Yahoo Sports’ Senior NFL Writer Charles Robinson and USA Today’s Dallas Cowboys’ writer Jori Epstein discuss the health of quarterback Dak Prescott. A year after battling nagging injuries all season, Dak is 100%. Problem is the same can’t be said for the Cowboys pass catchers. How big of a problem is this? And what steps need to be taken to resolve it? Hear the full conversation on the You Pod to Win the Game podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Dak's shoulder-- that was the one thing that I thought-- clearly, his shoulder was more screwed up last season than anyone was really led to believe. It feels like, now, in hindsight, you're starting to get-- it was probably worse than maybe-- you know, it lingered a lot longer than maybe we thought it would have over the course of the season.
JORI EPSTEIN: Yeah, I think it's tricky. I'm more inclined to think that if there was a lingering injury, it was the calf injury. I think that his footwork in the pocket was not what he wanted it to be afterward and not what it had been early in the season. So I don't think it was so much of an arm strength thing. I will say, though, where the shoulder really came into play-- so he had the whole rehab offseason from his compound fracture and dislocation of his ankle. He's finally going to be able to throw, get his timing and chemistry with the receivers in real time at training camp.
And then I believe it was the first padded practice last year that he suffers this strain. And so then he can't throw with them again. And then the timing's off. When they keep talking about cadence and pace of operation and getting on the same page-- and it's not just about the snap. It's not just about the offensive line. It's really about, if the receivers are off even, like, a tick late, then they and Dak are no longer on the same page. And they really need to have those reps for the timing. And so, on one hand, you have him healthy to do all of this. On the other hand, you don't have Michael Gallup.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Right, the surrounding pieces.
JORI EPSTEIN: You don't have James Washington.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Right.
JORI EPSTEIN Amari Cooper and Cedric Wilson aren't here anymore, and they had 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. So, yet again, you might see that the timing isn't where it needs to be. And that's all the more reason why if you're going to bring in a veteran receiver, contrary to what Jerry told us today, do it now so they can get their timing down.
CHARLES ROBINSON: I look at that depth chart, and I'm like, this is serious. I guess, in my mind, I'm like, they've got to just be slow playing in this. And they've identified a move that they're going to make because I just don't see the hodgepodge of rotating guys in and trying to find what we can behind CeeDee Lamb. That's a horrible way to start this situation.
JORI EPSTEIN: Right. I mean, they tried that in 2018, and they ended up trading for Amari Cooper during their bye week at deadline for a first-round pick. And they needed him. And then I think they forgot that two years later. So what I will say about Dak's pass catchers is that you have Dalton Schultz coming off a really productive career year at tight end. You have Tony Pollard. They've been saying for years they want to involve him more in the passing game. But I do think this will be the year that we see that. I think that they still want Zeke to kind of pound, pound, pound.
And again, going back to the stubbornness like you said, whether it's stubborn or not they still want that as long as he's relatively healthy. I don't think that they should feel comfortable with what they have right now. And I think $40 million a year or not, it's unrealistic for Dak Prescott to be able to perform at the level he did last year with this cast.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Do you think Pollard plays more in the slot this year?
JORI EPSTEIN: I think he does. I think especially if it works. I mean, hey, there were times last year when he was awesome, he was ripping off super long runs, finding the end zone. And there were times where he really wasn't able to get off the line like he needed to. I think part of that had to do with the offensive line, whether it was the coverage of Dak or it was creating the run lanes. And that's going to be something we have to look for. But I think that they will at least try to put Tony in those situations. And if he can succeed, he'll continue to get the opportunities.