Prescott's Rushing Ability not a Threat, but Mobility is

As good as the Packers' defensive front has been playing through the first quarter of the 2016 season, they've yet to encounter a true dual-threat at quarterback.

That drought will continue even after Sunday.

While the Cowboys' rookie sensation at the helm of their offense continues to take the league by storm, Dak Prescott has been impressing more with his arm than he has with his legs. Since being drafted in the fourth round and taking over for the injured franchise cornerstone in Tony Romo, Prescott has become a handful for opposing defensive coordinators to scheme for. But not with his 4.7 speed.

"He's poised," Packers' head coach Mike McCarthy said in a post-practice presser on Wednesday. "He doesn't take alot of chances which I think relates to his decision-making. His discipline has been good, and he seems very comfortable in what they're asking him to do. He's played very well."

Despite his high-speed capabilities, Prescott hasn't racked up as much yardage as one would typically think by glancing at his measurables. So far in 2016, he ranks twelfth among quarterbacks in rushing yards with just 61. He stations below Blake Bortles and Matthew Stafford, two quarterbacks the Packers' defense have acquainted themselves with this season. The common theme when watching Prescott is that he would fall into the category of a "mobile quarterback", but based off of a mere observation from his box score, that would be far from the truth. Especially when he's below Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andy Dalton in rushing yards.

Fortunately for us football poindexters, there's more to football than simple box scores. On film, Prescott has the mobility and precision when he does choose to take off and run. On a brighter note to go along with his measly 61 ground yards, he leads all quarterbacks with three rushing touchdowns. All of which have come from inside the opponents' 10-yard line. 

Safe to say, the Packers' defense as a whole — not just the domineering front seven, but the secondary as well, will need to be as efficient as can be come Sunday.

If Prescott manages to break containment and push the ball upfield, the closing speed that the linebackers have displayed in 2016, both inside and on the edge, should be capable of putting a quick end to endeavor. However, due to Prescott's adaptability to the pocket collapsing around him, which, if the first four games were any sort of blueprint, that is almost a guarantee, then he's more than viable to extend plays.

"I think when you counter that (Prescott's running ability) with an excellent run game, it's definitely heightened," McCarthy admitted. "The fact that they're running the football, the action-passing game off of the run game and more importantly the quarterback movement packages in the action game are a very big challenge for our defense."

Much like Green Bay's own Aaron Rodgers has made a living doing for most of his career, Prescott doing so will not only buy time for his receivers to find open space, but also create a break-down in coverage. With a secondary rolling without it's starting cornerback and possibly — no word yet, without Damarious Randall, that could create a very, very drastic scenario that favors the visiting team through four quarters.

Many are hanging their hats on the defensive backs occupying the Packers' secondary being "perfectly fine" based off of their one acceptable performance in the recent Sunday night affair. Take said hats off the hat rack and tip each and every one for Joe Whitt Jr. and Darren Perry, whose respective cornerbacks and safeties unit performed beyond expectations against the Giants. Nevertheless, it's a small sampling size to gather all of your eggs into one basket over.

Dallas' top target in Dez Bryant being available for Sunday is still in the clouds as well, but would add another elite-tier receiver the likes of which a young secondary would have to attempt to lock down. At the moment, the Cowboys' offense is looking like something close to a powerhouse, and with the league-leading rusher in the backfield — another rookie, a laborious task awaits the Packers.

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (18)

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NickPerry's picture

October 13, 2016 at 07:42 am

Like any Sunday this Sunday would be nice to have a good start from the offense. Find out what is working and then actually use it until they stop it. Dallas is far from a great defense so the Packers should score early and often.
I'd like to watch Prescott play from behind instead of 21 points ahead. Prescott hasn't had to play from a huge deficit yet (To my Knowledge) so I'd like to see how "Poised" he is when down 17 or 21 with Matthews, Perry, Daniels and company trying to tear your head off.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 13, 2016 at 07:45 am

I completely agree.

If the Packers can get out to a fast lead it could force Dak to make plays he hasn't had to yet. That could cause him to start making mistakes which he hasn't had to yet.

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dobber's picture

October 13, 2016 at 08:01 am

Spot on: Prescott hasn't had to win games on his own and hasn't been forced to take many chances. This needs to be the week when that happens. The best run defense Dallas played was the Giants in week 1...and they lost. Admittedly, that was week 1.

In general, though, the Packers have been built to play with a lead. Over the years, that's been important because the defense hasn't been able to force opponents to be one-dimensional, they've relied on game flow to make that happen. Now (fingers crossed) that defense is crossing a threshold to which it can do that on its own (force teams to be one-dimensional). In this case, with the quality of the Doughboy running game, having that extra help from an early lead will be pretty important.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 13, 2016 at 09:04 am

I'm not quite ready to say the Packers defense is ready to do that, but if they play that good against the Cowboys, I think they maybe will have crossed that threshold.
What has impressed me the most with the Packers run defense thus far is the ability to do it with 2 DL on the field most of the time. They are getting penetration and are making a lot of stops behind the line.
This will be a tough test though as the Cowboys have a very good OL.

