Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dez Is Hurt Again. Now What?

http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-cowboys/cowboys/2016/09/29/sturm-pressure-offense-now-without-dez-bryant

I think it is safe to imagine that in the back of every owner/general manager's mind when they sign a long-term NFL deal with a star player is the worst-case scenario.  For instance, in early July 2015 when the Cowboys locked down Dez Bryant for 5 years at $70 million, the idea was that you would enjoy more of the same from 2014 when he was one of the best receivers in the sport, not lose him to injury after injury.

Unfortunately, in the first year of his deal, his age-26 season was almost completely washed out with painful incidents.  First, in the season opener against the Giants and then again in the end zone when he made an amazing catch against the Eagles in early November. 
The plan in 2016 was that his age-27 season was going to be far better.  The training in the offseason put him in a position to bounce back to superstar status that was last seen that day at Lambeau Field in January of 2015.  But, it now appears another work-related injury has appeared and will make the Cowboys do something they were not prepared to do last year: move the ball without Dez Bryant.
The problems that are associated with playing without Tony Romo and Bryant are enough to cause massive heartburn among any Cowboys loyalist, largely because the Cowboys looked so ill prepared to pull off such a feat just last season.  But, Dak Prescott has filled the masses with confidence as not only a reasonable understudy to Romo, but causing a whole new generation to learn the name Wally Pipp. 
But, that was with the elite value of Bryant.  Not always in fantasy football statistics, but more importantly, in the reality of dictating coverages.  Opposing defensive coordinators spend every week learning how to take away your strength.  Dez Bryant is the main focus that occupies the secondary.  Many weeks, the opponent will demand that you beat them with Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, or that vaunted running game.  Because Bryant affects the math with his presence, they often do win that way.
This week, though, and likely through the bye week, the Cowboys are expected to have to figure things out without Bryant and Romo all over again.  This time, Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett are determined to get it right.  This will require doing it against more tightly compacted defenses that crowd the line of scrimmage to take away the running game and safe underneath throws. 

The solutions don't fill you with optimism.  Brice Butler looks the part, but he has not been given enough chance to demonstrate the ability to produce yet.  Terrance Williams seems far more suited to complementary roles where he is not counted upon to get open.  Gavin Escobar is merely a special teams body these days. 
Bryant keeps opponents honest, which is something that nobody else on this offense can do past 10 yards.  We saw what happened last year because of that.  The vertical game died, the safeties walked up, and even the shorter windows closed because they were not scared of your threats getting behind them. 
I have been impressed with the creativity of the offense to this point in 2016, but now, any plans of keeping Prescott out of tough spots is likely gone.  He will have to win with his feet, fit the ball into traffic, and expand more on the zone-read game with Ezekiel Elliott that we saw a few weeks back.
But, until they prove they can still move the ball without Bryant threatening opponents, you can bet this represents Jerry Jones' worst-case scenario of how that contract would pay off back in July of 2015.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Grading Week 3

http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-cowboys/cowboys/2016/09/25/grading-cowboys-offense-thrives-must-win-game-bears

Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket host Bob Sturm grades the Dallas Cowboys in their win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.

OFFENSE: A- 

This offense rolled up a massive day that easily went over 400 yards, converted a majority of 3rd downs, and punched every last red-zone drive into the end zone for a touchdown. Dak Prescott was again solid through the air, and now the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott was able to survive a night without Tyron Smith yet still ground and pound throughout the evening, averaging about five yards per carry. If not for a missed field goal and a fumble by Terrance Williams, it is reasonable to assume this offense was going to put up 40 points - without Tony Romo and with relative ease.

DEFENSE: C+ 


The effectiveness of the defense is often dependent on what you are asked to do and who you are required to stop. On this occasion, they were seldom stressed by the hapless Bears attack, which, given the lack of a consistent pass rush, was probably fortunate. The defensive secondary (without Orlando Scandrick) had a very solid game with several broken up passes. They simply must get their pass rush going, but the work against the run and on third down was quite good and they found two vital takeaways. They certainly were satisfactory, surrendering some cosmetic yardage but remaining rather untested overall on the evening.

