3 Ways to Get Dak Prescott and Cowboys Passing Game Back on Track

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2021

3 Ways to Get Dak Prescott and Cowboys Passing Game Back on Track

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    The Dallas Cowboys have been victors in each of the last three weeks, but it's been the defense that deserves the lion's share of the credit.

    Dan Quinn's side of the ball has been forcing turnovers, getting key stops and making plays to put the offense in good position. Yet, the offense has not been explosive.

    In those three games, the defense has eight sacks, eight interceptions and five forced interceptions. They've even scored two touchdowns. 

    In the same timespan, Prescott has thrown three touchdowns with three interceptions and has averaged fewer than six yards per attempt.

    Prescott and the offense's slump hasn't come back to bite the team yet. They are still jockeying for playoff position and in good shape. However, the passing game will have to start coming closer to its potential if the Cowboys are to maximize their ceiling in the postseason. 

Get Amari Cooper More Involved

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    The theoretical strength of the Cowboys offense is a receiver trio that can rival any in football. CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and even Michael Gallup could be the top receiving option for several other teams. 

    But Cooper hasn't produced like a No. 1 option in the offense's current slump. On the season, the quarterback's passer rating when targeting Cooper is 119.3. That's tops on the team. 

    Yet, Cooper has been relatively neutralized for the last five games. After turning 13 targets into eight catches for 122 yards and a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings, he has only seen more than five targets once and hasn't surpassed 51 yards. 

    Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore explained the Cowboys were seeking a "more patient game plan" in the most recent outing, per Jori Epstein of USA Today

    Of course, there's always merit to taking what the defense gives, but at some point, there needs to be scheming to get your best players the ball. That's obviously not happening with Cooper, but it should. 

Improved Decision-Making

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    The best quarterbacks are efficient at running the offense. The big bombs and splash plays make the highlights but hitting receivers in stride keeps the chains moving and leads to points on the board. 

    In his recent slump, Prescott has seemingly tried to force things when he could be making the easier play. For instance, Prescott described that process when explaining the strip-sack that served as his only turnover against the Giants

    "I know the fumble was me being greedy, trying to get the ball to Coop when I should've just taken Michael Gallup on the hitch," he said, per David Helman of DallasCowboys.com.

    Given the first point, Prescott can't be blamed for trying to get the ball to Cooper. He's been underutilized, but that should come from Cooper running routes that are taking advantage of the look they are getting, not forced targets that stall the momentum of the offense. 

    Prescott has to make better decisions with the football, get in a rhythm and take advantage of the stress they put on defenses.

Keep the Faith

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    Quarterbacks can run hot and cold. It happens. At times, it has looked like Prescott is struggling to remain confident. 

    The Cowboys have signed Prescott to the third-largest contract in the league. He has shown he's capable of playing like a top-five quarterback in the past. #

    The worst thing the Cowboys could do now is take the ball out of their quarterback's hands. 

    According to PFF, Prescott was 2-of-6 for 34 yards on throws 10 yards or more downfield. He had only one attempt that was beyond 20 yards. His greatest success came in play-action passes where he completed eight of 12 attempts with 71 yards and a touchdown. 

    Utilizing play action to get Prescott into a rhythm is fine. But at some point, the team and the quarterback need the have the confidence and trust to step up and make the kinds of big-time throws that will win games in the postseason. 

    Now isn't the time to get conservative. Shooters shoot, and Prescott has to be trusted to get things figured out before the games become win or go home.