Without the big play ability of Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott will need to shine to keep the Dallas Cowboys as favorites atop the NFC.
Rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott was handed a devastating six game suspension by the NFL this last Friday, which could potentially be a huge setback for a team with high hopes this season. The setback being that the Dallas Cowboys are a run first team, and Zeke’s ability to find the end zone could be missed. He led all runners last year in plays over 20 yards to go along with 16 total touchdowns.
Backup running backs Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris are definitely formidable players who’ve had success in the league, but as of late they’re not on Zeke’s level. McFadden had over a thousand yards rushing for Dallas two seasons ago, but only scored three times. Morris began his career as a Washington Redskin with a bang, posting three straight 1000 yard campaigns, but his production has slowly decreased every season for five straight years.
On top of that, the Boys’ first four games are against top 10 defenses in yards allowed from a year ago. With Zeke out, the Cowboys must find that missing firepower from none other than Rayne Dakota Prescott.
The Offensive Rookie of the Year has all the weapons on offense to light up the scoreboard, and opposing defenses will do all they can to make Dak beat them with his arm. With Zeke not being fed, defenses will surely try to pressure Prescott, get him off rhythm, and try to force him into turnovers.
It’s going to be a steep challenge for the second year man out of Mississippi State.
However, this offseason his teammates have praised his leadership and have taken notice to his passion for conquering his challenges with his relentless preparation. One of his best qualities last year was his poise to handle the enormous pressure of being a rookie quarterback leading the Cowboys, and he’s continuing to grow from that.
Make no mistake, Dak was blessed with all the pieces around him, but he’s no flash in the pan one and done quarterback. This man works harder than any other guy on the team. He’s made it a priority to work on the chemistry with his offense this offseason.
"“[Prescott] came in with the mindset, you know, this is mine…I’m the starter. He approached every snap like if it was his” – Wide receiver Dez Bryant replied when asked about Dak Prescott‘s growth. From training camp in Oxnard, CA on August 8th, 2017."
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That being said, it’s been reported that Dak has been one of the most consistent players in OTA’s and training camp. One of his primary focuses has been his pocket passing skills, thus knowing he will have to get better with his reads and accuracy. Prescott was excellent at taking care of the ball in 2016, and if he can do that while improving the two attributes just listed he will be a headache for opposing defensive coordinators.
With his game improving day by day, it allows offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to open up the playbook a lot more with his young quarterback. Linehan would be wise to expand on what Prescott can do with his loaded wide receiver and tight end corps, and with Dak’s mobility, the sky is the limit.
Going further, the team has arguably the best offensive line in the league, they still have future hall of fame tight end Jason Witten, a one on one jump ball master in Dez Bryant, and now two quarterback friendly mismatch slot receivers in Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer. All of those weapons don’t matter without a stud quarterback, as we all found out in 2015. But if the Cowboys want to make it through the first six games unfazed by the absence of their All-Pro running back, they need to unleash Dak.
In my opinion, the team is doomed if they take a conservative approach without Zeke. Linehan and head coach Jason Garrett need to take this opportunity to see what the offense can really do without their work horse running back. Dak is definitely the future of the franchise, and the future is now.
Dak Prescott went toe to toe with one of the game’s best in Aaron Rodgers in last year’s playoffs and just fell short. But many, including myself, believe that Prescott will pick up right where he left off in that game. If he does indeed return to that beast mode he was in, it won’t matter who the Dallas Cowboys line up at running back.