When Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott signed a four-year, $160 million contract in March to become the highest paid player in franchise history, he promised he would not only return ready to go for the 2021 season but also be better than he was before.
Never mind that Prescott was still rehabbing a fractured right ankle that sidelined him for the final 11 games of the 2020 season.
Never mind that he was on pace to shatter the NFL record for passing yards in a season before the injury.
By all accounts, Prescott has delivered on that promise for the Cowboys.
Prescott is 86-of-111 passing for 878 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions for the 2-1 Cowboys.
He was at his very best in a 42-21 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles Monday night, going 21-of-26 passing for 238 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I think just getting hurt last year and having to sit back and watch football, a different perspective and just different ways people play this game,” Prescott said. “The experience obviously has helped, but just studying and preparing myself and then all the work that I’ve put in just to get back healthy, not only the leg but the shoulder and just this playbook. I’m just comfortable in this system and everything that is going on around me and having playmakers.
“Yeah, I feel like I’m playing the best I’ve ever played.”
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy agrees.
While Prescott was piling up yards last year — he had 1,856 in five games, including an NFL record with three straight games with 450 or more yards passing — they were the product of early deficits and shoot outs.
The Cowboys were 2-3 in those contests.
After passing for 403 yards on 58 attempts in a 31-29 loss to the Tampa Buccaneers in the season opener, Prescott has been the picture of efficiency and in complete control in back-to-back wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Eagles.
He has completed 44-of-53 passes for 475 yards in both games combined.
“I think he’s clearly playing better now, in my opinion,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I mean, last year we were in track meets, this is clearly a different football team than last year. You’ve seen three games where I feel like we’ve been very complimentary with offense and defense. He’s doing a lot in the run game, handling checks and things like that. I feel he’s playing better this year, to be honest.”
“He’s obviously playing that position at a very high level right now,” McCarthy said. “He’s off to an excellent start.”
For ecstatic Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, watching Prescott take the field and perform the way he did Monday night at AT&T Stadium conjured up memories of him being wheeled on the field on a cart last October with a” look of sadness, wonderment and fear of what was to come.”
It is no surprise to Jones that Prescott has turned that frown around and had AT&T Stadium rocking with glee Monday night.
“It breaks your heart that he had that feeling,” Jones said.
But Jones says the injury has elevated Prescott’s game, similar to what did for Cowboys Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin when he suffered a torn ACL early in his career.
“Michael Irvin had a horrendous injury and he has told me and others many times that that was a turning point with the arrow up in his career because he saw how much it meant to him,” Jones said. “He rehabbed better than anybody that was around him had ever seen or heard of it. He’ll tell you today that it was really an elevation in his career. Now, I’m not saying that that’s the same situation.
“But Dak has always gotten better. He gets better every film session, every meeting.He takes it to the practice field and gets better there. I can say he has gotten better every time he walks out there. I think he is playing better than before the injury.”