The Redskins defense understands that facing Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense on Thanksgiving will be a challenge, but slowing Prescott's surroundings could lead to success.
Nobody would disagree that Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has some incredible surroundings. Between the league's leading rusher in Ezekiel Elliott to arguably the league's best offensive line to an explosive wide receiver in Dez Bryant to reliable weapons like Jason Witten and Cole Beasley – Prescott has all of the tools around him to succeed.
However, with almost all of the same surroundings – minus Elliott, but a 1,000-yard rusher in Darren McFadden – the combination of Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden and Kellen Moore were able to lead Dallas to one win in 12 games last season. Prescott, who has been praised endlessly across the NFL nation, certainly is providing much more value at quarterback than what Dallas received in 2015.
"(Prescott has) just been very poised under pressure," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "He doesn't make many mistakes, if any, and he gets the ball to the right people."
The stats reflect Gruden's statements. Prescott has been intercepted on just 0.6 percent of his passes – the fourth-best rate in the NFL this season. As expected with a rookie quarterback, Dallas kept things simple with Prescott early as he topped 250 yards just once in the first six weeks of the season. He only had four touchdown passes in his first five games. However, his statistics have begun to take off. He's averaging almost 300 yards per game over his last three contests with eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
"His overall just, his patience with everything," Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said. "He's very patient, he's not going to make any mistakes. If it's not there he's taking off with the ball. That's the thing most rookies don't learn till their third, fourth year if they're still in the league.
"He has a great cast around him though that allows him to do certain things and that's to be respected as well. But he's playing really good ball, can't take anything away from the kid. I like him a lot. I tried to get him on a couple things when we played him, he wasn't having it so that let me know that 'okay this guy, he's pretty good."
When discussing quarterback success in the NFL, pressure usually equals mistakes. Clean pockets usually lead to success, and Prescott has had plenty. Dallas has allowed 14 sacks – tied for the third-fewest in the NFL with the Redskins. Prescott has been sacked more than twice in a game just once this season, when the Redskins took him down four times in Week 2.
Prescott's trust in his offensive line is very high, but perhaps the most surprising part of his progression as an NFL quarterback has been the lack of running he's done. Although he's ran for four touchdowns, he's rushed for just 141 yards on 33 attempts after gaining more than 2,500 yards on the ground in his career at Mississippi State.
"He's a guy that doesn't rely on his athleticism a lot, which I think is rare for a lot of young, athletic quarterbacks," Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. "Most will just pull the ball down and just try to create something with their legs running-wise. He's confident in his o-line and confident in his route progression. You can see he lets things develop before he tries to make anything happen with his legs."
So where do the Redskins turn for answers to Prescott? Perhaps to other divisional teams. Prescott has posted a passer rating of more than 100 in every game but two – against the Eagles and Giants. Philadelphia had plenty of success pressuring Prescott in Week 8, and the rookie struggled for a majority of the game before adjusting in touchdown drives in the fourth quarter and overtime to seal a comeback victory. Baltimore tried to emulate Philadelphia's plan last week, but Prescott torched a short-handed secondary for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
The Giants success stemmed from holding Elliott to a season-low 51 yards on 20 carries. Elliott hasn't come close to a performance as poor since, and Prescott hasn't either.
"Just got to stop the run," Redskins linebacker Su'a Cravens said. "I think if we don't let Zeke to begin eating as he likes to show everybody, than think we'll be in good shape. If we make Dak have to beat us with his arm and make him have to make those NFL superstar throws that Tony Romo would make then I think we'll be in good shape. But I mean Dak, he hasn't disappointed. He's shown that he's poised in the pocket, he's shown that he can make the throws, so we're going to rely on him beating us with his arm."