The Cowboys have been hesitant to unleash one of their most unique weapons. Here’s why running Dak Prescott more doesn’t have to be dangerous.
The Dallas Cowboys have been blessed with a pretty unique weapon at the quarterback position. Dak Prescott, the soon-to-be third year signal caller, is considered one of those rare true duel-threat quarterbacks in the NFL. Sure, plenty of QBs can run the ball, but very few possess Prescott’s size and ability.
At 6’2” 238lbs, Dak Prescott is stout enough to take on hits that would make most NFL quarterbacks contemplate retirement. But just because he can take the hits, doesn’t mean he should take the hits. This stance is likely what has limited his rushing attempts early in his career.
Prescott has run the ball 57 times in each of the last two seasons. Over the course of the 16-game season, that equates to just 3.5 attempts per game. At face value, it’s a wise strategy for a team committed to developing and protecting the health of their QB1. But further analysis says the Cowboys may just be gun-shy about using one of their most dangerous weapons.
Is Running Dangerous?
It’s a common misconception that using your quarterback as a runner is automatically dangerous to his well-being. While there is undeniably a direct correlation between getting hit and getting injured, not all hits are created equally.
Aaron Rodgers, for instance, rarely sustains direct hits when he runs the ball. If he’s going to get tattooed by the defenders, it’s likely to happen inside the pocket when he’s at his most vulnerable. Perhaps the Packers know this and that’s why they have no problem greenlighting Rodgers as a runner from time to time.
It may surprise you to know, the last two seasons Rodgers has averaged more rushing attempts per game (3.95) than the Built-Ford-Tough, Dak Prescott. Despite missing majority of 2017 from a broken collarbone, Rodgers has proven he knows how to avoid the big hit when running the ball. Looking back at some of Dak Prescott’s runs last season, it’s a lesson the Cowboys’ signal caller needs to learn quickly.
As Kenny Rodgers once said, “you gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em”. Dak Prescott needs to know when to fold ‘em when he’s a ball carrier. If he does, he can be used much more often in this capacity.
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There is nothing more dangerous than the blindside hit. That’s why teams spend so much in securing reliable left tackles. To say running the ball is universally more dangerous than getting blindsided in the pocket is categorically wrong.
If the Cowboys really want to protect their franchise quarterback, they’ll focus on avoiding those blindside hits that are often the result of standing too long in the pocket. If they limit the progressions and empower him to become a runner more often, Dak could actually lean on his strengths and preserve his health at the same time.
Obviously he needs to avoid those high-impact collisions as ball-carrier as well, or the argument becomes moot. Dak Prescott doesn’t need to be the second coming of Mike Vick and run the ball 123 times in a single season (2006), but if he tweaks his decision-making and avoids some of those bigger hits, he could be a much more formidable weapon in 2018.
How much is too much? Every situation is different. But if the Cowboys could create more plays in which running is the third or even second option, they could both preserve Prescott’s health by avoiding hits in the pocket and gain positive yards on the ground in the process.