8:00 AM ET
FRISCO, Texas — Bill Parcells liked to say you never really know about a quarterback until he has thrown a number of interceptions, been bloodied and had everybody staring at him sideways after a tough defeat.
In the past three games, Dak Prescott has been intercepted five times, has seen one interception returned for a touchdown and one fumble returned for a touchdown, has been sacked 14 times and presided over the only offense in the history of the Dallas Cowboys to go three straight games without scoring at least 10 points.
As the Cowboys take on the Washington Redskins on Thursday night at AT&T Stadium with their season on the line, all eyes will be on Prescott — just like they have been since he took over as the starter last season. But now many will be wondering if his rookie year was as good as it will get.
“It’s frustrating, simple as that,” Prescott said. “But what it does is it makes being on top fun. That’s what it’s all about is getting out of these whatever you call them — ruts, or whatever they are — and getting back to our expectations, our standards. Like I said, that’s what’s going to make being on top and playing well consistently fun, is experiencing these times.”
Prescott is partly a victim of his own success. Things went so well in 2016 with a 13-3 record and 24 touchdown passes and four interceptions that the expectation was he would simply continue down this path in 2017. For the first eight games, he did. The Cowboys were 5-3. He willed them against the New York Giants in the opener. He carried them at the Arizona Cardinals. He had three straight games with three touchdown passes and lost twice despite helping the offense score 31 and 30 points.
Dak Prescott has thrown more interceptions over the past two weeks than he did all of last season. Tom Pennington/Getty Images
In the last three losses, the offense has not gained more than 247 yards. They have just one touchdown drive of more than 21 yards. On the season, opponents have scored four touchdowns on his turnovers. He has more interceptions in the past two games than he had all of last season.
“Look at three games before that, nothing’s changed,” Prescott said. “We’re the same team. We’ve got the same players out there. So it’s just about getting back to that.”
As he finished the statement, he knew what was coming. The Cowboys aren’t the same team. They have not had Ezekiel Elliott during their three-game losing streak because of a suspension. They won’t have him for two more games after tonight.
“Yeah, I walked into that, didn’t I?” Prescott said.
Now the question is whether Prescott can be as good without Elliott. The Cowboys’ offense has run the ball efficiently, but not as effectively as it did with Elliott. In the passing game, the Cowboys have three plays of 20 yards or more. He has not thrown for more than 179 yards in the past three games. He had only two full games with fewer passing yards all of last season. He did not go more than two games without a touchdown pass last season.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said there has been an “overreaction to a little bit of a dry spell.”
“Really, he’s a real young player in this league,” Linehan said. “He’s done some really, really great things for us so far in his young career, played a season-and-a-half in the NFL, kind of an afterthought draft pick in the fourth round no one had really any expectation for him coming out. And then has that rookie year and start of his second year, but that’s part of the maturation process for a quarterback. You’re going to have a couple dips in your season and just got to not focus on them, get back to the basics and be ready to go.”
Prescott has stood through it all, taking all kinds of questions each week. He has stayed away from social media because he doesn’t want to be dragged down. Teammates have not noticed it wearing on Prescott.
“You’ve seen ups and downs from him throughout the year statistically, but in his approach to the game, you don’t see anything different, and I think that’s a mark of somebody that is a good leader and somebody that has a good head on his shoulders,” center Travis Frederick said. “He approaches the day trying to get better, whether or not he’s coming off a win or a loss, and continues to be a rock for everyone to lean on.”
For the first time in his tenure as the Cowboys’ starter, Prescott is bloodied. Observers are looking at him sideways, wondering if Prescott will be able to recapture his 2016 form.
“What do I say to those people? Keep questioning me,” Prescott said. “Obviously, if you are questioning, you don’t know me and you don’t know what I am about. So question me. Have fun at it.”
He plans on having answers Thursday night.
Via:: NDTV – Sports