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SACK DAK: Surging Saints Defense Could Make Life Miserable for Cowboys QB

Coming off their best performance of the entire season last week against the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints defense is well-aware of the reputation that’s followed their opponent this week, 3rd year Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott; of whom it’s been said that if you force him to try and beat you with his arm, isn’t really that capable enough yet in his development as a NFL QB, to pull it off.

That very same Saints defense — the one that’s slowly been getting better with each game and which last week had 6 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and limited Atlanta to only 26 yards rushing yards — could make life miserable this Thursday Night for the young 25-year old Cowboys signal-caller, especially since the Louisiana native and former Mississippi State University star has struggled with accuracy throwing the ball; and has also been sacked a league-high 38 times and is tied for the NFL lead in fumbles (9). 

Now in his 3rd NFL season, Prescott is still currently playing under his rookie contract and very clearly has had his fair share of struggles and a few “ups and downs”. However, the Cowboys organization and team management seems to be committed to Prescott for their immediate future, and despite a very rough 2nd year last season in 2017, the young star appears to have returned to play much better this season.

Photo courtesy of The Dallas Morning News

Always-controversial Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has previously said that Prescott is “going to get extended” and will remain in place as the team’s starter, and Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported that Dallas allegedly wants to sign Prescott to a long-term deal this upcoming off-season.

Prescott has been particularly better in the Cowboys’ past 3 games, leading their team to three consecutive wins over the Eagles, Falcons, and last week on Thanksgiving Day over the Washington Redskins; as he led the way with 289 passing yards and three total touchdowns, most of it coming on two long TD receptions by WR Amari Cooper.

However, the Saints defensive coaching staff undoubtedly has a plan in place to put plenty of pressure on the Cowboys offensive leader; while simultaneously trying to contain him and not allowing him to beat the Saints by running the football and making plays with his feet.

However, should the two teams become involved in a high-scoring affair or a proverbial “shoot out”, the general consensus seems to be that Dak quite simply just doesn’t have the skills to go toe-to-toe with Drew Brees if he has to.

In fact: there are some observers that even feel that Prescott’s skills have actually declined in the past two years.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Prescott was named 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year during his very first NFL season and was selected to his first Pro Bowl as well. But Dak’s very notable decline leading the Cowboys offense during his 2nd year last season was blamed due in part to Cowboys All-Pro RB Ezekiel Elliott‘s 6-game suspension.

This season however, Elliott has played in every single game and currently leads the NFL in rushing yardage with (1,074) yards — which essentially renders that excuse completely invalid.

In 11 games played so far this season, Prescott has completed 219 passes out of 336 attempts for 2,427 yards with 13 TD’s and 5 interceptions, along with a 65.2% completion percentage and a QB rating of 93.2.

In his 43 games played so far with 5 games to go in his 3rd NFL season, Prescott has completed 838 passes out of 1,285 attempts for 9,418 yards, along with 58 TD’s and 22 interceptions for a completion percentage of 65% and a QB rating of 94.9.

Prescott is having a slightly better year in 2018, but yet his biggest issue appears to be with accuracy — which has earned him some rather vocal criticism from Cowboys fans and former players alike.

Prescott particularly seems to struggle with either overthrown or under-thrown passes to his receivers at times, and it’s negatively impacted the overall success upon the Cowboys offense scheme employed by long-time offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Additionally, Dak has had trouble making his reads and progressions on certain plays; which in turn has left him both vulnerable and exposed — something not exactly ideal for a Dallas O-Line that although it’s one that’s very talented, has been hampered this season by a series of injuries.

Former Cowboys QB and NFL Hall of Fame legend Troy Aikman recently told Dallas / Fort Worth sportstalk radio station 1310 AM “The Ticket” that Prescott needs to work at improving his skill-set, including the basic fundamentals of QB play such as footwork, accuracy, and perhaps the most critical of them all: his down-field vision as a passer. 

And then of course there’s been the times when he’s struggled with his decision-making, which in turn has led to him holding on to the ball far too long in the pocket and has increased the number of sacks that he’s taken this year. Ball security has also become another recent issue; which is why Dak now finds himself tied for the League lead in fumbles.

That would seem to suggest that it could be a big night in store for the Saints defense if they can adequately generate some pressure and make him uncomfortable for a majority of the contest.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

Just so long as they isn’t any sudden regression in their performance that would bring to mind their shaky start to the season in the opening loss to Tampa Bay back in Week #1, the Saints defense could potentially have another solid outing on Thursday Night when these two teams meet up at AT&T Stadium.

If the defense can “sack Dak” and keep him uncomfortable for the better part of the game, it could help the Saints get their 11th straight win a row — and allow them to get one step closer to their ultimate goal….



Big Easy Magazine contributing writer and Saints News Network columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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