sportsday.dallasnews.com

Dallas Cowboys: Is it time for Cowboys to panic with Dak Prescott?

By Damon Marx , Assistant Sports Editor

Welcome to the debut of our Cowboys beat writers roundtable.

Each week, David Moore, Brandon George, Jon Machota and Kate Hairopoulos will examine a few hot-button issues in the Cowboys' ever-growing universe. Let's get straight to the good stuff:

........ Quarterback Dak Prescott hasn't matched the production of his rookie season. Should the Cowboys be concerned for his future, or is his drop-off more attributable to the uncertainty from Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension and the injuries along the offensive line?

DM: Prescott had one of the best seasons by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. It was unrealistic to believe that statistically he would build on that success in Year Two. That being said, his struggles were surprising. Would he have dropped off the way he did if Elliott has been available all season? Probably not. But there are still throws Prescott must be able to make whether Elliott is on the field or not, and his accuracy on those throws were spotty at best. Critics point to his lack of chemistry with Dez Bryant, but why has Cole Beasley, his security blanket from last season, disappeared from the offense? This season doesn't call Prescott's future into question, but it does make the organization take a hard look at what he can and can't do and see what players should be around him going forward.

BG: Dak Prescott, like most other quarterbacks, struggles when he's asked to do too much. He needs help. Losing Elliott for six games certainly forced Prescott to push to carry the team more. Prescott isn't the type of quarterback who will win many games on his own, but if everyone else does their job around him, he can be a long-term winner in the NFL. The Cowboys need to address their receiver position in the offseason and try to find more speed and consistency. For now, there is no reason for major concern with Prescott. But the Cowboys have to understand that just plugging Elliott back into the mix isn't going to be enough to make the offense all better again.

JM: I don't think it's time to panic. Prescott had a sophomore slump. It happens at the most difficult position in the game. And it's not all on him. His receivers deserve blame as well. With what he showed his rookie season, Prescott is deserving of a pass. But he must improve this offseason. His work ethic is regarded as one of his greatest strengths. I expect him to come back much improved in 2018. There's no question he's a better quarterback when Elliott's on the field, but Prescott needs to improve as a passer if he's going to be mentioned among the game's elite.

KH: It's a combination of all of the above. Remember, before Elliott left to serve the suspension, Prescott was mostly playing well. He didn't truly get exposed until No. 21 was no longer with him in the backfield. Left tackle Tyron Smith was also out in the first game minus Zeke, and Prescott was sacked eight times by the Atlanta Falcons. That stayed with him for awhile. But Prescott deserves his share of the criticism. Prescott's interception total skyrocketed to 13 this season (4 in 2016). And he had to watch four of those run back as pick sixes. Ouch. He had five passing touchdowns and nine interceptions over the last seven games. During that stretch, which coincided with the start of Elliott's suspension, Prescott didn't throw a touchdown pass in five of the games. He's got to be able to find a way to connect better with Dez Bryant downfield. The accuracy issues have been noticeable. At times, he doesn't see receivers when they do get open. The big plays are too rare. The passing game simply has to be more efficient, opening up the defense enough to let the run game the team is built on take its toll on the opponent. ............

.................................................. ........................

There was a reason why he lasted 'til the 4th rd !