Saturday, October 15, 2016

Gameplan - Dak Prescott Will Get A Chance To Pass Blitz Test In Green Bay

The ease with which Dak Prescott has passed every test that he has been administered continues to dazzle the football world.  To be honest, if you go all the way back to his first professional action in the preseason opener in the Los Angeles Coliseum, we are now approaching double-digit performances in a row where this rookie QB has left the masses with a good taste in their mouths.  He was largely ignored in the first two days of his draft class, and then within the first month of his NFL career is making every other draft-room recheck their notes that said not to touch him.  
That look in his eye seems to be one of his finest attributes.  His calm and his poise make you forget he is just a lad in professional terms.  No situation has rocked his exterior and he makes almost every proper read and decision as the team continues to march down the field and put the ball in the end zone. 

Sunday may hold a new test for young Prescott that will be interesting to track.  This week the Cowboys play in Green Bay for the sixth time since 2008.  That was the year that Tony Romo became the only Dallas QB to ever win in that stadium over the course of the nearly six decades they have been playing each other.   
Since then, the Cowboys have visited Green Bay three times in the regular season  (the playoff visit has certainly been well-documented) and have scored seven points each time in three rather emphatic losses where Green Bay has averaged 30.  On only one occasion did the Cowboys have Tony Romo, and he'll obviously be missing this matchup, as well.   And in all three of those matchups, Dom Capers did pretty much the same thing he always does.
He brings pressure as much as nearly anyone on the schedule.  In a league where defenses range between roughly 20 and 40 percent in their regularity of bringing more than four pass rushers, the Cowboys have not faced this test yet. Thanks to the schedule, Prescott has been able to play his first five games against opponents that do not blitz at even the league average.  All of those opponents are not pressure defenses, and Washington, Chicago and Cincinnati are among those that are at the bottom of the league in pressure occasions, at or below 20 percent.  Green Bay is up over 40 percent.
Green Bay loves to play a high-risk version of defense in rushing mostly five and sometimes six to stress a quarterback.  Especially at Lambeau Field where the crowd can cause even more of an issue.  Since Capers was hired, no team in the NFL has more interceptions, and they also rank near the top in sacks. 
It does come with a price, though.  Like touching a hot stove, they have been burned by being vulnerable to big plays when the blitz pulls defenders out of safe places and leaves open field behind them.  The Cowboys will continue to use quick hitters to Cole Beasley and friends to try to expose that.  You may recall Romo hit them against the blitz a few times in that playoff game.  That is the only way to stop it.
In a week where everyone talks about the Packer run defense, I suspect the Cowboys will do quite well on the ground.  Green Bay's numbers are inflated because the early part of their schedule has included a majority of teams that don't threaten anyone running the ball.  But, quite possibly, the key to this matchup is how Prescott deals with his first taste of heavy blitzing when he wishes to pass. 
It is worth watching this closely to see if he jumps this hurdle as easily as all of the others.

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