While Dez Bryant played on Twitter, his former quarterback played on without him for the first time.
The Dallas Cowboys dumped Dez because they want to be Dak friendly, and if their first drive in their first game of the 2018 season is any indication, Prescott will be fine without 8-8 running routes, or his mouth.
Granted, Dak played but one drive in the first of four meaningless games, but it’s August; we must extract meaning from anything.
Extract this: Your key to Dak’s development in 2018 is not replacing Dez Bryant. It’s not “creative” play calling from offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
If Dak’s offensive line blocks for him the way it did in 2016, and the way it did for all but one play in his only series on Thursday, he’s good to great.
The Cowboys played against the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday evening without receivers Cole Beasley or Deonte Thompson; starting running back Ezekiel Elliott did not play, either.
(And, neither did Jason Witten. The last time the Cowboys started a season without Witten, Dak was 9.)
Most of the regulars didn’t need to play, but those who did squeeze in one series were good, starting with the line.
Dak may not be the second coming of Tom Brady, or Drew Brees, but Dak will be an improved version of the ‘16 player who led the Cowboys’ to a 13-3 record.
In his one drive against the 49ers, Dak led the Cowboys on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that took 5:27 off the clock. Even though Zeke was not running, the drive looked similar to some of those long drives the offense established through Dak’s rookie year.
The running game was effective, and Dak made some nice plays, and one perfect throw.
The only glitch on the drive was a Dak sack, which was essentially caused by rookie left guard Connor Williams getting beat on an inside rush.
The next play, Dak scrambled up the middle for 12 yards. Now, his coaches would prefer their starting quarterback not do that, especially in a preseason game, but that’s what makes him Dak. He’s going to do it, and, at his age, he can get away with it.
Must be nice.
Two plays later, with plenty of protection, Dak hit rookie receiver Michael Gallup down the right side in stride for a 30-yard touchdown reception leading to Dallas’ 14-7 halftime edge.
Dak’s night immediately was over; he was 3-for-3 passing for 39 yards with one touchdown, and a passer rating of 158.3.
Dak can’t do much more in a preseason game than he did on Thursday against the 49ers. He moved the ball, completed a few passes, and, the most important thing, he didn’t get hurt.
Even without a true X, or No. 1 receiver, a dominant offensive line makes all of it a little less relevant.
The line was good last season, but left tackle Tyron Smith was dealing with a few nagging injuries that forced him out, and affected his play.
Dak dealt with more pressure in his second season than he ever did in his first, and his performance reflected a passer who didn’t have as much time.
If the Cowboys’ line, which was the NFL’s best in ‘16, returns to the form Dak grew accustomed as a rookie, not having an X, or a No. 1, or a Dez, won’t be a problem for Dak.