It was a brief glimpse of Dak Prescott, but it was promising
Nobody expected Dak Prescott, or any of the firmly entrenched starters, to play for a long time in the Cowboys’ first preseason game in San Francisco. Prescott only threw the ball four times, but he looked good in that limited action, connecting on all four of those throws (even if one was to himself) for 23 yards. More importantly, he wasn’t sacked at all, which was a recurring issue last season.
The 100% completion rate and 90.6 passer rating are encouraging numbers, but some may point to the measly 5.8 yards per attempt as a way to mitigate those stats. While Prescott certainly didn’t blow the doors off in his short performance, he also looked noticeably refined in his mechanics compared to where he was just last year.
Back in February, we broke down how new quarterbacks coach Jon Kitna could end up being the most important new addition to this Cowboys team, especially in terms of improving an offense that struggled with consistency the last two seasons. Most of the optimism around this hire stemmed from Kitna’s reputation as a stickler for passing mechanics, especially as it related to footwork, one of Prescott’s bigger weaknesses:
One of the biggest weaknesses for Prescott thus far in his career has been his footwork. At times, Dak gets too jumpy in the pocket because of it and will either be behind on timed throws or just not have enough strength on his passes because his feet aren’t set properly. Kitna talks specifically about the so-called ankle eye, which helps dictate where the ball goes. Often times when Dak throws inaccurate passes, it can be traced back to poor footwork, and it seems as if Kitna will place a heavy emphasis on fixing those issues.
So far in minicamp and training camp practices, we’ve gotten rave reviews about his passing, with the assumption that Kitna’s tutelage had taken root with the fourth-year signal caller. But on Saturday we got our first real look at how Prescott’s mechanics, specifically his feet, look now. Bobby Belt perfectly broke down the changes we saw:
Ok, so there's been a lot of talk this offseason about changes in Dak's mechanics, particularly with his lower body.— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) August 11, 2019
Here's a small change in his mechanics you may or may not have noticed last night...
And then this was Dak last night. The back leg is a lot more stable. It's no longer a drag or lift of the foot. He spins up on the toe. pic.twitter.com/ybIhTc2Goy— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) August 11, 2019
There’s a very stark contrast between these two plays, with Dak being noticeably more firm in his base when throwing against the 49ers. As Belt later went on to explain, better footwork as seen in the second clip provides for a “more harmonious follow-through” with a “better spine position.”
And as a result, Prescott delivered some incredibly well thrown balls in his short time on the field. Of course, the exception was the ball that was deflected at the line of scrimmage, but Prescott’s other passes were pretty much on the money.
Prescott has always been a fairly accurate passer, and his 66.1% career completion rate is better than most in the NFL, but cleaner mechanics as a passer can help him put more balls between the numbers of his receiver. While it was a small sample size, it appears that Prescott has already made big strides in that department.