Mac Engel

If Cowboys want to take that next step, Dak has to shred comparisons to ex-TCU QB

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams (83) is congratulated by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter as the Cincinnati Bengals play the Dallas Cowboys in the first home pre-season game in Arlington, Saturday, August 18, 2018.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams (83) is congratulated by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter as the Cincinnati Bengals play the Dallas Cowboys in the first home pre-season game in Arlington, Saturday, August 18, 2018.

When Dak Prescott entered the NFL, if someone said he would be as good as Andy Dalton, you would have laughed.

Dak would have taken it.

Our favorite ex-Horned Frog quarterback enters his eighth NFL season as a starter and has secured multi-generational wealth. Now 30 years old and married with a family, he could retire today knowing he had a nice career as a football player.

A brilliant career and life for the Katy Kid virtually no one other than TCU wanted.

There’s no nice way to say this, though: If Dak is Dalton 2.0, the Cowboys have a major problem.

So far, there are major similarities between their careers.

In his first two NFL seasons, Dak was 22-10 with 45 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. He was 0-1 in the playoffs.

In his first two NFL seasons, Dalton was 19-13 with 47 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions. He was 0-1 in the playoffs.

Like Dalton, Dak fell into the starting role and was immediately surrounded by a good team and they won. Rookies normally start for bad teams.

Like Dalton, Dak did a good job of not beating himself, and making a few plays that convince you there is more there.

Dalton was back in town not only to watch TCU practice on Saturday morning, but to start for his Cincinnati Bengals in a fake NFL game on Saturday night against the Cowboys at Jerry World.

This is another attempt to have Dalton’s jersey retired by TCU and to acknowledge the obvious that his time in Cincy needs to end. The best/worst thing that ever happened to his career was being selected in the second round by the Bengals in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Best in the sense that it gave him the quickest route to becoming an NFL starting quarterback, which he took full advantage of and led the horse-bleep franchise to a level of success it had not enjoyed since the 1980s.

Worst in the sense that he went to a good roster that was ready to win, but is managed by the most clueless pack of penny-pinching decision-makers this side of Washington, D.C.

It’s hard to pity anyone who makes it to the NFL, but being a Bengal is close to generating a shred of sympathy. Having been born and briefly raised a Bengals fan, I can say that no one deserves to be treated the way the Bengals’ ownership treats their customers.

Some of the state of the Bengals, however, is in on Dalton, whose ceiling is that of a pretty good NFL starting quarterback and just not quite good enough.

His brief, first-half-only performance against the Cowboys on Saturday night showed what makes him good, and ultimately so frustrating. He can make a few plays on you that keep him around, and yet miss some throws that a top tier NFL quarterback must complete.

On the Bengals’ first drive, Dalton had a wide-open receiver A.J. Green open for a first down and he missed him by several yards.

Dalton also completed a few nice throws, and had a 13-yard scramble for a first down on a 3rd-and-5.

He always shows just enough to stick around, and not quite enough to advance his team further along. At 30, that’s not likely to change.

The Bengals know what Andy Dalton is, and the Cowboys are confident Dak is more than that.

Or they are hoping.

The team is firmly committed to Dak, and there is an undeniable nervousness about this player. Not as a person. Not as a pro. About his ceiling.

Can he consistently make the vertical throw against tight coverage that beats teams, and good defenses?

Against the Bengals on Saturday night, Dak found rookie receiver Michael Gallup for a few decent gains. Dak made two plays with his feet that most guys can’t.

Dak’s reverse spin in the second quarter was Tony Romo-ish, and he completed the play for a short TD toss to Terrance Williams.

“Dak is a great mobile quarterback so when he breaks the pocket, that makes him more dangerous because he’s good on the run,” Williams said at halftime. “When you go out there and practice it in training camp over and over and over, and coaches give you a point on how to get to the ball, it translates to the game, and that’s exactly what happened.”

The Cowboys did Dak no favors this offseason by going with a slew of No. 2 and No. 3 caliber wide receivers, but running back Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line are the anchors of this team.

But the NFL is a quarterback league, and if the Cowboys are going to be as good as Jerry Jones’ fantasy, Dak has to progress. He has made it much further than anyone could have predicted two years ago, but Dak has to be more than Dalton.

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