COACHING: B 

 Overall, the Cowboys were in total control from an offensive standpoint, and this must be credited to the coaching staff for successfully integrating a rookie QB and a rookie RB into what looks like a very competitive group. The scheme is altered from a Romo playbook, and they have put Prescott in a position to be successful. They called a game that followed the blueprint of eating the clock while moving the chains. Defensively, they were not going to gamble against Brian Hoyer and a Chicago offense that lacked any sort of confidence or swagger. It was the proper game plan that was well executed.

OVERALL: B 

 This was a game that absolutely needed to go into the win column for this team to remain competitive when Romo can return. They were big favorites against a battered opponent and had to establish the ability to win at home. Not only did they do all of that, but they made it look very easy again, putting the Bears well behind in the second quarter. They seem to have found some rhythm and continuity, and they will only gain more confidence heading into San Francisco to play another team that appears beatable. There were a lot of solid signs from this outing.

Friday, September 23, 2016

DMN - Mailbag Sept 23 -

http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-cowboys/cowboys/2016/09/23/sturms-weekly-cowboys-mailbag-demarcus-lawrence-mo-claiborne-plenty-tony-romo


Let's do a mailbag!
Before we start, a thought on the Bears. I spent a few hours on them last night and cannot remember a less interesting roster than what Chicago has right now. Yes, they are beat up already, but even at full strength, you are trying to talk yourself into the concept of them being good -- rather than the reality.
In other words, you cannot lose to these guys on Sunday. There are must-win games, and then there are "you will regret this the rest of the year if you let this bunch take a win out of your building" games.
You really should pound them. And I realize the Cowboys are flawed. But, man, Chicago has a ways to go before they get out of picking in the top 10 in the draft.  
On to the questions:
Q:  Why do you think the Cowboys can't win at home? Jerry didn't buy a 1.3 billion dollar playpen for losses, I have to think...
This is in reference to what I wrote yesterday about the Cowboys issues with winning at AT&T Stadium and how it gets turned around.
People wanted solutions and I did not present many because there are no real trends that stick out. Obviously, Tony Romo's attendance record is at the heart of the issue. But then again, that seems like barking at the moon. If the solution to everything is "keep Tony Romo healthy," then we are all wasting a lot of time analyzing the team and, also, maybe quarterback wins are real stats.

Also, Cowboys backup quarterbacks have won games on the road and not at home (for whatever reason), which is a bit more difficult to explain, but the past two trips to Washington were wins by Matt Cassel and Dak Prescott (the only win either of them has ever engineered, so far -- although I bet Prescott gets his first home win on Sunday).
To be honest, it seems to me that there is a real aggressiveness element to the whole story. I think they play to win on the road more often than they do at home, but that requires a fair amount of looking at statistics from a slanted point of view. What I mean is that most play-calling is situation-dependent, therefore, to look at yards or run/pass ratios and offer conclusions can be dangerous.
Romo's record at home since 2009 is 25-18 in the regular season. That is well above 47 percent. In fact, it is above 58 percent. And he is 26-19 on the road since 2009. That is 57 percent. Pretty much identical in either place. So, it might all come down to the backups being 2-12 at home and 5-7 on the road to explain the home form versus the road form. And Romo's body.
Q: Has Jason Garrett turned the corner from being a conservative coach to a gambler or was last week just an exception?
The coaching staff did some very interesting things last week that made us think they are done frustrating us with their extreme conservatism. That includes the incredibly uncharacteristic onside-kick ambush in the third quarter. The man who gave us "you don't lay up at the Masters" has not always lived his quote.  
But, I will file this under the "I will need to see more to call this a trend" heading until we see him coaching ruthlessly more often. I think Rod Marinelli also is a guy who fits Garrett's sensibilities very well and we know Scott Linehan does. Let's continue to monitor and home that Coach Conservative breaks his mold, but unfortunately, he is becoming an older dog here in Year 7.
Q: I know everybody is hyping up Morris Claiborne to having this great year but he doesn't have any interceptions and hasn't jumped off the screen much... You think he's doing as good as everybody says?
I think Mo Claiborne is playing some solid football. Not perfect, but much better than what we have seen. He just needs to stay on the field. He has to play. He just has never played as much as he needs to and cornerbacks are all about snap counts. They have to stay on the field or their value is zero.
Look at the snap count difference between Claiborne and Brandon Carr. They both got here in 2012, so they have both had the same number of available snaps. Carr has been in 4,305 plays (all of them) and Claiborne has played in 2,319. That is roughly 54 percent of Carr's total. I have always defended Carr and never defended Claiborne based on this simple idea. Carr may not pick off enough passes and stop enough plays, but he battles and battles for three hours every Sunday. Claiborne has not proven he can be counted upon.
So, we never get to a technique discussion. One is present and one is not. That is why I don't get carried away when Claiborne plays two good games. Call me when he plays a full season (at any level of quality) to prove he is worthy of a monetary investment moving forward.