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Tundraboy's picture

October 13, 2016 at 08:09 am

That is definitely what I think they should do but why do I have the feeling MM won't. Have nightmares he will just run Starks to maintain time of posession.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 13, 2016 at 07:41 am

Prescott reminds me a bit of Russell Wilson. In that he is a guy who escapes from pressure and can make plays. Has the read option ability.

The last few times that Capers has played read option type of QB's has really done a good job of game planning on how to stop them.

One of the biggest keys in this game I think will be our LB's. The OLB's have to contain the runs outside. The ILB's have to be able to defend the run as well as the play action passes.

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NickPerry's picture

October 13, 2016 at 07:47 am

That little guy Beasley makes me nervous a little bit. Prescott looks for him often, especially if in trouble. I think you're right on about the "Read Option", especially inside the 10 yard line. They ran it last week and scored and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if Dallas dusts off the 2012 playoff game against the 49ers. Both Prescott and Elliot ran it in College, 4.7 speed is fast enough to gain chunks of yards. We've all watched Matthews bite hard, Capers hopefully has them prepared.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 13, 2016 at 07:53 am

Beasley is going to be a challenge. No question. Same with Whitten. Packers have struggled Covering TE's.
I wouldn't be surprised if we might see Thomas play more in this game.

If they defend the Cowboys like they have done against the Seahawks the last few times, I think we will have no problems.

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dobber's picture

October 13, 2016 at 08:05 am

"If they defend the Cowboys like they have done against the Seahawks the last few times, I think we will have no problems."

I think that's a good observation and comparison. In general, I think the Packers are going to play a single high safety, clog the box, and try to force Dallas to beat them over the top. Those extra guys underneath might make things a little harder for Beasley and Witten, neither of whom are known for their long speed.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 13, 2016 at 08:29 am

The way the Cowboys play on offense (though I haven't seen all of their games), kind of reminds me of how the Seahawks have played offense.

Capers has done a really good job of stopping the Seahawks the last couple of years.

I agree that the Packers will likely stack the box more and force the Cowboys to try and throw over the top. That being said, I hope if they do get burned 1 time, that Capers doesn't abandon that approach.

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croatpackfan's picture

October 13, 2016 at 08:05 am

Wow, suddenly, Cowboys are the best team in NFL. With 2 rookies running the show? I do not buy it. Cowboys played against 1. Giants 2-3 (loss!), 2. Redskins 3-2 (win), 3. Bears 1-4 (win), 4. SF 1-4 (win) and 5. Bengals 2-3 (win). So, we can say that they did not met good rushing D yet. NYG are 5th by YPC with 3,5 yards and Cowboys lost that game. Next relatively good opponent was Bengals with lot of their problems (14th YPC - 4.0 yards). Others were 4,4 YPC (Bears and SF) and Redskins with rushing D last, 32nd in YPC (5,1 yards). Similar results you got when looking at allowed total yards rushing...
So, I'm not trying to say that COwboys are easy opponent, but they are not that large scary monster, you are trying to sell us...

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dobber's picture

October 13, 2016 at 08:41 am

Good points, but prior to playing Dallas last week, Cinci's numbers looked a lot better...

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croatpackfan's picture

October 13, 2016 at 09:25 am

Well I was watching some Bengals games. Team is in free fall... Expect somewhere mid November to smash the ground... I do not know what happened to them....

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dobber's picture

October 13, 2016 at 09:33 am

They don't have a secondary option aside from Green in the passing game to threaten defenses. Defenses ar locking him down and slowing down the run game. Cinci needs Tyler Eifert (or some other target) back in a big way. They'll get better, I think, when he's able to contribute...but their season might be essentially gone by that point.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 14, 2016 at 09:58 am

Nice post, Croat. Nothing like a bit of research to elucidate a point. Dallas has strengths, and weaknesses.

Not responding to you, Croat, but BTW Prescott ran a 4.79 forty at the combine. He's not Vick or Wilson - but that is not to say that he can't or won't gash a defense by running at times.

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Savage57's picture

October 13, 2016 at 08:07 am

Dallas tends to make a living off the middle of the field, and probably more so with Bryant questionable.

Since this is the Packers Kryptonite-zone on defense, I expect whichever unit has more success there will go a long way to determining the outcome.

On a related, sadder note, remember when we used to talk about what aspect of the Packers offense would be the biggest factor in determining the outcome of a game?

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dobber's picture

October 13, 2016 at 08:43 am

"On a related, sadder note, remember when we used to talk about what aspect of the Packers offense would be the biggest factor in determining the outcome of a game?"

But that's what we have been doing...
Will Lacy play at all?
Do we really want to rely on Starks?
Should the Packers call up Jackson?
What's wrong with ARod?
What's wrong with our WR/TE?

We've been talking about the impact of the offense in determining the outcome...it's just been with trepidation rather than optimism.

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rdent's picture

October 13, 2016 at 02:32 pm

Dak Prescott reminds me of Aaron Rodgers, (first 6 games of 2015 anyway) can stay in the pocket yet can move out of the pocket and extend plays and throw on the run and hurt you with his legs,GB will be facing a QB much like their own,although I believe this game will show if he's for real or has merely played against average competition but has looked rather impressive for being tossed into the fire

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