Our annual series examining the NFC East from a positional perspective with the help of league personnel sources continues with the quarterbacks.
The closest thing the NFC East has to a “star quarterback” resides in North Texas and Dak Prescott is no sure thing because the now sixth-year pro is coming off a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle that cost him about 75 percent of last season.
Before the injury, Prescott was putting up historic passing numbers – throwing for 256 yards in the season-opener before exploding for 450-, 472-, and then 502-yard games – when the injury came in Week 5.
Previously Prescott had been an ironman, starting all 72 of the Cowboys’ games (both regular season and postseason) since being selected in the fourth round out of Mississippi State the same year the Eagles drafted Carson Wentz at No. 2 overall in 2016.
Prescott was forced into action as a rookie due to a preseason injury to Tony Romo and played so well he never gave it back.
In many ways, Prescott is a better template than anyone else for the potential path to success for Eagles’ second-year starter, Jalen Hurts, because the two are so similar from both traits and physical perspectives.
The key for Hurts, who started four games as a rookie once Philadelphia pulled the plug on Wentz, is to improve what was woeful accuracy from a statistical standpoint last season.
“Accuracy on intermediate and deep throws dropped sharply,” NFL.com’s scouting report said of Prescott said coming into the 2016 draft.
Turns out the Prescott drop was more about the poor protection for him at Mississippi State. When he got to Dallas with one of the top offensive lines in the NFL protecting him, the ghosts were gone from the pocket and he hit on 67.8 percent of his passes as a rookie.
To date, that number has only dropped under 65 percent once in five seasons – 62.8 percent in 2017. Even in the modern NFL where there is much more underneath stuff, those numbers are impressive and the completion percentage will tell the tale on Hurts moving forward.
Were the poor results in a small sample size (52 percent) an anomaly due to the devastating offensive line, coupled with the harping to throw it away on occasion because of Wentz’s unwillingness to do so? Or is it the fatal flaw?
“You know he can extend plays,” an ex-AFC personnel evaluator said. “You know he can run it. This is a fullback playing QB and people are surprised at just how strong he is.
“The issue is can he throw from the pocket on a consistent basis? Getting [DeVonta] Smith should help. Like a lot of young QBs, he’s not anticipatory. He wants to throw to open spots.”
Here’s how the NFC shapes up at the game’s most important position as a whole:
No. 4 – Philadelphia Eagles: The issue is uncertainty and for all the criticism someone like Chris Simms got for not putting Hurts in his top 40, maybe some of it’s valid but you also can’t go overboard and assume there is going to be massive development with Hurts in 2021.
The good news is that the O-Line, albeit an aging group, should be back in the top-10 range and the supporting cast should be improved with the addition of Smith.
The most important coach on the Eagles’ new staff is Brian Johnson because he’s the one that will be working with Hurts on a daily basis.
”I think the biggest thing in terms of accuracy is obviously developing your feet and your eyes and making sure that everything is in concert with your target and having a great understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish as an offense,” Johnson explained. “I’ve been extremely excited how he has handled the installs.”