Q: Is this defensive line good enough to where when Demarcus Lawrence comes back in a couple weeks, he takes it to a decent level or is it a lost cause?
I made the claim in August that DeMarcus Lawrence is going to come back in Week 5 and still get eight sacks. I am that impressed with his progress and how he looked in camp. This may look silly in three months, but it is what I believe. I think he is terrific and I think he will make a significant difference. That said, they may also want to take their resources in the next draft and another blue-chip edge rusher, because they appear to be short on some talent.
Q: At what point do you give up on Terrance Williams and give Brice Butler a shot? He cost us the first game then disappeared in the second!
I think there is a sign they are headed that way. The weird issue is that they are both pretty much the same age and both in the final year of their deals.
But they need one of the two to step into the Alvin Harper role this year and be the deep threat. They can both do it -- Williams has done it way more -- but the underneath stuff and Dez are squared away. Now they need the big-play guy on the other side for the two or three shots a game. That is the one thing we have not seen yet -- the up-top shot to WR2.
Now, the other thing that showed up Sunday is the S01 package. This has no running backs, one tight end and four wide receivers. This includes both Butler and Williams with Bryant and Beasley. I think it was primarily a second-down look and something that really spreads out the defense. Let's see if they go back to that this week.
Q: Do you think fumbling is an issue that can be corrected in a weeks time or does it progressively get better? Will it be an issue for Zeke against Chicago?
Ezekiel Elliott has no fumble history. I don't think it is the start of one, but you can expect that his next several opponents are going to challenge him now that he has shown it can be stripped. He needs a good game soon or the criticism will increase. The Cowboys were promised the moon with this kid and the first month has not been that.
Q: Scandrick seems to be hurt again, will he ever be back to being the guy that got that big deal or is that too much to ask? ...
Q: Anthony Brown had a pick 6 in preseason, how confident are you in his ability to go out and fill in Scandrick's shoes?
Sort of the same topic here, so let's combine these. Orlando Scandrick has meant a lot to this group, so there is no doubt there is concern about how "right" he is right now. And the prospect of a sixth-rounder just stepping in and filling his shoes seems a bit crazy. I might consider sitting Scandrick for a few weeks to get him healthy if that is the issue. Chicago-San Francisco is the time to do that, because the slot threats are coming afterward.
I like Anthony Brown, but he is several levels down from Scandrick for now. Let's continue to monitor the progress of both players as we go.
Q: What's going on with Rolando McClain, did we ever let him go? and why haven't we let go of Randy Gregory yet?
I don't think we ever see McClain again. I think this is more of a sensitive substance issue that is likely just going to be a headline one day in the random future and that will be that. Gregory is a bit more vague and I won't pretend to have any idea, other than his issues have proven to be far more complex than they imagined when they spent a second-rounder on him.
Q: Do you anticipate the new guy we signed, Ryan Davis, to be active this week and is he a good player that will make a difference?
I do. And given how they played four defensive tackles at the end of the game, I would think he should be able to make some difference. As decent as the D-line looked in that game for me, I will say that I hoped for more in the first few weeks from offseason signings Benson Mayowa and Cedric Thornton. On one hand, the Cowboys are shorthanded and need help, but then the new guys can't get on the field, either? It is all a bit confusing from a personnel standpoint, although I know they are working around Tyrone Crawford and Terrell McClain's performances. Also, Maliek Collins is starting to pop.
Q: Set aside Romo's health and ability to make it through an NFL game/season. Even if he is healthy when he comes back, how rusty is he going to be? He has not played much football in the last 2 years, so I would imagine he will be really rusty for at least a few games. Is the last game he played really well the playoff game in Green Bay?

