If Dak Prescott keeps working at it, studies his playbook, watches film, eats right, and keeps his head on straight, he might get the hang of this NFL thing.
Prescott has become the most compelling rookie story of this NFL preseason – not just in Dallas and not just here in Mississippi. We’re talking about the entire NFL.
Prescott, a fourth round draft choice, has played three games as if he has been playing in the NFL for a decade. Quarterbacks are forever talking about how after a season or three, the game begins to “slow down” for them.
Already, it seems as if Prescott is playing full speed while seeing everything else in slow motion.
Through three games, Prescott has completed 39 of 50 passes for 454 yards. He has thrown five touchdowns, no interceptions. He also has run for two touchdowns.
Now then, this all comes with a disclaimer: This is preseason. The opposition is not utilizing all the stunting, all the blitzing all the different coverages they will employ once the regular season begins. It will get much, much harder.
Even so, Prescott has been stupendous. Coaches, players, sports columnists and TV announcers are gushing because all he has done is give them reasons to gush.
Should we be surprised, given all he achieved at Mississippi State?
I knew Prescott had the poise, the body, the arm, the athleticism and the “it” factor to become a successful NFL quarterback. But it usually takes a while — a while meaning three, four or even more years. Remember, Brett Favre, who threw for nearly 72,000 yards and more than 500 NFL touchdowns, was a rookie disaster. He threw four passes, of which none were completed and two were intercepted.
Steve McNair, another Mississippi quarterbacking legend, played in only 13 games over his first two seasons and had more turnovers than touchdowns in the games he did play.
My concern with Prescott was the same I had with Favre all those many years ago. That is, would he be accurate enough as a passer? I talked to several scouts over Prescott’s last two seasons at State, and all questioned one aspect of Prescott’s game: his accuracy.
If you watched, you saw it. For all his brilliance, there were times he simply missed on easy throws. We’re talking swing passes, short dump-offs, routine throws. He would make a sensational down-the-field throw while eluding the pass rush on one play, and then miss an easy dump-off the next.
In the NFL, you cannot miss the easy ones. Everyone talks about how to play quarterback in the NFL, you have to zip the 25-yard “out” pattern, which requires uncommon arm strength. That’s true. But the flip side is, you can’t miss the easy throws. You have to hit 99 out of 100, and you’ll still catch hell for the one you miss.
Thus far, Prescott has been accurate and then some.
While Prescott has not completed a regular season pass, he surely looks like he will complete many, given the opportunity. And anybody who has followed Tony Romo’s career with the Cowboys knows he will get the opportunity. Romo has missed 24 games with all sorts of injuries over the past six seasons. At 36, he probably isn’t going to suddenly become more durable.
Indeed, on Thursday night at Seattle, Romo went down on the third play, hurting his back, which as been a problem in the past.
So Prescott enters the game, on the road, against one of the best defenses in football, and completes 15 of 19 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He finished 17 of 23 with the touchdown an no interceptions for the game.
Yes, it’s preseason, but Prescott appears seasoned – and then some.
Rick Cleveland writes a weekly sports column running Fridays at Mississippitoday.org