Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones readily acknowledges his team opens the 2016 season Sunday against the New York Giants filled with uncertainty and unanswered questions regarding a suspect defense and a rookie quarterback.
Jones, however, is no less excited about the start of the season, because he believes fourth-round pick Dak Prescott, who will start at leasat the first six games in place of the injured Tony Romo, is better than everyone thought he was.
Jones feels the same way about a Cowboys defense that is opening the season without three suspended starters in defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence and middle linebacker Rolando McClain.
“Of course, I’m excited,” Jones said Thursday. “We’ve got a lot of unanswered questions. especially when you look at starting a rookie quarterback. I think we certainly understand that we’ve got to play above expectation on our defense. I think we can. And we’ve got to play to expectation on offense. And then know what our expectations are on our quarterback being a rookie, I think that’s been tempered appropriately and hopefully he’ll come in and be above expectation.”
Jones said he’s seen enough from Prescott in the preseason that he expects the Cowboys “to play winning football with him as quarterback. I think we’ll win football games with him.”
“This is quite a challenge, and make no mistake about it, this is a real challenge,” Jones said. “But on the other hand, there is a lot of me that has a good feeling and has real positive expectations.”
Jones said Prescott’s play and development has been a huge surprise to him, so much so that it has tempered the disappointment of Romo’s fractured back.
Jones said he would rather have Romo at quarterback, but Romo’s absence is not same death knell as in past years because of Prescott.
“Yeah, Tony is a setback,” Jones said. “Tony’s injury and him not starting Sunday is a setback. Make no mistake about it, and I don’t care how you gild a lily. We would be a better team with him out there. On the other hand, what I didn’t expect was Dak to come in and have the kind of offseason and build the kind of confidence he’s done with the staff and his teammates. So that has tempered the setback and the disappointment there with Tony’s injury.
“Given the choice to start Romo or Dak, then there would have been no issue and you’d have to say that’s uncomfortable. But this is a different deal. Make no mistake about it, it’s a different tempo, different challenges for a quarterback, but if we are going to not have Romo, this is the way that I would like to play the games.”
Jones says Prescott is simply better than anyone thought he was when the Cowboys picked the former Mississippi State star in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. That’s why Jones feels so good and confident the Cowboys will compete and win games in Romo’s absence.
“Yes. Unequivocally,” Jones said. “He’s better than anybody thought he was and that’s a given right now. Better than anybody thought he was, but Romo was too at that stage. So that gives you hope and gives the whole team hope.”