The Dallas Cowboys believe in Dak Prescott, but if he really is the future of this team, he has to get more comfortable against zone coverage.
By now you have probably seen the screen grabs, videos, and pictures around the Dallas Cowboys social sphere of fans and analysts. In these you see receivers open, uncovering from a corner, and Dak Prescott not looking at them. Then of course you have heard about the game against the Jaguars being who Dak really is, or the throw to Gallup. Both viewpoints are right, both are wrong, and it all starts with the coverage.
I’ve gone back to watch games and noticed one thing, Dak seems to struggle against zone coverage with eight in the box. As the field closes it looks like Dak “feels” pressure around him more, here is where we start on the zone coverage issues. That pressure starts before the snap and right now seems to carry through the play.
Regardless of how you feel about Dak, everyone must agree he has some things to work on. For all those screaming about accuracy, you can’t teach that. However, you can teach throwing to an area and anticipation, and this is where Dak needs to get better. If he sees man coverage on the outside, Dak seems to relax and knows where he wants to go with the ball before the snap. You get plays like the one to Michael Gallup. You get plays like he made against Jacksonville, who stubbornly stayed in man coverage for a good portion of the game.
Against zone defenses the trick isn’t to necessarily throw to a receiver, but rather throw to a “soft spot” in the zone. These spots are small pockets where the coverage overlaps. If a safety covers deep right, the linebacker mid right, and corner short right, there are a few pockets between the corner and linebacker or the linebacker and the safety. Receivers need to get to these areas and either “sit down” or break for that area as the quarterback throws to that spot.
Dak is not a quarterback that likes to takes risks, which is good. However, he is a little overcautious which is what some fans are pointing out in these scenes all over social media. This takes time to learn, but it is a little worrying that in season three, Dak is having trouble with these zones. He seems to panic a little if he doesn’t see a receiver running wide open, or a second defender a few yards off.
Again, regardless of what you think of Dak, he has to fix this in order for the Dallas Cowboys to succeed. With Amari Cooper now on the team, hopefully he gets comfortable with a true number one type receiver. If he can relax and work with Cooper on these throws, it should also open up Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, or anyone else they decide to throw onto the field.
Watching Dak against zone is interesting. These tend to be the times fans and analysts point out that he is holding the ball a little too long. He is trying to wait until a receiver runs open, and if he doesn’t see it in his first reads, he panics, and will use his feet or scramble around trying to buy time. This isn’t about accuracy, or deep throws, or even line adjustments, this is about learning to throw into the pockets or looking back to a previous read.
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The question is if Dak can get there. Some say yes, some say no, and some have no idea. To be honest, I just don’t know. I don’t have a lot of faith in the coaches, so that affects how I feel about Dak’s progression. Utilizing Dak’s strengths is all well and good, but he has to be able to do a little more for when teams take away what he is good at. It’s why in some games he looks good and others, not so much.
Dak has great intangibles, he is a leader, has confidence, and a huge will to win. If can learn to get a little more confident against zone, he will be fine. The trade for Cooper is as much about getting weapons around Dak as it is to see if he can be the quarterback of the future. It is also about giving Jason Garrett as many tools as they can to see if he is the long term coach. Both contracts are coming up soon, and both have to show they deserve new ones.
For now, we wait two weeks to see what Cooper can add to this offense. Hopefully, Dak is already working on learning how to throw to him. The rest of this season, and the start to next season will be the test for ownership on the future of this team. If Dak can overcome his kryptonite he will be fine, if not, 2021 could have huge changes. Now, bring on Tennessee.
- Published on 10/24/2018 at 12:01 PM
- Last updated at 10/24/2018 at 11:31 AM