Dak Prescott Injury Update: How did the Cowboys QB look in Week 1 vs. Tampa Bay?

The Dallas Cowboys may have lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener, but Dak Prescott was lights out at QB.

Dak Prescott wasn’t flawless against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Dallas Cowboys QB threw an interception that went off the hands of CeeDee Lamb. He threw two other passes that Tampa Bay’s defense could have intercepted. But against the defending Super Bowl champions in his first game action since snapping his ankle, you couldn’t ask for much more. Still, something doesn’t quite feel right, even after seeing his gutsy performance.

Dak Prescott’s shoulder is fine

Prescott has been throwing, so there wasn’t much to worry about there. If you couldn’t gather that after 58 pass attempts, I’m unsure how to tell you. Admittedly, his shoulder didn’t look right to start the game. In the Cowboys’ first two drives, he never really let one rip the way we’d been used to seeing.

Prescott was guiding throws. It looked like he was working back into the game. Nevertheless, even as he looked as if he was slowly assimilating back to live action, he was still on time and accurate on those first two drives, with the second ending in a touchdown.

After that, it was on. Prescott put on his heavy socks and started to sling the ball around the yard. The game was incredibly entertaining from start to finish, and Prescott was the main attraction, mostly because he threw the ball more than many modern-day starting pitchers.

Picking up right where he left off in 2020

Through the first four games of the 2020 season, Prescott had thrown the ball 201 times (50.25 times per game), for 1,690 yards (422.5 yards per game), 9 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. He continued on that torrid pace in this game, throwing the ball 58 times for 403 yards, with 3 touchdowns and an interception.

Prescott’s ankle is fine, kind of

He’s not inhibited whatsoever by the ankle as a passer. There were plenty of occasions where he was able to generate great velocity into tight windows. It also didn’t stop him from gracefully floating around in the pocket to avoid pressure. If you keep him inside of a 3-yard circle, he can move unimpeded.

However, when he actually has to get on the hoof and make a play with his legs, it just doesn’t seem like the same Prescott. This was evident in the red zone when he didn’t show the same juice on designed runs and a few scrambles throughout the game. He’s not a statue, but he doesn’t seem to have his sixth gear at the moment.

To put that into some context, Prescott managed 4 carries for 13 yards in this game. Looking at Prescott’s career numbers, he averages 3.8 attempts per game and 5.1 yards per attempt, or 19 yards per game. Now, QB rushing numbers are extremely variable, but you can see that this first outing was a below-average performance from Prescott with his legs.

The performance overview

Prescott further cemented himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the league last night. Losing Zack Martin was a massive blow for the Cowboys. Heck, it’s the reason they only ran the ball 18 times.

Sure, you may still be skeptical of the quarterback — Prescott is a controversial topic amongst NFL fans. But when one sits down on Twitter and looks at what the non-network analysts who focus on QB play say about him, it should remove all doubt. When it comes to quarterbacking, Prescott does it as well as anybody.

Nevertheless, I’m not saying he’s the best quarterback in the league — he isn’t. And unless something horrible happens to Patrick Mahomes, there’s a 99% chance he never will be. Prescott doesn’t create outside of structure like Mahomes. He doesn’t have the massive arm, size, and rushing ability of Josh Allen. But when we look at the young(er) crop of quarterbacks, it’s difficult to argue any of them are more cerebral.

A warrior’s mentality

Dak has a Master’s degree in leadership, and it shows in how he carries himself in the pocket. The most impressive part of his nearly 60 attempts wasn’t the sideline passes in the honey hole, beating the safety to the spot, and throwing behind the cornerback in Cover 2 looks. It wasn’t the few tight-window throws over the middle. And it wasn’t the drive that led to the go-ahead field goal.

No, the most impressive part of this game was, despite a gruesome ankle injury less than one year ago, Prescott stood as tall as his 6-foot-2 frame allowed, delivering passes against pressure all night. Vita Vea is, by any measure, an alien. Without Martin on the right side, he pinned his ears back and bullied Dallas’ interior all night.

Yet, there Dak stood, face to face with the rather large belly of the beast bearing down on him and remained in harm’s way to deliver pass after pass. Prescott can and will play in rhythm. But he is at his best when he’s able to go through his progressions on longer-developing plays downfield.

NFL Game Stats had Prescott getting hit 8 times throughout the contest. Yet, he only took 1 sack. Just a few years ago, that number would have been much higher. And Prescott is not done growing, either.

Now it’s time for Dallas’ defense to grow.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch