DALLAS — Some quarterbacks need a clean pocket in order to go through their progressions and find the open man. Others are able to navigate the chaos of defenders coming off the edge and up the middle to cultivate a positive play.
Count Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in the latter category. Bryant Horn from Pro Football Focus quantified what Cowboys fans feel every Sunday when they see the two-time Pro Bowler drop back to pass.
According to Horn, who put together a list of quarterbacks most affected by pressure, Prescott is the sixth-best passer when it comes to adjusting to pressure. PFF grades Prescott at 88.5 when he has a clean pocket compared to 67.2 with a pressured-pocket. The 21.3 difference is the sixth-best in their rankings.
"Prescott’s 67.2 pressured-pocket grade was over four points better than the second-best grade, meaning he was technically the best-performing pressured passer of the group," writes Horn. "He completed 80-of-152 attempts under fire from the defense and tallied 980 yards. His nine touchdowns, 55 first downs and 12 big-time throws overshadow his nine turnover-worthy plays."
With Prescott completing an offseason wherein he didn't have to rehab from a significant injury — as was the case in 2021 coming off a broken leg sustained five games into the 2020 campaign — the expectation is that No. 4 will hit the ground running come training camp in Oxnard, Calif., beginning on July 26.
"There is no doubt in my mind that Dak is capable of quarterbacking this team to a Super Bowl and he’s got the talent to be in the elite quarterbacks," Cowboys owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones told reporters on June 16. "I believe that strongly. No one has to say anything about having that guy in a foxhole with you. But he feels good in there because of how he gives of himself when he’s not in the foxhole, and he gets ready to go. All of that I think are lined up to get the best of him."
The Cowboys also made moves in the offseason to ensure they get the best from Prescott. In the draft, Dallas provided Prescott with an interior offensive lineman in first-round guard Tyler Smith from Tulsa. The Cowboys also picked a pre-draft target of Prescott's in third-round receiver Jalen Tolbert from South Alabama.
The lesser the difference between a highly-functioning Prescott in a clean pocket and a pressured Prescott will be one of the small details that pays big dividends for the Cowboys in January 2023.
Do you think Dak Prescott is ready for a big year in his second season back from injury? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.