and the Philadelphia Eagles), the defending NFC champion (the 3-1 Atlanta Falcons), the only undefeated team in the NFL (Kansas City Chiefs), the winless San Francisco 49ers, and the one-win Los Angeles Chargers.
The good news for the young quarterback, four of the six opponents (San Francisco, Kansas City, Atlanta and Philadelphia) have pass defenses ranked in the bottom half of the league. The better news, of course, would be to have Elliott in the backfield next to him.
Prescott had one of the greatest rookie seasons in the history of the NFL by a quarterback with 13 victories, 24 touchdowns, four interceptions, and he even rushed for six touchdowns. He did all of this for a team that had been as reliant on Tony Romo as any team had been reliant on a single player, as they proved during the 2015 season.
As Romo went, the perception was, so went the Cowboys.
But then Prescott and Elliott changed that notion a year ago. Prescott was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, but Elliott was the heartbeat of the offense.
The Cowboys went into this season believing they could put more on Prescott after he excelled as a rookie. They still have no reason to think that he will suffer from the dreaded “sophomore slump” because of the work he put in during the spring and summer.
Now, however, they have to put more on Prescott by demand, if not by choice, in Elliott’s absence. Dak Prescott has shown during his young career that he is up for the challenge. It remains to be seen whether or not the rest of the team will show that it has what it takes to come along for the ride for the next six weeks.
[Featured Image by Ron Jenkins/AP Images]