I am not worried about rust, but I am worried about the first few big hits he takes. I assume so is everyone else. He has been knocked out on about three of the past five big hits he has taken. That won't work in the NFL, where every quarterback gets hit hard twice a game. I think he will be mentally sharp, but I also don't believe the body has many big shots left to handle.
Q: Have we seen enough to know that Prescott's likely floor is an average NFL quarterback? I know sometimes the great ones can struggle early. But are there examples of QBs who have gotten off to a good/great start only to end up failing? (Only QB I can think of in that category is RGIII....)
I did not take the time to find similar cases, but I think Dak Prescott can start in this league. I have already seen plenty to indicate he is a very worthy prospect moving forward, even if Romo does regain his spot for the future.
But, I imagine, things may get interesting around here at the quarterback position in the next several months.Let's do a mailbag!
Before we start, a thought on the Bears. I spent a few hours on them last night and cannot remember a less interesting roster than what Chicago has right now. Yes, they are beat up already, but even at full strength, you are trying to talk yourself into the concept of them being good -- rather than the reality.
In other words, you cannot lose to these guys on Sunday. There are must-win games, and then there are "you will regret this the rest of the year if you let this bunch take a win out of your building" games.
You really should pound them. And I realize the Cowboys are flawed. But, man, Chicago has a ways to go before they get out of picking in the top 10 in the draft.  
On to the questions:
Q:  Why do you think the Cowboys can't win at home? Jerry didn't buy a 1.3 billion dollar playpen for losses, I have to think...
This is in reference to what I wrote yesterday about the Cowboys issues with winning at AT&T Stadium and how it gets turned around.
People wanted solutions and I did not present many because there are no real trends that stick out. Obviously, Tony Romo's attendance record is at the heart of the issue. But then again, that seems like barking at the moon. If the solution to everything is "keep Tony Romo healthy," then we are all wasting a lot of time analyzing the team and, also, maybe quarterback wins are real stats.

