Dak Prescott ready to use clean mind, body to take next step

A year ago, Dak Prescott prepared for his sixth NFL season under a cloud of uncertainty. A compound ankle fracture and dislocation suffered during the 2020 season left the former Haughton quarterback battling mental and physical roadblocks.

Prescott quelled his concerns and the doubters with 16 starts – he missed Week 8 due to an injured calf. He threw a franchise-record 37 touchdown passes (his previous high was 30 in 2019) and completed a personal-best 68.8 percent of his throws.

It’s no wonder why Prescott can’t wait for the 2022 season.

“I feel great,” Prescott said as training camp looms. “Not being restricted (by the leg) – I’m able to participate in every drill, everything. It counts, it matters, especially being able to get reps with these young guys – a young receiving corps, a young team.”

The Cowboys’ receiving corps will look very different in 2022. Gone is No. 1 option Amari Cooper, who compiled 292 catches and 27 touchdowns in 3½ seasons in Dallas, and Cedrick Wilson (fourth on the team in receiving yards in 2021).

Michael Gallup tore his ACL last season and could miss a few weeks at the beginning of the 2022 campaign.

CeeDee Lamb is the expected top target, but the Cowboys added former Pittsburgh second-rounder James Washington and selected Jalen Tolbert out of South Alabama in the third round of this year’s draft.

“We’re going to have to count on those guys,” Prescott said. “I’m excited for those guys to get their names known. There are guys who will be huge for this offense whose names aren’t known yet.”

In addition to being forced to rely on a young receiving corps, has Dallas shifted its focus in the backfield?

Although former workhorse Ezekiel Elliot eked out a 1,000-yard season and 10 touchdowns, Tony Pollard averaged 5.5 yards per carry (to 4.2 for Elliott) and hauled in 39 passes (to 47 for Elliott).

Heck, maybe Dallas is set to employ three viable options to carry the ball.

A healthy leg and a lean body could lead to more designed quarterback runs, something Prescott embraces with a perspective that’s evolved over the years.

“It’s risk versus reward,” Prescott said. “I have to keep in mind why the run play was called – to get yards, get the first down and get out of bounds.”

Prescott’s availability for the next play is the most important factor.

“I’m leaner, but not faster,” he joked. “They aren’t calling those for me to stiff arm and run over people.”

Prescott may have surprised many with another productive season in 2021, but not many were stunned by another one-and-done performance by Dallas in the postseason.

Like the man (Tony Romo) he shockingly took the reins from in 2016, Prescott has elite fantasy football numbers, but one playoff victory in his first four playoff starts.

Prescott hopes being in the “best” shape of his life helps his team take the next step.

“I’m so much further along than I was last year at this point,” Prescott said. “I can take care of my whole body, not just focus on my leg, and it has been a huge difference. My confidence is through the roof.”

The leg, the stats – that’s all good, but the only way to consider 2022 a success is to eradicate the postseason cloud that’s hovered over the Metroplex for the past 27 years.

Contact Roy at roylangiii@yahoo.com