FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have spent much of the last six years surrounding quarterback Tony Romo with everything a quarterback could want.
He has the NFL’s best offensive line and one of the game’s best receivers. The Cowboys believe he has the NFL’s most complete tight end and they drafted a rookie running back many expect to be the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
We’re talking about a team that has spent six of its last nine No. 1 picks on offensive players and has committed $92 million of its $155.7 million salary cap to offensive players this season.
Now rookie Dak Prescott will be the beneficiary of the Cowboys’ commitment to offense instead of Romo.
Romo suffered a compressed fracture in his back on the third offensive play of the Cowboys’ preseason loss to Seattle on Thursday. He’s expected to miss 6-10 weeks.
During the preseason, Prescott has shown every indication he can help the Cowboys win games, completing 39 of 50 passes for 454 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
More important, he looks like he belongs. He’s shown no signs of being skittish. Obviously, the game moves faster in the regular season and the defensive coverages he’ll see will be more complex, but he’s earned his teammates’ trust during the preseason.
“It’s everything,” coach Jason Garrett said of Prescott’s teammates believing in him. “The importance of players believing in themselves, players believing in each other, coaches believing in players and everybody believing in what we do each and every day. I think that’s such a big part of developing the trust you need to play football at a high level.”
Prescott impressed the coaching staff and his teammates with the way he handled the Seattle game. He was supposed to play in the third quarter, but Romo’s injury forced him into the game after three plays. He played into the third quarter, finishing 17 of 23 for 116 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s very composed and confident in the huddle,” center Travis Frederick said. “He’s not a guy who comes across as nervous or unprepared.”
The Cowboys have enough good players on offense that Prescott shouldn’t feel any pressure to be the team’s savior. All he has to do is get the ball to the Cowboys’ playmakers and let them go to work.
Two years ago, the Cowboys ran the ball 50 percent of the time. With Ezekiel Elliott, the fourth player taken in the draft, and veteran Alfred Morris the Cowboys could run the ball even more this season.
The goal is create short-yardage situations on second and third down so Prescott won’t have to deal with the complicated defensive schemes teams use on third-and-long.
As long as Dez Bryant is healthy, Prescott will have a playmaker at receiver. On third downs, Prescott should feel equally comfortable throwing to tight end Jason Witten or slot receiver Cole Beasley.
“Quarterback is a challenging position for a veteran player and it’s challenging for a young player,” Garrett said. “We believe in the system of football that we have. We believe in the environment we put together, and one of the best things Dak has done is simply come in every day and do his job on the practice field and game situations.
“He’s done a good job leading the unit, commanding the huddle and the line of scrimmage. He’s showed he’s a good decision-maker, and he’s made plays in and out of the pocket. He’s made plays on his own, moved the ball and helped us score points.”
Prescott has showed good touch on screen passes and back-shoulder fades. He’s shown he can throw the deep ball accurately, and when he’s flushed from the pocket he looks to throw before he runs. And when Prescott does run, he’s conscientious about sliding so he doesn’t take a hit.
Last season, the Cowboys’ backup quarterbacks went 1-11 last season. Prescott’s job is to keep the Cowboys in playoff contention until Romo returns.
“My mindset is I want to be a starter for this organization one day, and a starter in this league for a long time,” Prescott said earlier this week. “I’m going to continue to push myself and make myself the best as I can each and every day.”