Dak Prescott has always fashioned himself as a quarterback who can run rather than a running quarterback.
For the evolving Dallas Cowboys offense heading into Sunday’s NFC East showdown at the Washington Redskins (3-2), it’s a difference without a distinction.
The Cowboys (3-3) need Prescott to run to reach its full potential in 2018, more so than his first two years in the league and it’s important that he continues to do so, according to offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
“You can see the effect of the games that he ran the ball,” Linehan said. “Where we had good production from him in the run game we played well offensively. From the called runs to the zone reads to the off schedule plays he can make with his feet I think we can continue to get the production from him not only as a quarterback in the passing game but using his legs in the run game. When you got a mobile quarterback like we do when you can get those plays when the opportunity presents itself it is a big boost for us.”
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With 34 rushes for 203 yards for the 3-3 Cowboys, Prescott is already on pace to shatter his rushing attempts and yards from his first two years of 57 for 282 and 57 for 357 in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
It’s also no coincidence that Prescott has had his best games in 2018 in all three Cowboys wins, when his legs were a factor and the offense was at its best. He had seven rushes for 45 yards in a 20-13 victory against the Giants. He had just two rushes for 3 yards in a 26-24 victory against the Detroit Lions and a defense that was focused on taking away the quarterback run. But he had a season-high 255 yards passing and running back Ezekiel Elliott had 152 yards on the ground, the third most of his career, and 88 yards receiving in what was the best offensive output of the season.
And then that was before last Sunday’s 40-7 blowout of the Jacksonville Jaguars when Prescott rushed for career-high 82 yards on 11 carries and also passed for 183 yards and two touchdowns.
He had a 17-yard touchdown run in the game and a 26-yard scramble.
Prescott doesn’t plan to force the run and turn himself into a one-dimensional running quarterback. He says it’s about finding the balance and taking what the defense gives him, especially on the zone reads with Elliott.
But he agreed with Linehan about this Cowboys offense which is admittedly more Dak Prescott-friendly than past years. It still looking to find its identity in the passing game with an overhauled receiver corps without retired tight end Jason Witten and released receiver Dez Bryant, making his runs more important than ever.
“I would say so,” Prescott said. “It’s an element we need to explore more. In past years, you had different things that were go-to’s that aren’t go-to’s now. So maybe using the run game and using my feet can serve that benefit to us.
“I want to do whatever it takes to win. If there is a number we can get to one day and say this is the number of times that allows our offense to be at its best then sure we will make sure I get that many attempts at the running. But whatever it takes to win.”
Linehan made it clear that Prescott is a complete quarterback and running is just one of his strengths. He said the Cowboys have no intention of running him 15 times a game and risking him to injury.
But he said they are not shying away from it. And Prescott is embracing it more than ever.
“I think he is leaning towards those things and he is using it to his advantage,” Linehan said. “Each week is different. Some teams say you are not running the quarterback today. But when others things are working it should make opportunities in our pass game and run game more presentable. We just to keep doing what we are are doing.”