QB Dak Prescott bringing hope to Cowboys in late-season makeover

Written by Chris Simms, CNN

A week after Ezekiel Elliott ‘s 100-yard game resulted in a standing ovation from his Dallas Cowboys teammates, the running back has little fanfare going into next Sunday’s game against the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears.

Whether it’s due to Elliott’s suspension, the struggling quarterback-led offense or the 6-foot, 3-inch Eli Manning has taken over the league lead in touchdown passes, the Cowboys’ dramatic 4-6 win against the Rams last weekend still leaves their fate unclear.

Though they did beat the San Francisco 49ers last week, a defense in the midst of one of its worst downturns in recent memory lost another former top-10 overall pick to injury.

Against the Denver Broncos last Sunday, the 25-year-old linebacker Jaylon Smith (torn knee ligaments) tore a meniscus in his right knee, putting his playing status for the remainder of the season in doubt.

Smith has only played 10 games this season — but the second-year player’s recent career rejuvenation has been stunning. He tore his ACL in the 2016 training camp but was looking to his first healthy season as a pro.

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After just 32 games he had started, Smith was playing in the Super Bowl in just his third season. One month into the 2019 season, he’s unlikely to return.

“I know everybody wants the quick answer about what it means and what he meant, the future is just being a backup or not playing football, all of those things,” interim head coach Stephen Jones said Monday. “We’re just going to try to make him the best he can be, which we think he can be, and then go from there.”

“The hope is that he’ll be back here in time for the end of the season, so we’ll see how he is,” Stephen Jones added. “Hopefully he’ll be back, but time will tell.”

Where has history been this good in Dallas?

The Cowboys have only had three other players average more than two interceptions per season since 1982. Those three players were safeties Roy Williams (2001), Scott Hall (2000) and Ed Reed (2002). All three of them played the game before the Cowboys moved to a 4-3 base defense in 2006.

Only two Cowboys ever intercepted at least three passes in one year: Charles Haley and Deion Sanders in the 1990s. Haley did it twice (1995, 1996), Sanders twice (1996, 1997).

The four interceptions combined is the same total as the Cowboys have had this season.

Sunday’s game against the Bears is a huge game for Jones and his team. The defending NFC East champions have turned to Tony Romo as the quarterback, and he and Cooper Rush have combined to throw for only six touchdown passes in 10 games.

As Drew Brees showed against the Los Angeles Rams in last weekend’s NFC divisional playoff, an increasingly unsettled QB position can result in team frustration and eventually injuries, which then force retooling.

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If Prescott can provide the best possible read option, Dallas can start to find their groove again after losing six straight games earlier in the season.

“We can be a really good team if we just focus on what we’re doing,” Prescott said Monday. “Just letting football take over and controlling our play. We can’t control things outside the walls of our house.”

“We’re all looking forward to going out there Sunday and getting back to doing what we’re supposed to be doing and playing really good football,” he added.

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