Mac Engel

If Dak wants to thrive and survive in the NFL, he must get rid of the ball quicker

A future Pro Football Hall of Famer linebacker is a believer in Dak Prescott, with the following caveat, “He’s got to the ball out quicker.

“The best ones get the ball out.”

This HOFer prefers this benign observation remain quite anonymous.

As Tony Romo discovered, no quarterback is dissected more frequently than the guy who starts for the Dallas Cowboys where perfect is heavily flawed.

Whomever plays the position can’t carry Troy Aikman’s jock, nor is he qualified to clean Roger Staubach’s toilet, talented enough to mow Don Meredith’s yard, or smart enough to groom Danny White’s dog.

But the future HOFer who made the observation about Dak’s evolution is not wrong. He’s a better player when the ball is out, and, sooner rather than later, he must stop taking big hits.

Quarterbacks who live and thrive in the NFL avoid contact second to only Deion Sanders.

Sack Numbers Trend Down

Prescott is not on pace to have the best statistical season of his career, but one encouraging development is that unlike last season he is not dressing up for games as a Crash Test Dummy for Halloween.

Last season, Dak was sacked 56 times. I got a bruise just writing that.

“I take care of my body and I train for that reason. When it’s time for the game, just go out there and be the competitor and don’t worry about those things,” Prescott said. “Can’t think about that.”

The last young man to say that was Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. He was young and immortal, right up until the time he suffered a patella dislocation on a quarterback sneak in a win against the Broncos a few weeks ago.

At least Dak has been better this season in avoiding sacks. He has been sacked 10 times in seven games. Of late, however, the numbers have risen.

“I think he’s had a couple of games where he got hit more than others,” Cowboys quarterbacks coach Jon Kitna said. “I think as a staff, we are comfortable where he’s at. His sack numbers are way down.

“Has he gotten hit? Yeah. You’re playing quarterback in the NFL. You’re going to get hit. There are a couple of games where those numbers are a bit higher than we want them to be.”

In the last three games, Dak has been sacked seven times. And it’s not just the sacks that are of concern, it’s also the way he has been hit. It’s the type of hits he absorbs.

It helps that he’s 26, big and athletic. He can take a hit. At least right now. He can’t forever.

“I don’t think he’s taken unnecessary hits,” Kitna said. “He’s played within the confines of what we are doing. The ball is coming out on time.”

Dak IS BETTER THE QUICKER THE BALL COMES OUT

One of the persistent needles in Dak’s game as a passer is that he holds the ball too long; that he takes his health, and his offensive line, for granted.

How could he not? Since he entered the league his offensive line has been one of the better units in the league, and he’s never been hurt.

It’s not an uncommon knock on younger quarterbacks. They hold it too long thinking an open receiver will be available if they just give it one more fraction.

Dak’s passer rating is 102.6 this season; that’s eighth overall in the league.

Per the good, stat-happy folks of Pro Football Focus, Dak’s passer rating drops to 90.7 when he holds on to the ball for more than 2.5 seconds.

A passer rating of 90.7 would rank 21st in the NFL.

There are 53,234 ways to dissect statistics, and you can always find more than a few dozen to make an argument.

The eyeball test says Dak Prescott needs to keep improving on getting the ball out of his hands, and stop taking the hit.

Especially if he wants to succeed as an NFL passer who lives past the age of 30.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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