FRISCO, Texas – When Dak Prescott was thrown into the starting quarterback role last preseason after an injury to Tony Romo, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan made it work. The Cowboys tinkered the offense a bit to fit a rookie quarterback while making sure not to overwhelm a player who had a limited number of practice reps under his belt.
This offseason, the offense is centered around Prescott's strengths, and Linehan is making sure the second-year player is taking advantage of all the practice time dedicated to him.
"He was splitting third reps (last year) and getting about one or two players per period, maybe," Linehan said. "Now he gets all the reps. It's huge as far as his opportunities to improve in practice just because of the repetitions."
Few professional athletes have risen as far into superstardom in so short a time as Prescott, but Linehan claims that it's the attention to detail as a practice player that is continuing his growth as a player. The coaches don't treat him like he's flawless, and Prescott practices like someone who needs to improve.
"He plays like he practices," Linehan said. "He's not perfect. No one's ever been a perfect practice player. He works on his craft. I see improvement in him as he moves forward in his young career so far, and [he] really uses the constructive part of coaching, working on things that weren't good enough as a benefit to improve."
Prescott has been sharp this offseason, but like any quarterback, he's made throws he would like back – such as an interception to safety Jeff Heath in the end zone during Monday's first minicamp practice.
"I believe I can make every throw, so every time I drop back I'm thinking completion, completion," Prescott said. "And when it's not that, it's a little aggravating, but I know I've got to move on because another play is coming in five seconds."
Obviously Linehan concedes that the situation is drastically different for Prescott than it was a year ago, but hesitant to say that his understanding of the game was "night and day." Prescott's consistent eagerness to learn has never changed.
"I think he's always been a work in progress and he's improved on a daily basis," Linehan said. "I don't think we look at where he was last year around this time. He was nowhere near where he is now. But like all of us, he has a long way to go yet. He knows that. That's all we're focused on."
Prescott may be a talented, young quarterback with a hunger to learn the game. But Linehan has a lifetime's worth of football knowledge that would take Prescott years to absorb. So he and his staff continue to feed Prescott information and figure out what more he can be great at.
"He grasps the whole package and embraces what we do," Linehan said. "There are still things that are new to him on a daily basis. We'll sprinkle in a new wrinkle here and there. I can see the wheels turning [in his head] and he'll say 'Okay, I got this. We ran this once before.'"
For a number of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks around the league, practice is really about staying sharp. It's about basic conditioning. It's about muscle memory. Prescott is not one of those quarterbacks in his second year. It's about all that, but more than anything, it's still about learning.
"He works really hard on the little details of the game," Linehan said.