Also, Cowboys backup quarterbacks have won games on the road and not at home (for whatever reason), which is a bit more difficult to explain, but the past two trips to Washington were wins by Matt Cassel and Dak Prescott (the only win either of them has ever engineered, so far -- although I bet Prescott gets his first home win on Sunday).
To be honest, it seems to me that there is a real aggressiveness element to the whole story. I think they play to win on the road more often than they do at home, but that requires a fair amount of looking at statistics from a slanted point of view. What I mean is that most play-calling is situation-dependent, therefore, to look at yards or run/pass ratios and offer conclusions can be dangerous.
Romo's record at home since 2009 is 25-18 in the regular season. That is well above 47 percent. In fact, it is above 58 percent. And he is 26-19 on the road since 2009. That is 57 percent. Pretty much identical in either place. So, it might all come down to the backups being 2-12 at home and 5-7 on the road to explain the home form versus the road form. And Romo's body.
Q: Has Jason Garrett turned the corner from being a conservative coach to a gambler or was last week just an exception?
The coaching staff did some very interesting things last week that made us think they are done frustrating us with their extreme conservatism. That includes the incredibly uncharacteristic onside-kick ambush in the third quarter. The man who gave us "you don't lay up at the Masters" has not always lived his quote.  
But, I will file this under the "I will need to see more to call this a trend" heading until we see him coaching ruthlessly more often. I think Rod Marinelli also is a guy who fits Garrett's sensibilities very well and we know Scott Linehan does. Let's continue to monitor and home that Coach Conservative breaks his mold, but unfortunately, he is becoming an older dog here in Year 7.
Q: I know everybody is hyping up Morris Claiborne to having this great year but he doesn't have any interceptions and hasn't jumped off the screen much... You think he's doing as good as everybody says?
I think Mo Claiborne is playing some solid football. Not perfect, but much better than what we have seen. He just needs to stay on the field. He has to play. He just has never played as much as he needs to and cornerbacks are all about snap counts. They have to stay on the field or their value is zero.
Look at the snap count difference between Claiborne and Brandon Carr. They both got here in 2012, so they have both had the same number of available snaps. Carr has been in 4,305 plays (all of them) and Claiborne has played in 2,319. That is roughly 54 percent of Carr's total. I have always defended Carr and never defended Claiborne based on this simple idea. Carr may not pick off enough passes and stop enough plays, but he battles and battles for three hours every Sunday. Claiborne has not proven he can be counted upon.
So, we never get to a technique discussion. One is present and one is not. That is why I don't get carried away when Claiborne plays two good games. Call me when he plays a full season (at any level of quality) to prove he is worthy of a monetary investment moving forward.

Q: Is this defensive line good enough to where when Demarcus Lawrence comes back in a couple weeks, he takes it to a decent level or is it a lost cause?
I made the claim in August that DeMarcus Lawrence is going to come back in Week 5 and still get eight sacks. I am that impressed with his progress and how he looked in camp. This may look silly in three months, but it is what I believe. I think he is terrific and I think he will make a significant difference. That said, they may also want to take their resources in the next draft and another blue-chip edge rusher, because they appear to be short on some talent.
Q: At what point do you give up on Terrance Williams and give Brice Butler a shot? He cost us the first game then disappeared in the second!
I think there is a sign they are headed that way. The weird issue is that they are both pretty much the same age and both in the final year of their deals.
But they need one of the two to step into the Alvin Harper role this year and be the deep threat. They can both do it -- Williams has done it way more -- but the underneath stuff and Dez are squared away. Now they need the big-play guy on the other side for the two or three shots a game. That is the one thing we have not seen yet -- the up-top shot to WR2.
Now, the other thing that showed up Sunday is the S01 package. This has no running backs, one tight end and four wide receivers. This includes both Butler and Williams with Bryant and Beasley. I think it was primarily a second-down look and something that really spreads out the defense. Let's see if they go back to that this week.
Q: Do you think fumbling is an issue that can be corrected in a weeks time or does it progressively get better? Will it be an issue for Zeke against Chicago?
Ezekiel Elliott has no fumble history. I don't think it is the start of one, but you can expect that his next several opponents are going to challenge him now that he has shown it can be stripped. He needs a good game soon or the criticism will increase. The Cowboys were promised the moon with this kid and the first month has not been that.
Q: Scandrick seems to be hurt again, will he ever be back to being the guy that got that big deal or is that too much to ask? ...
Q: Anthony Brown had a pick 6 in preseason, how confident are you in his ability to go out and fill in Scandrick's shoes?
Sort of the same topic here, so let's combine these. Orlando Scandrick has meant a lot to this group, so there is no doubt there is concern about how "right" he is right now. And the prospect of a sixth-rounder just stepping in and filling his shoes seems a bit crazy. I might consider sitting Scandrick for a few weeks to get him healthy if that is the issue. Chicago-San Francisco is the time to do that, because the slot threats are coming afterward.
I like Anthony Brown, but he is several levels down from Scandrick for now. Let's continue to monitor the progress of both players as we go.
Q: What's going on with Rolando McClain, did we ever let him go? and why haven't we let go of Randy Gregory yet?
I don't think we ever see McClain again. I think this is more of a sensitive substance issue that is likely just going to be a headline one day in the random future and that will be that. Gregory is a bit more vague and I won't pretend to have any idea, other than his issues have proven to be far more complex than they imagined when they spent a second-rounder on him.
Q: Do you anticipate the new guy we signed, Ryan Davis, to be active this week and is he a good player that will make a difference?
I do. And given how they played four defensive tackles at the end of the game, I would think he should be able to make some difference. As decent as the D-line looked in that game for me, I will say that I hoped for more in the first few weeks from offseason signings Benson Mayowa and Cedric Thornton. On one hand, the Cowboys are shorthanded and need help, but then the new guys can't get on the field, either? It is all a bit confusing from a personnel standpoint, although I know they are working around Tyrone Crawford and Terrell McClain's performances. Also, Maliek Collins is starting to pop.
Q: Set aside Romo's health and ability to make it through an NFL game/season. Even if he is healthy when he comes back, how rusty is he going to be? He has not played much football in the last 2 years, so I would imagine he will be really rusty for at least a few games. Is the last game he played really well the playoff game in Green Bay?

