Dak Prescott

Will Cowboys ever win big with Dak Prescott at quarterback?

Will Cowboys ever win big with Dak Prescott at quarterback?

The Cowboys have a quarterback problem.

It turns out Dak Prescott, who had a record-setting rookie year, may not be very good.

Prescott set an NFL record for highest passer rating by a rookie at 104.9 just two years ago. He had 23 touchdowns and four interceptions, and it sure looked like the Cowboys had lucked into replacing Tony Romo with a fourth-round pick.

Since then?

Prescott has come thudding back to Earth.

After going 11-1 in his first 12 NFL starts, Prescott is 14-15 in his last 29.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on a radio show Tuesday morning the Cowboys will give Prescott a contract extension once he’s eligible after this season.

Considering that guys like Blake Bortles, Ryan Tannehill, Case Keenum and Tyrod Taylor got deals averaging between $15 and $20 million per year, the deal will essentially lock the Cowboys into Prescott as their quarterback for years to come.

Smart move?

Let’s take a look at Prescott’s career.

After their 28-14 home loss to the Titans Monday night, a game in which Prescott turned the ball over twice, the Cowboys bring a 3-5 record to the Linc for a Sunday night showdown vs. the Eagles.

When the Eagles face Prescott, they’ll face a QB who:

• Has an 87.4 passer rating over the last two years, 18th-highest of the 24 quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 500 passes during that span. Ahead of only Mitch Trubisky, Taylor, Eli Manning, Bortles, Joe Flacco and Marcus Mariota.

• Has averaged 6.9 yards per pass attempt, 21st-highest of those 24 quarterbacks, ahead of only Manning, Taylor and Flacco.

• Ranks 17th in completion percentage, 15th in touchdown passes and 19th in passing yards among that same group.

• Has just three career 300-yard games. The same number as Matt Barkley during the same span.

The Cowboys aren’t the worst team in the league. They’re 12-12 over the last two years and 25-15 all-time under Prescott. Their defense is stocked with young home-grown talent, and the addition of Amari Cooper won’t hurt, although a first-round pick was a steep price.

But this is a franchise that’s won two playoff games in the last 22 years and hasn’t made it out of the conference semifinal round since 1995.

With 14 points on Monday night, the Cowboys have now had games of 8, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 20 points this year. They’ve scored 14 or fewer points in eight of their last 16 games.

They’ve scored five touchdowns in four road games.

Ezekiel Elliott remains an elite back, but just like the Giants, the Cowboys are learning that an elite back without an elite quarterback isn't the best formula for success in the modern NFL.

The argument in defense of Prescott is that when he has weapons, he’s an elite player. During his Pro Bowl rookie year, he still had Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

And maybe Cooper will make a huge difference.

But the league has changed just in the past few years. If you don’t have a super-charged passing game with a high-octane quarterback, it’s impossible to compete.

All seven teams that have won at least six games through Week 9 have a quarterback completing at least 65 percent of his passes with a rating of at least 98.

Those seven quarterbacks have thrown an average of 19 touchdowns. Prescott has 10.

In an era where the average quarterback is completing 65 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 94.0 and throwing for 266 yards per game, Prescott is completing 63 percent with an 88.9 rating and 208 yards per game.

Not terrible but not the type of numbers we’re seeing from the new generation of young hot-shot NFL gun-slingers.

Is the 25-year-old Prescott the right guy to take the Cowboys to the next level in the high-flying pass-happy modern NFL? With each passing week, the questions about Prescott’s long-term potential grow larger.

And in a division with Carson Wentz, that could mean big problems ahead for the Cowboys.

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More on the Eagles

Cowboys acquire Amari Cooper after reportedly outbidding Eagles

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Cowboys acquire Amari Cooper after reportedly outbidding Eagles

As Eagles fans patiently wait for Howie Roseman to pull off some of his magic, the Dallas Cowboys went out and got one of the most attractive names on the trading block. 

That's a big-time move. 

And it came at a big-time price: a first-round pick, according to ESPN. 

Perhaps the Eagles' early-season struggles have indicated to the Cowboys that there's a chance to make a move and win the NFC East. This will definitely make the Cowboys a better team. 

