The worst injury of Dak Prescott’s football career came at the end of a run in 2020. The moment that ended his MVP campaign and hampered him for the rest of the 2021 season came on a throw he made while on the run. The bitterly disappointing end to the Cowboys’ postseason came on a perhaps ill-advised Prescott run.
And yet, head coach Mike McCarthy is looking forward to getting his quarterback on the move even more frequently in 2022.
McCarthy addressed the media Tuesday, just before the team was to take the field for their first practice of minicamp. And the starting signal-caller’s status as fully healthy for the entire offseason was a hot topic.
“It’s been huge,” the coach said. “It’s been huge for him, it’s been huge for everybody. All the little things that we do- particularly the meetings, the walkthroughs and all of that- they’re important, obviously. But just for him to have no limits has been outstanding, and I think you clearly see it in the way he’s moving this year. You look at his body: he’s clearly different than he was last year. ”
In June of 2021, Prescott was coming off a total ankle dislocation and compound fracture suffered the previous October. While optimism was high, no one truly knew what they’d be getting from the veteran as training camp neared.
Then he overdid it in early practices. A shoulder strain shut him down for the rest of training camp and the preseason; it was not until opening night and a three-touchdown, 400-yard performance against Tampa Bay that the Cowboys Nation could be sure he was back.
But his ground yardage dipped slightly from previous years, largely by design.
“I think it’s obvious we didn’t call as many quarterback runs than probably prior,” McCarthy admitted. “I think we tried to be smart when we used them. I think that’s only natural. “
Prescott recorded 22 runs over the first six games of the 2021 season, compiling 70 yards. Then he strained a calf rolling out to make the game-winning touchdown throw in New England. He missed one game. Over the remaining 11 games- playoffs included- he only ran it 30 more times, for 103 yards.
Seventeen of those yards came mostly uncontested on the final mess of a play in the wild card loss to San Francisco.
After averaging 5.1 yards per carry over his first five years as a pro, he averaged just over three last season.
Clearly, Prescott’s legs weren’t at full capacity in 2021.
But McCarthy believes the 28-year-old to be running better and quicker now.
“I think he is. I think, like anything, it’s just year three in the offense. The opportunity to move more, potentially than he did in the past, as far as what he’s being asked to do, ”the coach told reporters. “The thing that jumps out to me is his movement ability in the scramble drills and scramble situations. The way he activates the scramble drills. He’s got more reps at it. It’s more natural to him. He looks really good. ”
The offseason was not a total cakewalk for Prescott, though. Even after declining a Pro Bowl invite in order to get a head start on as much recovery as possible, the quarterback underwent another surgical procedure, described as a “cleanup” on his non-throwing shoulder.
While McCarthy and the Cowboys brass did not express any concern then about the operation limiting Prescott, the head coach did seem reassured at how his quarterback has looked thus far in spring and summer work.
“He’s leaner, more flexible,” McCarthy offered. “Just being able to get after the mechanics. There’s no limits on the movement drills. In the quarterback drills last year, there was a gradual phase of different type of drills, how we did them. There was no progression to that this year. He’s been full go since day one. “
So… does that mean more designed runs this year?
McCarthy declined to make any promises in such a public setting.
“That’s a schematic question,” he jokingly cringed. “We do not answer those here.”
But then he could not help himself.
“I hope so. Yeah, I hope so. ”