The Cowboys want Dak Prescott to be a threat as a runner the same way Carolina’s Cam Newton and Seattle’s Russell Wilson control games with their running.
It’s a bad idea.
And if Prescott who rushed for a career-high 45 yards on seven carries takes the same approach he did Sunday against the New York Giants - running over defenders instead of sliding - it’s only a matter of time until backup quarterback Cooper Rush gets a start.
“I'd like it more if he got down a little bit,” Ezekiel Elliott said. “I don't really want him to run like me, so I want him to get down. But Dak is a big guy, he's a big athlete, I mean, he's smart."
It’s pretty easy to understand why owner Jerry Jones said after the Cowboys Week 1 loss to Carolina that he wanted Prescott running more. He saw Newton dominate the first quarter running the ball and propel the Panthers to a 16-8 win.
Newton, though, is an outlier.
He’s 6-5, 240 pounds and Carolina has built him into their running game since the day he arrived as the No.1 pick overall. He has 55 career rushing touchdowns, including one he scored against Dallas.
Prescott is not that kind of runner, but he’s probably one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL.
He can make plays - and that’s really what the Cowboys need him to do. In Prescott’s rookie year, he had plenty of help from the rest of the offense. His job was to distribute the ball and make good decisions.
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Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards and receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten gave him playmakers whether you’re talking touchdowns or first downs.
The 2018 Cowboys don’t have enough playmakers. If we’re honest, Elliott is the only skill position player defensive coordinators spend their nights trying to figure out how to stop.
So the Cowboys need Prescott to be a playmaker - not just a distributor this season.
Against the Giants, play-caller Scott Linehan had him involved early. On the Cowboys’ second series, Prescott kept the ball on a read option and ran 15 yards around left end for a first down.
That drive resulted in a field goal and a 10-0 lead.
On their next possession, Prescott went 13 yards off left tackle for a first down on third-and-two from the Dallas 28. The drive ended with a punt but the tone had been set.
The Giants’ defensive end or linebacker couldn’t play nearly as aggressively and that created more room for Elliott to run. He finished with 78 yards on just 17 carries.
Leading 13-3 in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys drove 82 yards in 14 plays for the clinching touchdown. The drive took 8:23 and Prescott had runs of two, nine and eight yards.
“They’ve expanded their style of play in the quarterback runs,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “Their quarterback can do anything.
“He can stay in the pocket. He can throw on the move. He can take off and run and make you pay.”
And that’s why Jones has been adamant about giving Prescott opportunities to run this season. He has 12 career touchdowns, and on an offense that’s challenged to score points and move the ball his skill set is invaluable.
The issue is injury.
Wilson does a good job of running and avoiding big hits whether he slides or scoots out of bounds. Prescott needs a similar approach.
“Running is something that kind of comes naturally,” Prescott said. “Coming into this week, the quarterback run was something that we kind of wanted to attack. We knew this defense was going to give us that.
“I am the bigger guy. I was going to challenge some of those defensive backs to make tackles.”
See, that’s what must change.
Will he need to run over someone occasionally, sure. He did it last year against Arizona on a 10-yard touchdown run, when he helicoptered into the end zone.
But it must be the exception not the rule.
“You hate to expose him more, but it’s such a dimension.” Jones said on his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM. “So, yeah, we’re going to use Dak. We should. These games are so important to us.
“The other thing that Dak does is a very good job throwing on the move. We just have him in a lot of play-action. The pass-run option is a key part of the game today, and Dak can really do it well. So, we’ll use him.”