I am not worried about rust, but I am worried about the first few big hits he takes. I assume so is everyone else. He has been knocked out on about three of the past five big hits he has taken. That won't work in the NFL, where every quarterback gets hit hard twice a game. I think he will be mentally sharp, but I also don't believe the body has many big shots left to handle.
Q: Have we seen enough to know that Prescott's likely floor is an average NFL quarterback? I know sometimes the great ones can struggle early. But are there examples of QBs who have gotten off to a good/great start only to end up failing? (Only QB I can think of in that category is RGIII....)
I did not take the time to find similar cases, but I think Dak Prescott can start in this league. I have already seen plenty to indicate he is a very worthy prospect moving forward, even if Romo does regain his spot for the future.
But, I imagine, things may get interesting around here at the quarterback position in the next several months.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Cowboys True Home Field Disadvantage

http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-cowboys/cowboys/2016/09/22/sturm-cowboys-true-home-field-disadvantage

The Cowboys have a real problem in their path to becoming a better team and a more legitimate contender in the NFC. Well, they actually have several problems, but I believe this is the elephant in the room.
It's the stadium. The thing that visiting announcers declare to be the finest building that ever housed a football game.
That could very well be true. AT&T Stadium could be easy and enticing to visit, comfortable and convenient and all of those things. It has artwork, for crying out loud. What else could you ever want?


The problem is pretty obvious, really. The problem is that they are trying to be a contender in this league without a home-field advantage. Could you imagine what Seattle or Green Bay would be like if they did not reap the benefits of their home fields? Both are significantly better teams at home. I submit that is what we are looking at here with the Cowboys in their new (not so new, anymore) stadium. 
Of course, you are no doubt thinking that I write this today because of that little issue of the bright setting-sun blinding the Cowboys receivers at least two or three times late in the game in the season opener against the Giants. Oh, there is so much more evidence than that.
The Cowboys have now played 57 games at home and 57 games on the road since 2009 and are significantly better on the road (54% winning percentage) than they are at home (47%). In fact, the Cowboys have one of the better winning percentages of any team in the NFL on the road during that stretch. They trail only New England, Green Bay, Denver, and New Orleans during that period. Those are  all teams that have won Super Bowls in the last eight years (one of them in this very building). There is almost nothing wrong with the Cowboys ability to win away from Arlington.
The real problem exists at home. Here is the entire list of teams that have lost more home games than the Dallas Cowboys since this new stadium opened: Cleveland, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, and Washington. Those teams have made the playoffs twice in that entire stretch -- both Washington.
In other words, they play like a heavyweight on the road and a powder-puff at home. Which, frankly, makes no sense.


