All signs point to Dak Prescott resuming his duties as the Dallas Cowboys‘ starting quarterback this Sunday against the Detroit Lions. While it’s generally accepted that Prescott will provide an upgrade from the last five weeks of Cooper Rush’s work, just how different might this Cowboys offense look with #4 back under center?
Statistically, it’s not hard to see where Dak’s return will be a tremendous boost. Last year the Cowboys’ offense was ranked first in total yards at 407 per game, first in scoring average with 31.2 points, and second in passing at 282.4 yards per game. Prescott only missed one game last season.
In 2022, with Dak only playing for about three quarters so far, Dallas is among the worst teams in the league in offensive output. They’re currently 27th in total offense, averaging just over a hundred yards less with just 300.8 per game. They rank the same in passing offense with just a 182.0 average. Scoring is also down; just 18.3 points per game for a 23rd-place ranking.
Prescott’s superior talent, experience, and chemistry with the starting receivers have a lot to do with this disparity. As we’ve seen Rush’s familiarity with longtime backup Noah Brown shine through at times, Dak’s battle-tested cohesion with guys like Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz should also make them more effective going forward.
One key difference between Prescott and Rush is pure arm strength. Some of Cooper’s interceptions last week against the Philadelphia Eagles were easily attributed to the lack of zip on his throws. Dak either fits the ball into those windows or perhaps has more experience to know when the window isn’t really there.
Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore is also sure to call a more aggressive game with Prescott as his conduit. Granted, some of the Cowboys’ offensive conservatism has been part of their 4-1 record. Until last Sunday, Dallas had avoided turnovers and done enough on the ground and even passing in clutch moments to take advantage of their opponents’ low scoring. Thankfully, that dominant defense will still be here helping Dak the same way it did Cooper Rush.
Interestingly, the Cowboys’ rushing offense is arguably even better this year than last. Despite not having a passing threat to stretch opposing defenses, Dallas is posting very similar numbers in the run game:
- 2022: 118.8 ypg, 4.3 ypc
- 2021: 124.6 ypg, 4.5 ypc
The points to superior offensive line play from what the team was working with a year ago. The growth of players like Tyler Biadasz, Terence Steele, and Connor McGovern, not to mention the addition of Tyler Smith, has made Dallas more effective up front and kept Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard effective despite their lack of help.
Getting the passing attack going again will only make Zeke and Pollard even more potent with their carries. Once the Cowboys can start making opponents pick their poison again, everyone on offense will be more successful.
Perhaps the biggest “wait and see” in this is how Kellen Moore calls the offense going forward. While we certainly expect them to take more chances with Dak’s return, perhaps the success enjoyed during Cooper Rush’s run has shown Moore where fundamental football can still win. As long as Dallas’ defense keeps doing its thing, that opportunity will remain open.
Of course, Prescott still has to prove that his poor showing in Week 1 against Tampa Bay was an anomaly. But there’s plenty of reason for confidence; he has Michael Gallup back and the offensive line is playing worlds better than they did in the opener. Even if Dak has to work off some rust, thankfully he has two winnable games against Detroit and the Chicago Bears coming up.
The offense should look much different with Dak Prescott back in the mix. And as long as no other key pieces go out anytime soon, there’s no reason to think it won’t be a much-improved unit for the Cowboys.