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For Dallas Cowboys offense to succeed, Dak Prescott says he must stay on the run

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Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

After the Dallas Cowboys’ 32-point blowout loss to San Francisco a few weeks ago, Dak Prescott decided he needed to run more for Dallas to reach its potential on offense.

So he did.

It’s resulted in a three-game stretch in which Prescott has passed for 950 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception while averaging 9.0 yards an attempt. He has consecutive 300-yard passing games for the first time since October 2021.

“I’ve made the effort, been conscious about it throughout the week watching film,” Prescott said. “That was something I took away from that game as I’ve got to get that going. It just benefits everybody. I mean, it benefits the offensive line, they’ll start rushing different, make blocks easier on them, gets guys open off of their breaks.”

Prescott passed for 374 yards and three touchdowns in the Cowboys 28-23 loss to Philadelphia last week. Despite the loss, Prescott and the Cowboys feel good about their offense entering a three-game stretch against the New York Giants (2-7), Carolina (1-7), Washington (4-5) and Seattle (5-3) before they play Philadelphia (8-1) again.

Related: How CeeDee Lamb helped the Dallas Cowboys get back on track

How Dallas Cowboys offense benefits from Dak Prescott running

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Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Prescott’s passing numbers have increased because he’s using his athleticism, whether he’s scrambling for first downs or giving his receivers time to make big plays by eluding the pass rush.

Understand, Prescott arrived in the NFL as a dual-threat quarterback from Mississippi State, who scored six rushing touchdowns in each of his first three seasons in the NFL. 

Of course, you would never compare Prescott to Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson or Arizona’s Kyler Murray, but Prescott scored 21 touchdowns in his four seasons. Then he broke his ankle and missed the last 11 games of the 2020 season.

In the last three seasons, Prescott has scored three rushing touchdowns.

Prescott has rushed 17 times for 73 yards in the past three games, including an 18-yard touchdown run against the Los Angeles Chargers. Against Philadelphia, he scrambled for a first down on the Cowboys’ first scoring drive, and he had an apparent two-point conversion in the fourth quarter overturned by replay when it showed that he stepped out of bounds.

More importantly, he threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb on a broken play, and he hit tight end Jake Ferguson on a 40-yard catch-and-run that set up a second-quarter touchdown after eluding the rush.

“The scramble phase is really the part how I believe the position needs to be played,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “So his ability to play in the pocket — the time clocks, the footwork, and the things that we’ve changed and adjusted moving into this year and how it transitions into the scramble. 

“Now, obviously, the rush lane discipline and the focus of the pass rush will be heightened because of his production in that phase, particularly the last two weeks. For me, it’s more about how the position is being played. But called quarterback runs and things like that, I’m not real interested in calling 10 to 12 quarterback runs where it’s a run it situation for the quarterback. That’s not a big part of our offense.”

Of course not, but the Cowboys’ offensive line has struggled at times this season. Injuries to every starter have made it difficult for the unit to find a rhythm. The projected starting lineup has started just twice.

Prescott was sacked nine times in the first five games; he’s been sacked 13 times in the last three.

“Pass rushers are really talented, and coverages have become so complex that they’re going to take away things that you have planned, and so the quarterback’s ability to play above the 2.3 seconds [of the initial phase of the passing game],” said offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. “Whether it’s running for the first or running for positive yards or getting out is huge.”

Jean-Jacques Taylor is the NFL Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter. He’s the author of Coach Prime: Deion Sanders and the Making of Men.

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