Saturday, June 25, 2022

Cowboys’ Dak Prescott looks forward to making impact in run game: ‘My confidence is through the roof’

There’s a distinct possibility you’ll see Dak Prescott on the move quite a bit more throughout the 2022 season. That is at least what head coach Mike McCarthy intimated during mandatory minicamp — noting how the Dallas Cowboys are interested in implementing the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback more in the rushing attack going forward. It’s an aspect of his game that’s not often been deployed by design following his days at Mississippi State, when he was often viewed as dual-threat, and one that was nearly deleted entirely last season as he returned to the field from a devastating ankle injury that ended his 2020 campaign prematurely.

The latter was obviously deliberate by McCarthy and Co., but Prescott is now fully healthy from any and all that ailed him last autumn and, more importantly, he’s no longer handcuffed to the psychology that comes with having returned from a major injury.

Simply put, he’s ready to regain prime form, in all aspects of his game.

“I feel great,” Prescott said from minicamp. “Just, as you said, not being restricted, being able to do every drill, everything, and it counts. It matters. Just being able to get out there and have so many reps with these young guys, such a young receiving corps, such a young team, just being able to rotate those guys with me able to get those reps. Being able to have to explain some of the things to them, but those are good, quality reps for me and some of those guys we’re actually going to need in the fall.”

McCarthy is describing Prescott as “leaner” and “quicker” — though he weighs the same — two attributes that are key drivers in what might be the Cowboys’ willingness to finally add consistency to the number of designed runs he sees going forward. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll suddenly be asked to become Lamar Jackson, i.e., racking up several 100-yard games per season, but it does give indication that he’s physically ready for whenever they do call his number; or for whenever he organically decides to sprint out of the pocket to move the chains (the latter being something that was also often absent in 2021). 

Prescott himself notes he’s “definitely” leaner than he’s ever been in his football career, and though that may not equate to being faster, it might equate to being more difficult to get a handle on as a runner.

“I definitely do [feel leaner and more mobile],” he said. “I go into each offseason trying to be a better player and person than I was the year before. So, at this stage, at this point, I definitely feel like I’ve accomplished that. I think I’m so much further along than I was last year at this time. Being able to get the team reps, as you said, being able to move more, take care of my whole body and just focus on everything, not just my leg. 

“It’s a huge difference.”

As mentioned, Prescott made a name for himself at MSU with his ability to apply pressure on opposing defenses both as a passer and as a runner. As a junior, he rushed for 986 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, and racked up 2,491 yards from scrimmage and 40 touchdowns on the ground in his final three seasons with the Bulldogs. He used that mobility to set up his passing prowess, going on to set school records en route to getting the nod as a fourth-round pick for the Cowboys in 2016. 

He’s since been scaled back as a ball-carrier, mightily, and despite failings on the once-vaunted offensive line in Dallas. Prescott’s career-best season as a runner was in 2017, when he rushed for 357 yards. He’d deliver six rushing touchdowns that season (tied for a career best) and averaged 6.3 yards per carry (another career-best), but the Cowboys have intentionally been judicious about exposing their franchise QB to hits in the open field; and even more so in his return from a fractured ankle.

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For his part, however, Prescott feels he’s capable of channeling his inner Bulldog for the Cowboys.

“My confidence is through the roof,” he said. “I feel good on the move or not. So, to say that on the move’s my best, I feel like I can make every throw on the move, yes.”

If the Cowboys follow through on this plan, it’ll add another wrinkle to an offense that is now without Amari Cooper or Cedrick Wilson, and could also be without Michael Gallup to begin the season while also working to figure out their offensive line rotation. It doesn’t mean Prescott will suddenly become the third running back on the team, though. But rather that, when needed, the Mississippi State version might make an appearance or two in a game. 

“Yeah, I expect to have 20 carries a game.”

He’s kidding, folks.

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