Buccaneers: Dak Prescott is a perfect test in week one

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys, Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys, Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

The Buccaneers will start their Super Bowl defense campaign against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Dak Prescott.

If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. As it stands, the Buccaneers are the best team in the NFL after winning the Super Bowl, but all of that starts over when the 2021 NFL season officially kicks off.

The main focus of a team this good should start and stop with other playoff hopefuls in both conferences, but that doesn’t mean there are weeks where the team can take a break.

Still, the Bucs will best assess their abilities when they play their best competition, and Dak Prescott in week one should prove to be one of the best players the Bucs see all season.

As the starting quarterback for the Cowboys, Prescott gets a mountain of undue criticism from fans that only dream their franchise had the same history that Dallas does, but the stats show a quarterback that is undeniably one of the best in the NFL.

Before we get too deep into this, let’s get the basic arguments out of the way early. Quarterback wins is, without a doubt, the worst metric to judge a player by ever. Quarterbacks play a massive role in the success or lack thereof of their teams, but all of the blame or praise should never fall on their shoulders.

Tom Brady played a massive role in turning the Buccaneers around, but to pretend that he is the sole reason why the team won the Super Bowl or lost games to the Saints is asinine. That type of thinking takes away from Tampa’s excellent defense, or it denies Dallas’ 2020 defense as one of the worst all-time. If Dak’s win-loss record is the reason why you believe he is not a great quarterback, it would be wise to reevaluate the way you analyze the position.

From a statistical standpoint, there aren’t many close comparisons to Dak in the league right now. While the stats don’t tell the whole story, they are at least a part of Prescott’s game that fans can’t refute.

Whether you want to look at the start of his career or the past two seasons, there isn’t a lot to hate in Dak’s game, but the past two seasons have shown a player that has emerged as one of the best in the league.

In 2019, Prescott completed 65.1% of his passes (better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Josh Allen), threw for 4,902 yards (second in the league only behind Jameis Winston), and added 30 touchdowns (good for fourth in the league and ahead of six Pro Bowlers, but that’s a different story.)

Now, people see stats like that and immediately point towards Dak’s supporting cast as the reason behind his success, as if the Chiefs don’t have two All-Pro pass-catchers every season and a great offensive line, Deshaun Watson wasn’t throwing to one of the best wide receivers in the decade, and plenty of other talented offenses don’t also make their quarterback’s lives easier.

Fortunately, there is a way to evaluate this also. If it was Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line that carried Dak every season, the year where Elliott and the offensive line struggled the most should be Prescott’s worst season, right?

Well, no. It isn’t even close.

2020 was the worst season of Ezekiel Elliott’s career. As a fumbling machine with a massive step back on the efficiency front, Elliott did very little to help any of his quarterbacks when it mattered most. While there is still some talent on the offensive line, injuries plagued the unit for the better part of the season, and every quarterback was under constant pressure.

Despite all of these difficulties, Prescott was on pace for not just the best season of his career but the best season for a quarterback in NFL history.

With 1,856 passing yards over five games, Prescott was projected to finish the season with 5,939 passing yards. Yep, you read that right. With the worst supporting cast of his career, Prescott was set to shatter Peyton Manning’s record for passing yards in a season by nearly 500.

Prescott did all of this with a running back that was a full yard less efficient rushing than Ronald Jones and an offensive line that looked like the one that protected Jameis Winston for all those years. If you take away one of the worst defenses ever, Prescott probably loses some of those stats, but the Cowboys would’ve been much better.

Dak is clearly the x-factor on this offense, and there is no logical or analytics-based reason to refute that claim, and this is the exact type of player the Buccaneers want to face in their first game.

The Buccaneers can use Dak Prescott as the perfect test

It’s no secret that opposing quarterbacks had their way with the Bucs at times last season. The secondary was trying to gain its footing, and the defense was forming an identity, but there are still no excuses for allowing Daniel Jones and other comparable quarterbacks to pass with ease.

The defense has come a long way since the start of last season, and an opening game against a quarterback of Prescott’s caliber will show whether or not the secondary can meet the call of the front seven to form the best defense in the NFL.

Playing great quarterbacks can be a daunting task for any defense, but a great team doesn’t stay that way by beating up on backups and sleep-walking through games. Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson aren’t going to make life easy in the Super Bowl, and Aaron Rodgers is still coming off an MVP season and will want revenge in the conference playoffs.

There aren’t going to be any pushover quarterbacks for the Buccaneers in the playoffs, so it is every bit in their benefit to start the season off with a bang.

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If the Bucs can show up in week one and slow Prescott down, that will not only show the NFL what the Buccaneer defense can do, but it will also keep the whole team dialed in better than starting the season off against a rookie quarterback or middle of the road player.

The Buccaneers are still the obvious favorites, but Prescott isn’t going to go down without a fight, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

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