Oh, there are theories that the stadium hypnotizes the fans into a state of quietness with the amazing big-screen HDTV or that the prices mean the fans who actually could impact the noise level are too high in those cheaper seats and therefore the affluent crowd down below offer no advantage at all. One of my beliefs is that the team is coached far more conservatively at home with decision-making and aggressiveness. I think I could present a case that they actually attack more on the road than they do in front of their faithful.
But, regardless of why, this must get sorted out quickly. You could try curtains, but you also might try tactical adjustments that attempt to turn this from a neutral field into a true advantageous home. 
What does it profit a football team to have the most beautiful stadium in the league, but to have one of the worst home field advantages inside it? Only three teams in the league have more road wins than home wins since 2009, and nobody has a bigger discrepancy in their form than the Cowboys.
Maybe the real solution is to ask the good voters of Arlington to build a better version with more home-field considerations in a few years.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Morning After: Cowboys 27, Redskins 23

http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-cowboys/cowboys/2016/09/19/sturms-morning-prescott-appears-future

Words are tough to come by when talking about this kid. He has now been on public display for about six weeks and we are still waiting for him to show us he can't handle any of this. 
He is a rookie. 
He is a QB. 
He is starting for a team that has expectations this year. 
And he isn't letting them down.
In fact, if you would like to make a list for me on players who have done more to help this Dallas Cowboys team win than Dak Prescott so far, I am anxious to see what that list has on it. Prescott continues to dazzle and his play on Sunday was perhaps far more solid and repeatable than spectacular and jaw-dropping, but isn't that the point?
He looks like he does this all of the time. And as he made his first start away from home yesterday in Washington, we were still on guard that around the next corner there could be adversity waiting. He is a rookie QB making his first divisional road start against last year's champions, so this is going to be when he learns some tough lessons.
And then he does all of that. He makes plays, he moves the chains, he puts the ball in the end zone, he makes proper decisions, and he engineers a game-winning drive.
It appears Mr. Prescott has some qualities worth expanding upon. 
As someone who thought he played remarkably well in Week 1, you can imagine that I was even more pleased with his performance yesterday. The guy puts the ball where it needs to be on a repeated basis. He makes the right read, delivers the ball on time and gives his guys a chance to make a play after the catch. He worked the middle of the field and punished Washington for their coverage decisions as they pertained to Dez Bryant. He completed about 3 of every 4 passes and did so at a pretty impressive 10 yards per attempt. And, he stayed out of trouble all day.
Yes, he missed a few things on Sunday. He did not throw a perfect game. There were a few opportunities that might have escaped his vision at times when he was under duress. But give me the last Cowboys QB who was not named Romo who could drive the length of the field in the fourth quarter of a game and punch it in for a go-ahead touchdown. Then, tell me about that guy's rookie season - especially around Week 2.
If it isn't clear what I am getting at by now, let me continue with a few other thoughts on Prescott's start.
We have now seen him play 255 snaps as a Cowboy: 109 in the preseason and then 146 more in regular season. Through it all, he really has only flirted with an interception a few times. He takes care of the ball. He plays it safe as a default setting. Somehow, that is used against him at times, but I have never met anyone who really wants their rookie QB to show up with no discerning ability to know when to throw it into triple coverage. You must be a trustworthy QB before you earn the trust to take over the offense completely. 
And seeing him survey the action yesterday and gain enough trust from the coaching staff to run a 4th down in the first quarter to Geoff Swaim off a play-action fake was just unreal. 
You can tap the brakes all you want. I am going to call it what it really is. Phenomenal. This kid has played phenomenally well to put his team in position to win the first two games. And I have no doubt he can put them in position to compete all season long if he has to. 
The reason I feel that way goes all the way back to the 255 snaps number. That is about the number of snaps that teams need to get a "book" on someone. Three to four complete games of a player or team is what any defensive coaching staff want to see. Now, I am fudging the numbers a bit, because we usually would not allow preseason to be part of those numbers, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that the Giants and Redskins both used the Rams, Dolphins and Seahawks preseason games to get a read on what Prescott can and can't do. 
