To let Dallas Cowboys rookie Dak Prescott tell it, he doesn’t measure himself against any other quarterback, no matter who it is.
Not Peyton Manning. Not Tom Brady. Not Tony Romo.
And certainly not fellow rookie Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Prescott, 23, is only concerned with his own game and how he can improve on a daily basis.
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That’s a good attitude to have and it’s at the root of the phenomenal success he’s had so far this season in place of an injured Romo. Prescott ranks fifth in the league in passer rating (103.9) while throwing seven touchdowns to just one interception and leading the Cowboys to the top of the NFC East with a 5-1 record.
No, it’s the Cowboys versus the Eagles. Those whole statistics and stuff like that really don’t cross my mind.
Dak Prescott downplaying the idea that Sunday’s game is a battle of rookie quarterbacks
And since his fast start has paralleled that of Wentz, the 23-year-old second overall pick who has thrown eight touchdowns to three interceptions while leading the Eagles to a 4-2 mark, Sunday’s match-up for first place in the NFC East is being billed as a showdown between the two rookie quarterbacks and the start of what could be an exciting personal rivalry for years to come.
“No, it’s the Cowboys versus the Eagles,” Prescott corrects. “Those whole statistics and stuff like that really don’t cross my mind. I’m worried about this team, the Cowboys, and how this team can finish and be remembered this season.”
Prescott, picked in the fourth round, 133 picks and five quarterbacks after Wentz, acknowledges that he roots for Wentz because of their shared experiences and the relationship they forged both at last season’s Senior Bowl and on the prospect circuit before the draft.
Wentz admits the same.
But neither saw this early success coming.
“That’s a lot of what ifs and a lot of different things happening for this to all play out like this,” Wentz said. “It’s exciting for him, for me. Obviously, it’s going to be played up into something. It’s cool to see another young guy like him that I’ve come to know and to see the success he’s having.”
This was the expectation all along for Wentz because of where he was drafted and the treasure of picks Philadelphia gave up to move into the second draft slot. The Eagles fast-tracked his ascent when they traded veteran Sam Bradford to a desperate Vikings team a week before the start of the season.
It’s cool to see another young guy like him that I’ve come to know and to see the success he’s having.
Eagles QB Carson Wentz about fellow rookie Dak Prescott
Prescott’s rise has been the surprise, considering that he entered training camp as the third quarterback with a home on the practice squad his likely destination.
But that was before backup Kellen Moore broke his leg three practices into training camp, and then Romo broke a bone in his back early in the third preseason game.
That both rookies have grabbed the reigns and never looked back is a testament to the qualities that have made them successful: work ethic, poise, maturity, athleticism and an intense love for the game.
“I think it’s circumstantial,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “Obviously, in our case and really in Dallas’ case, we’d obviously moved our starter, Sam, to Minnesota, and Dallas was set for Tony to play and both of these kids would have been on the bench for however long. I think some of it is that.
“But I think some of it too is the fact that these kids, how well they prepare, how well they execute in preseason games and in practices, that catches the coach’s attention, catches the coach’s eye. You get in those staff personnel meetings and you go, you know what, I think we’ve got somebody special here. You just don’t know when that time is going to come. Obviously, earlier for both of our quarterbacks in this game than probably later. They’ve both embraced it.”
Coach Jason Garrett said what they have done is impressive because of what they are asked to handle both mentally and physically.
Your passion for football. That is where it starts. Do they love it? Are they passionate about it? And then, are they willing to do the work necessary?
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett describing traits of success
It’s something Garrett saw when he served as coach of the North team during the Senior Bowl. While Prescott played for the South, Garrett got a chance to spend a week up close with Wentz.
What he now lauds about Prescott, he saw then in Wentz.
“It goes back to your love of football,” Garrett said. “Your passion for football. That is where it starts. Do they love it? Are they passionate about it? And then, are they willing to do the work necessary?”
“Clearly, he was. He is a smart guy. Very bright on the field. Very bright off the field. And handled it. And just seemed to love it. Wanted to have all the answers to all the questions. Very enthusiastic meetings. Very enthusiastic at practice.”
Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was even more effusive in his praise of Wentz from the Senior Bowl.
“He was outstanding,” Linehan said. “A lot of maturity we talk about with Dak. I’m not sure he had ever lost a game, maybe one one or two. The thing that blew me away is he never had anything lower than a ‘A’ in school. He broke my record. I didn’t make it through kindergarten without getting a ‘B’. He is really sharp. He is a really talented kid. I’m not surprised he is doing so well.”
Linehan was just as bullish on Prescott when they got close to him after the Senior Bowl.
“Dak’s meeting when we worked him out and when we brought him to our place was a little of the same of what we did with Carson at the Senior Bowl,” Linehan said. “We were able to kind of see those guys side by side with similar questions and both of them nailed it. You see some bright futures for these young guys.”
The Cowboys’ coaching staff didn’t get to spend a lot of time with Prescott during the Senior Bowl because he was on the other team, but he reminds them weekly of the outcome. Prescott led the South to victory and was named MVP of the game.
“He reminds me that they beat us every chance he can,” Linehan said with a smile
While Prescott downplays the quarterback showdown with Wentz, that competitive streak will likely shine through on Sunday.
“I think it’s great for the game,” Pederson said. “I think it’s great for these two young players. This is a great opportunity for both of them. Does this one game define either one of them? No. But at the same time, it just helps each team in the whole development process. It’s great from an NFL standpoint because obviously these two kids are the talk of the town.”
Eagles at Cowboys
7:30 p.m. Sunday, KXAS/5