The Eagles are also in need of another receiver, and Cooper was a name I thought was worth a phone call. But a first-round pick is a huge price to pay, and there still seems to be a good chance the Cowboys' first-round pick will be better than the Eagles' depending on how this season finishes. 

Through seven games, the Cowboys have the same 3-4 record as the Eagles and have now added help. On their bye week, they might have a chance to get Cooper ready to play their next game. 

The Cowboys haven't had a true No. 1 receiver for years, when Dez Bryant was still in his prime. Their leading receiver so far this season has been Cole Beasley, who has 33 catches for 350 yards and two touchdowns. The Cowboys have desperately needed more offensive weapons. 

Cooper, 24, was the No. 4 overall pick in 2015. This is the last year of his rookie deal, but his fifth-year option (already exercised by the Raiders) will pay him nearly $14 million next season. The Cowboys might have to sign him to a long-term deal to help get some cap relief next year, but they'll have time to figure that out. 

The Raiders now have three first-round picks in 2019: their own, Dallas' and Chicago's from the Khalil Mack trade. 

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More on the Eagles

Around the NFC East: Dallas Cowboys show off plenty of holes

USA Today Sports

Around the NFC East: Dallas Cowboys show off plenty of holes

Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles’ division rivals fared the previous weekend (SPOILER ALERT: the Eagles are the best) and what they have upcoming. In Week One of the NFL season, Washington’s offense was powered by a couple of 2012 Pro Bowlers, Dak Prescott looked like the same guy we knew (and loved) in 2017, and the Giants have a talented running back for the first time since Tiki Barber retired...which still wasn’t enough to keep Eli from throwing the game away.

Here’s what happened, and what’s happening, this week in the NFC East:

Dallas Cowboys (0-1)

ICYMI: Despite an awful redzone turnover by the Panthers early on, the Cowboys offense was never able to get going and Jason Garrett’s squad rolled over and died in Carolina, dropping the opener 16-8 (yawn).  Cam Newton did Cam Newton things, rushing for a touchdown and 58 yards overall, and the Cowboys didn’t get onto the board till halfway through the 4th quarter. Newton is awesome, as is the Carolina defense, but ‘dem Boys really weren’t very inspiring throughout, no matter what Jerry Jones tries to sell you.

Also, shout-out to Super Bowl 52 Champion Torrey Smith, who had one catch for 15 yards on two targets. Torrey, thank you for your service. At this point, you remain better than Mike Wallace (and every single Cowboys wide receiver, for the record).

The Cowboys actually had a chance to send this one into overtime, with the ball and under two-minutes to play. But then Dak Prescott, the quarterback who is NOT Carson Wentz (or Nick Foles, for that matter) was sacked and fumbled, putting this one on ice. You know who they probably could have used? DEZ BRYANT OR JASON WITTEN. Or, y’kno, a slightly more competent quarterback. 

Positive Spin: Hmmm… well the defense held Cam and Co. to 16 points. By the Jim Johnson rule, that’s typically enough to get the win. Also, it was a road game, so the built-in excuses are there if you look for them. 

Negative Spin: For a deep-dive into why and how the Cowboys are a bunch of clowns, check out Kulp’s piece from earlier this week. In short, this franchise is run about as well as Papa John’s PR department. 

The legendary Dallas O-line, which has seemingly lost more original members than The Aquabats, allowed Prescott to be sacked a half-dozen times (something Dak won’t have to contend with a year from now when he’s a back-up on the Titans). Prescott himself went 19-of-29 for 170 yards, which is not the sort of numbers that will get you a contract extension. All in all, it was more-of-the-same from the man who took a big step back in 2017.

And for those of us who put “Trolling Cowboys Fans” down as our favorite pastime, let me ask you this: at 23 years old, has Ezekiel Elliott already peaked!? Sure looks like it. Check the numbers. Somewhere DeMarco Murray is sitting on a pile of money, smirking. Unless that involves effort, then he’s probably just sliding short of the sticks.  

What’s Next: It still feels odd the Cowboys/Giants game wasn’t our Sunday Night Special for Opening Weekend, but hey, maybe that’s what happens when (s/o to David Akers) you haven’t won a championship since before your draft picks were born

More fun this week in the NFC East: