Let’s please slow down on the thinking that Dak Prescott will be the next Tom Brady , taking over for an injured vet to become the NFL’s next superstar and lead his team to the Super Bowl in his first year as a starter.
Yes, I’ve heard that already.
With news that the Dallas Cowboys will be without starting quarterback Tony Romo for 6-10 weeks after he fractured a bone in his back on Thursday in Seattle, Prescott now takes over as the starter for 6-10 weeks, and, who knows, maybe longer.
Prescott has been one of the preseason sensations so far. He’s an impressive looking fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State Bulldogs who has some wondering how he lasted that long in the draft. A broken ankle suffered by backup Kellen Moore in camp enabled Prescott to get time and he made the most of it.
His passer rating in the preseason is 137.8, which is top five in the league. He is 39 of 50 for 454 yards, five touchdowns and no picks, although he did have one point-blank pick dropped. He has also tucked the ball and run successfully, getting two touchdowns on the ground.
Yes, Prescott has been very good so far. But let’s remember the Cowboys went 1-11 without Romo last season. He will be missed.
It’s up to Prescott to make sure it’s not as bad as it’s been in the past when Romo was out.
I think he will be up to that.
I took a closer look at his three preseason games, especially last week against Seattle, to get an idea of what the Cowboys might be seeing when he is their starter.
What I saw was a big, strong kid who will stand in the face of pressure and make throws down the field. The pass rush doesn’t make his eye level come down at all, which is big for a young passer.
He doesn’t seem to get flustered in the pocket either with bodies around him, and he has an arm plenty good enough to make all the throws. He also seems to have the swagger to deliver the ball to receivers who are covered. He takes his shots in those one-on-one situations.
Most young passers wait to throw to wide-open receivers. That rarely happens in the NFL. Prescott will take his shots.
Against Seattle, Prescott threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten with K.J. Wright all over him. Witten made a great catch for the score, but it was a chance throw in a one-on-one matchup that allowed Witten to make a play. I like that thinking by the quarterback.
He also hit Dez Bryant for a touchdown in a one-on-one situation against the Los Angeles Rams where Bryant was covered pretty well. He took his shot and put it on the talented receiver to make a play.
On a 32-yard touchdown shot to Terrance Williams against the Rams, Prescott did a great job of dropping the ball perfectly to him for the touchdown. It was a stutter-and-go and Prescott executed it perfectly. He looked to the middle first to hold the safety, then pump-faked on the stutter move, followed by his dropping the ball perfectly into the hands of Williams.
Prescott also has a really nice feel in the pocket. He knows how to climb it to make throws. When there’s pressure around him, he doesn’t pull it and run. When he does get outside of it, he keeps his head up.
Against the Seattle Seahawks , he was flushed to his right and kept his head up and made a nice throw to Brice Butler for 10 yards. On the play, he took a shot to the chest, but never flinched.
That’s huge right there.
On a third-down play late in the half, the Cowboys were on the edge of field-goal range and then had a penalty set them back. But Prescott calmly hit tight end Geoff Swain for five yards and then hit Alfred Morris for 11 yards on a short check down to get into field-goal range for a 40 yarder that Dan Bailey made. He was calm and cool on the drive — even after the penalty.
That doesn’t mean he is without flaws. He sometime holds the ball too long, which he did on a sack by Cliff Avril against Seattle. The clock has to be quicker at times in his head. That will come with playing.
He also has a tendency to throw off his back foot. That’s something he has to clean up. The ball still gets there, but that can lead to issues down the road, especially when teams game-plan against him.
There are some who will say it’s time for Romo to retire since he can’t stay healthy. Who are we to decide that? He’s a smart guy and will know when it’s time to quit. For now, it’s still his team with Prescott keeping the seat warm.
He’s been a real find in the preseason, but that will matter little on opening day against the New York Giants . That’s when the game speeds up, the blitzes get more complicated and rookie passers find out that the fake stuff isn’t even close to the real games.
For a short time, Prescott should be able to handle things. He’s showed amazing poise so far. I am not going to sit here and say he’s the next Tom Brady, but as an injury replacement he’s a lot better option than what the Cowboys have had in the past.
More musings from around the NFL:
The Atlanta Falcons hoped to have a big-hitting rookie first-round pick Keanu Neal as their starter at safety. But he hurt his knee last Thursday against the Miami Dolphins . He will have arthroscopic surgery on it and will be out for a month or so. The Falcons hoped he would be their Kam Chancellor of the defense, a big hitter who sets the tempo, especially in the run game. Missing time won’t help.
