The Dallas Cowboys' hopes for the 2021 NFL season hinge almost entirely upon the health of Dak Prescott. When Prescott is 100 percent, he's a playoff-caliber quarterback and this season will bring the best supporting cast he's ever had. But his brutal ankle injury last year means that Prescott walking back onto the field and playing like nothing ever happened is no guarantee.
You couple those concerns with his shoulder soreness the Cowboys insisted was not a big deal at all and it's a worrisome situation. Prescott could very well pick up where he left off last year, but nobody would blame him if it took some time to ramp up to full speed. Trying to reset one's ankle on the field tends to take a mental toll.
Adam Schefter, for one, is not terribly bullish on Prescott getting back to his old self right off the bat-- or even this season.
Schefter said during the halftime show of Friday night's Chiefs-Cardinals preseason game that Prescott is not back to full health yet, and may not be this year. Per Pro Football Talk:
Regarding Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and his lingering absence due to a shoulder strain, Schefter said, “He’s not fully back, he may not be back all season long.”
Schefter pointed to the shoulder injury and the broken ankle from last year, and he didn’t specify which injury would potentially keep Dak at under 100 percent.
That's... not great! The wording is obviously ambiguous and what exactly qualifies as "fully back" varies depending on who you ask. But the overarching message remains troubling.
The Cowboys have a lot riding on this season. Multiple players on both sides of the ball have huge contracts. Expectations are through the roof for Mike McCarthy and his crew. Even with the inevitable cap spike that will come after a year with fans back in the stands, Dallas will have to make some tough decisions on players like Michael Gallup lest their financial situation becomes even more dire.
If Prescott isn't "back", Dallas has no chance. His receivers are great but last year proved Ezekiel Elliott cannot drive an offense to success all on his own. Prescott needs to be at his best for the Cowboys to compete in a tough NFC that features the defending champs, a revitalized Rams team, an extremely motivated Aaron Rodgers, the always-feisty Seahawks... the list goes on.
Nobody is strolling to a conference title. The one perk the Cowboys have that the above teams do not is the weakest division in football. But a .500 season that results in a first-round playoff exit is not what Jerry Jones is paying for. The pressure is all on Prescott, and even if he's up to the challenge, there's a good chance his body isn't.