FRISCO, Texas – It's an age-old question about quarterback play, to the point that it's become a bit of a cliché. At this point, it also feels like a euphemism.
That question is "How will the Cowboys tailor their offense to fit Dak Prescott?" It feels like a nice way of asking "How much does a rookie quarterback limit your offense?"
It's a fair question to ask, considering Prescott is about to start his first-ever regular season game in the NFL. But when he was asked about it, Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan wouldn't take the bait that anything has to change at all.
"We're running our offense. He's done a good job of getting himself prepared," Linehan said. "We believe in our system – and our players, more importantly. He's going out and executing his role within that."
That's an important point when considering what might be asked of Prescott while Tony Romo is out injured. The entire NFL saw how inept the Cowboys looked without Romo in 2015 – but it's also worth remembering just how much they leaned on the running game when he was healthy in 2014.
Prescott will be playing behind the same All-Pro line and has a highly-skilled running back to help him carry the load, which wasn't lost on Linehan.
"We've also got a really good offensive line and we've got some other great skill players," he said. "I think the way we're shaped and built helps him be more himself as opposed to, 'I don't know if we're going to be able to block this guy, so I've got to know what I'm going to do if this guy comes free.' You start cluttering a quarterback's mind, it affects his performance."
That wasn't an issue at any point in the preseason, as Prescott looked comfortable running a wide variety of looks. The preference for the shotgun formation was evident, but he also showed a penchant for misdirection and throwing on the run. But Linehan was quick to point out that calling an offense that benefits the quarterback applies to any situation – not just a rookie in his first start.
"He's got some elements to his game that I think are going to be assets for us. We'll see that as the year goes on," he said. "But we're certainly not changing anything or saying we're going to do things dramatically different – but yeah, there's some things that he likes that we do."
There's no doubt that Prescott brings more of a second element than Romo could hope to in his ability to run. In the preseason game against Miami, he scrambled for a 20-yard touchdown. In college, he ran for a combined 2,521 yards and 41 touchdowns over four years, highlighted by a 986-yard, 14-touchdown season in 2014.
Don't get the wrong idea, though. As tempting as it might be to imagine Prescott and Elliott running a two-headed read-option offense, like they each did in college, it doesn't sound likely. The Cowboys experimented with some of that in the preseason, and Linehan said it might get called in the right situation – but he's far more concerned with the offense they have in place.
With that in mind, he added that Prescott is anything but a run-first quarterback.
"I was always concerned about guys that run a lot in college, or these offenses, they're kind of looking to run as an immediate part of their decision. He's literally, that's the last thing he'll do," Linehan said. "He's going to run if it's there. But the last thing he's thinking about, he doesn't look at the rush. He sees the defense and he gets to his reads and progressions."
The only way to judge the legitimacy of that statement is by waiting, and watching just how well Prescott handles the challenge of a regular season game against a first-team NFL defense.
But from the sounds of it, it doesn't sound like Prescott will be working with any limitations while he does so.