It wasn’t a good thing to hear Falcons second-year pass rusher Vic Beasley say he was struggling with his pass rush. The Falcons took him in the first round last year with the idea that he would be a big-time rusher. He had just four sacks last season, and is now playing the Sam linebacker spot, rather than a rush end.
He didn’t sniff the quarterback against the Dolphins in his time on the field. As the No. 8 overall pick, the Falcons have to be concerned. There were several personnel men who told me before the draft they thought Beasley had major bust potential. They thought he was a little soft. That’s nothing you ever want to hear about a pass rusher.
For all the talk about the Cleveland offense and Robert Griffin III , the bigger problem might be on defense. That isn’t a good unit. They will give up a lot of points. There just isn’t a lot of talent.
I think a lot of people were surprised that Cowboys rookie runner Ezekiel Elliott twice ran through Kam Chancellor tackles. They shouldn’t have been. Elliott is a physical runner who isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder to try to get extra yards. He ran that way at Ohio State Buckeyes , even though he has breakaway ability. He has to be careful, though, because those shots shorten a career. As the fourth-overall pick, the Cowboys have to be careful not to beat him up early in his career.
The Indianapolis Colts offensive line, which has been a mess for much of Andrew Luck ‘s time with the team, took a major hit Saturday when guard Jack Mewhort was lost for two to four weeks with a knee injury. It was feared he tore the ACL, so that’s some good news. Mewhort was their best offensive lineman in 2015. Losing him for any time will be a big hit to a line that has major concerns even with him. The Colts also have major issues at corner where injuries have ravaged the position.
Kansas City Chiefs
In yet another instance of they-all-show-up, Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry signed his franchise tender Sunday and will be back to practice on Monday. Berry missed most of camp because he didn’t get a long-term deal from the team and will play for the franchise tag. But he has to be there in Week 1 to earn the $10 million he’s due under that franchise tag. He’s a smart man. Berry played last season after beating cancer, an amazing accomplishment. He is a pro’s pro, which makes it surprising the Chiefs didn’t give him a long-term deal.
New England Patriots
Running back Tyler Gaffney , who had knee surgeries in each of the past two seasons, has really emerged as a potential factor on the New England backfield. He had a 44-yard touchdown run against the New Orleans Saints in the preseason and he runs hard and tough. He was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2014 out of Stanford, but then tore up his knee and the Patriots claimed him on waivers. He injured his knee a second time, which led him to miss the 2015 season.
New York Jets
Up until the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game with the Giants, the Jets had not played rookie quarterback Christian Hackenberg . There were rumblings that he wasn’t capable of stepping in and doing the job. But on his first drive of the night against the Giants, he showed that wasn’t the case. His first pass was on the money and dropped. And then on third-and-15, he fired a low shot to tight end Zach Sudfeld for 16 yards and a first down.
He then hit Charone Peake in the middle of the field for 26 yards and came back on the next play to fire a shot to Robby Anderson for 27 yards. All the balls were accurate and on the money. He then hit Anderson with a 10-yard touchdown pass on a nice, lofted throw in the end zone.
Hackenberg looked sure and confident going 4 for 6 for 79 yards on that drive. He did throw a horrible pick later in the quarter, forcing it into a crowd leading to a tipped ball, but he completed a nice pass later in the two-minute drill but the drive fizzled. He showed some stuff for a guy who many thought was hopeless.
Watching the Titans-Raiders game, the thing that stood out to me was how woeful the Oakland Raiders defense looked. This was a unit that some expected to possibly be a top-10 group in 2016. If the Raiders are to make the big step that many expect, that defense has to pick it up. They were 22nd last year when they went 7-9. The Tennessee Titans did whatever they wanted for much of the game, especially when the starters were in the game.
San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick ‘s decision not to stand for the national anthem last Friday in protest was big news this past weekend. He told reporters on Sunday that he plans to continue his protest until meaningful change occurs in the United States. Remember as you ready to blast him, that’s his right. I wouldn’t do it, but that is his right. Now he has to deal with the consequences, like seeing fans burn his jersey. But he wanted to make a statement, which he did.
Again, in this country that is his right — even if you don’t agree with it. Could it have been done differently? Maybe so, but this worked to get the attention he wanted. How it relates to his career doesn’t matter. It should have no bearing — at all. And it won’t. There are a lot of wrongs in this country and to bring them into focus is a smart thing, even if it might not have been the right tactic to take.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston was off to a slow start in the preseason, but that changed against the Browns. He was sensational, completing 16 of 25 for 259 yards and two touchdown passes. The ball came out on time and he was deadly accurate with his throws. Winston threw for over 4,000 yards as a rookie, but he’s made major strides as a passer going into 2016. Is 4,800 yards possible?
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Monday Musings: Why Dak hasn’t arrived yet, why Kap’s stance matters