QB Hot Read: Cowboys Dak Prescott struggles prove insurmountable

Down 28 points in the second half of Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers, Dak Prescott was instrumental in bringing his team back within striking distance. However, Prescott was merely making up for his early-game struggles.

You can’t dig yourself out of a hole. Just ask Dak Prescott. For nearly three quarters, Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys offense moved the football between the 20s but managed a mere three points. A lot of that had to do with lost opportunities, missed field goals, and turnovers; namely, Prescott throwing a career-high-tying three interceptions.

However, with three and a half minutes remaining in the third, Prescott lowered his shovel and began to climb. 

So, while Prescott’s late-game heroics spurred Cowboys fans to put on their rally caps, he was equally responsible for a dreadful 40 plus minutes of football. 

His questionable ball placement and decision making, early on, would then require his best for the Cowboys to have any chance of a comeback. According to Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM), Prescott’s best is precisely what the team would get.

As stated by this advanced method for evaluating NFL players, Prescott edged out both Deshaun Watson (41.47) and Russell Wilson (41.46) with a Week 5 grade of 42.38. He’d not only grade higher than the aforementioned signal-callers but the entire league of qualified quarterbacks with at least 15 pass attempts last week.

You see, Prescott’s higher grade should not be construed to suggest he was more prolific than the choices of Watson or Wilson. Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM) is more about how a player relates to his team than compared to other players at their respective positions. 

Prescott was explicitly asked to carry the offense as the Cowboys chances waned. His grade would indicate that he did a fantastic job of this. 

So, what goes into a quarterback’s OSM grade? First of all, football is the ultimate team game. That makes it inherently difficult to determine the individual performance of different players. If you try to use generic stats like passing yards and completion percentage, you end up using stats that speak to the result of the combined efforts of multiple players. The same is true of third-down completion percentage, fourth-quarter passer rating, or, even worse, wins.

Instead, let’s delve into what Dak Prescott and only Dak Prescott could control–himself.

Prescott was aggressive and played with urgency, especially in the final 20 minutes of Sunday’s game. With his team down four touchdowns, there was less room for error as the Packers defense pinned their ears back.

Ezekiel Elliott, while impactful, was limited to 12 touches in the run game as America’s team was forced to throw on a majority of downs in the fourth quarter. The gameplan was apparent for both sides, and as a result, receivers had a tougher time gaining separation while Prescott’s time in the pocket dwindled. A perfect recipe for many intermediate throws being completed, albeit smaller targets to hit.

To measure a quarterback’s effect on one’s offense, you’ll want to consider less standard statistics. Pro Football Network uses the NFL’s very own NextGen stats and other algorithms that have been created to gain perspective and a more firm understanding. 

This metric (OSM) accounts for things like air yards, completion probabilities, and differential, aggressiveness, and more.

For perspective, Prescott was top of the league in Completed Air Yards (CAY) for Week 5. He’d also grade out in the top ten for both Intended Air Yards (IAY) and Expected Completion Percentage Differential.

Prescott would average more air yards per completion than he did on all passes he attempted. What this provides is further evidence of not only aggressiveness from the passer’s standpoint but that Prescott was completing deeper throws often. And given the deficit, he was doing so when the defense knew it was coming, ranking top five in aggressive passes into tight windows.

As the Cowboys drew within striking distance, Prescott put on a show in the no-huddle with four minutes in the game. 

The Packers played a lot of prevent and quarters coverage during this time, giving Prescott underneath routes. Not that the shorter to intermediate receivers were that open, however. Prescott still had to throw quick, accurate passes to keep the chains moving and avoid a nail-in-the-coffin interception.

Given the defense’s conservative play-calling and the Cowboy’s offense becoming one dimensional, it’s clear as to why Prescott was so highly responsible for his squad’s production. So much so that no other qualifying quarterback in Week 5 exceeded his contribution to his team. 

And let’s not get too carried away with Watson and Wilson comparisons. To be clear, this metric (OSM) is not a power rankings type metric. None of these NextGen stats or exclusive Pro Football Network algorithms are intended for that purpose. With that said, long gone are the days where football fans are force-fed analytics that credit individuals for what other players contribute. Welcome to the future. Welcome to Offensive Share Metric.

Make sure you’re getting the latest installment of QB Hot Read as a new quarterback film study drops every Wednesday with Shane G. Tyler, the Content Director and contributor for Pro Football Network’s Film Room. You can follow him on Twitter @SugaShane15. 

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