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3 & Out: A Critical QB Coaching Point; More


FRISCO, Texas – Three quick topics with the trade deadline passed, the bye week over, and finally, real football about to resume:

  • Heat Checks
  • Michael Bennett
  • Deal Making

I Know…
Jon Kitna has a great analogy for playing the quarterback position.

There's very little to quibble over Dak Prescott's 2019 season, except for maybe those "heat check" throws he's referenced before. The fourth-year starter is currently 10th in the NFL in passing yardage (2,123), 8th in passer rating (102.6) and tied for the 6th-most touchdown passes (12). He's been outstanding.

The "heat check" phrase is a common basketball term when a player tries a deep three-pointer after hitting three or four in a row. Just testing the temperature. In a QB sense, Prescott acknowledges he's gotten a little "greedy" at times, forcing passes into coverage in the middle of a hot streak for the offense. It happened in the fourth quarter against the Eagles when he tried to fit a jump ball to Tavon Austin over double coverage up 30-10. The ball got picked off.

"That situation, I just need to continue to go through my progression and get it to one of those tight ends," Prescott said afterward.

In fairness, the more vertical a passing game gets, the greater chance for mistakes. Prescott has done an excellent job of protecting the ball throughout his career. He's also ranked 3rd in yards per completion this year, a career-high 8.9 through seven games.

I asked Kitna about the "heat check" thing after practice last week. The first-year Cowboys quarterbacks coach played 16 years in the league. He passed for nearly 30,000 yards. Surely, many times he felt like he had the hot hand.

How do you balance that momentum with the right decision making?

Kitna calls it "the Barry Bonds Mindset."

"The coaching point is, I get it," he said with a smile. "I go back to what Mike Martz (his former coach) told me, which is, 'You're the one guy on this team that every decision you make affects everybody else. If you're going to make that decision, you better be right.' Those are live-and-learn situations, to be honest, and when you play that position and you're back there playing quarterback, you go through those moments where maybe you're a little more emotional than you should be at the time. It's just kind of getting back to that neutral emotion part and just playing the next play.

"We talk about in our room the Barry Bonds Mindset – we want to have a Barry Bonds Mindset as a quarterback. He set the record for home runs in a season. He also broke the record for walks in a season. So that meant they weren't throwing him pitches to hit, but when they threw him one to hit, he hit it out of the park.

"That's what we want to have as a quarterback, like, 'That's not my pitch. I'm going to check it down.' But went it presents itself, let's let it rip."

A pretty cool analogy in honor of Game 7, Astros-Nats, tonight.

I Think…
a conditional seventh-round pick for Michael Bennett is terrific value, but really, Bennett's entire career has been a steal.

Did you know Bennett went undrafted out of Texas A&M? Yep, 2009, a year after the Cowboys scooped up his brother Martellus in the second round to play tight end behind Jason Witten.

Michael signed with Seattle as a rookie free agent and impressed as a smaller, speedy nickel inside rusher. Current Cowboys passing game coordinator Kris Richard joined the Seahawks' staff in 2010. The rest is history: They won a Super Bowl ring together in 2013, and now they're reunited here.

Bennett, who turns 34 in two weeks, has 65.5 career sacks. Only eight undrafted players in NFL history have more. The list includes Reggie White, John Randle, Cameron Wake, James Harrison and Chris Clemons. Not bad company.

Bennett beat the odds to become one of the better rushers this century. You don't do that without serious commitment to the job. The first thing head coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli want to know about a prospective addition, whether it's a veteran or a draft entry, is whether they love football.

That's the word they got from Richard and others during their due diligence on the trade. Bennett's new teammates already see it, too.

"You can tell he cares about his craft," Robert Quinn said.

The Cowboys got Quinn for a sixth-round pick in March because the Dolphins were rebuilding. They got Bennett because the Patriots' adaptive scheme has changed once again.

The goal: The double bargain leads to a second-half surge up front.

I Have No Idea…
if the NFL trade deadline will ever challenge the NBA or MLB in terms of activity and suspense, but it's no longer a borderline afterthought for fans.

The Cowboys have only made 11 trades around the deadline since Jerry Jones bought the franchise in 1989. They've now made one in consecutive years (Amari Cooper, Bennett) for the first time since 1992.

Tuesday morning, Jones told 105.3 The Fan that they had "consideration in the mill" and "anything" was possible before the 3 p.m. deadline. Ultimately nothing transpired. Had they made a trade, it would've been the first time in 30 years they made two mid-October deals in the same season.

The last time they did so: 1989. You guessed it: The great Herschel Walker trade. Five days later, three smaller trades: They dealt running back Darrin Smith and quarterback Steve Pelluer for picks and got running back Paul Palmer from Detroit from an eighth-round choice.

In the last year or two, we've seen more trades throughout the spring, summer and fall across the league. Not sure exactly why. Perhaps it's because rookie contracts aren't as massive as they were under the previous collective bargaining agreement.

The Cooper trade was a direct result of a unique rebuilding effort in Oakland. Same with Quinn. Both, obviously, have worked out well. Based on sheer talent and experience, the Bennett deal has potential, too.