Defenses now understand what he can do, and now they're trying to figure out how to slow him down. The Cowboys have scored over and over again with him at the helm in pretty much all five of these games he has played in. And, if you were to ask me how many of these games was he supplemented with a dominating rushing attack, I think a fair answer may be that he really hasn't at all. 
Through two games, the Cowboys have run the ball on 60 different occasions. Forty-one of those have gone to the No. 4 overall pick, Ezekiel Elliott, and all 60 plays combined have accumulated 203 yards.  I don't know about you, but I would like to think that 60 plays gets me closer to 300, and the staggering reality is that the running game has supplied just 3.4 yards per carry. It has not been close to what was advertised: that this team would be able to bulldoze its way down the field repeatedly, with opponents waving white flags. That was a silly offseason idea that just doesn't materialize very often in this league. The NFL doesn't have teams run to championships; teams use the run game as part of a bigger mosaic. One that always includes a QB that can make sound decisions and then execute his duties with precision and timing. 
Dak Prescott is doing all of that.
In fact, if the 2016 NFL Draft were held today, I think we all see that Prescott goes higher than just about anyone else in the draft - including Zeke. I know it is crazy and I know I am contradicting what I saw from 200 of his Mississippi State snaps from 2015, but we have gathered new information. He has proven he is capable of playing well in the NFL and in Dallas.
Anytime this topic comes up, the self-loathing factions of Cowboys fandom as well as all of those who enjoy the Cowboys failing are quick to speak up and mock any declarations of positivity around here. I get it. You have seen dynasties, and this is a team that struggled to get to 1-1 against equally mediocre teams. This defense is spotty. The "all-time great" offensive line and running game are not hitting on even half of the cylinders right now. 
But, amidst all of this and the normal circus routine from the owner/general manager is a sparkling gem. If you have a rookie QB who can play, you might have the key to the next period of competing for playoffs and beyond. 
I have spent the last few years feeling like we were approaching the final act of Tony Romo's career. I am not in a big hurry to get there, but the realities cannot be ignored.His body has been battered and used up in so many ways. He may have more to give, but I think the train has left the station in terms of ever assuming the QB situation is settled with #9 under center for years at a time. 
To replace a guy like Romo should take some massive assets. Perhaps assets that need to go elsewhere. The irony of replacing an undrafted free agent with another QB who was taken after the 4th round seems like lightning striking twice.
Look, Prescott has a long, long way to go. 
But, did you see him standing tall in the pocket, surveying the field while his pass protection battled around him? Did you see his eyes stay up as guys are hanging on him? Did you see him know to take off and run for the end zone when nothing else looked appealing? Did you see him know to take the sack rather than throw the ball up for grabs?
I'm sorry, but there is nothing wrong with admitting this guy has already surpassed your wildest dreams. You take a guy that low and he is supposed to be hidden from the field for the first few years and then attempt to be a backup QB for a few more years. 
That's it.
So, this is already casino money on Prescott. He has won a game and put the team in position to win the other. The upgrade at the position from 2015 and really every other Romo-backup is obvious. They believe he can win. And so does he.
Yes, there are many other things we could discuss about this win in Washington. We could talk about the defense standing tall and forcing field goals and getting stops when it mattered most. We could talk about Alfred Morris and Justin Durant, two low-price veterans factoring in big or the defense getting an end-zone takeaway that meant the world in that game.
But, we have all week to get to that.
I want to entertain the idea that the Cowboys have found a QB worth talking about to consider the future after Romo.   
There are no guarantees where this journey leads, but I feel like I have seen the future, and it is worth being excited about. Don't be self-loathing. It is OK to dream that you have found the next guy.  
I'm not saying he is Russell Wilson, I swear.  But, he has a chance to be very good, it appears.  And that is the No. 1 reason why you should be smiling today.