FRISCO, Texas – Ezekiel Elliott says he'll be running with a chip on his shoulder this season. Dak Prescott carries one, too.
The Cowboys' starting quarterback believes there's team-wide motivation to have a better result in 2018 than 2017, when they missed the playoffs by a game after entering the season with championship hopes.
"I think it's a little combination of things," Prescott said. "Not making the playoffs last year, the season we had, the season I had.
"I know I'll be better. I've learned so much from last year, just moving forward. I've matured within the game, just learned a lot more that I didn't know last year that I wasn't as comfortable with: reads, my footwork, accuracy, consistency, everything."
Prescott posted an 86.6 passer rating last year and a career-best 357 rushing yards, but his interceptions rose from only 4 as a rookie to 13 last season. He also was sacked a career-high 32 times, including 24 in the final eight games with left tackle Tyron Smith and Elliott both missing multiple games.
This year, as he adjusts to a much different cast of receivers and tight ends, Prescott says he has a better command of the offense as he enters his third season.
Maybe the biggest reason for that comfort level is having the same offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan, since he took over the starting job two years ago.
"Knowing what he's going to call, knowing the things that he's thinking," Prescott said.
Said Linehan: "We spend a lot of time talking. Dak's a great communicator. He gives me a lot of feedback on things, which is really helpful. He's very confident and does not have any insecurity whatsoever about being pushed or have any constructive criticism. He's probably as mature that way as any kid I've been around. He's a lot of fun to work with."
Lawrence Staying Patient
DeMarcus Lawrence was happy to see two fellow Pro Bowl pass rushers, the Bears's Khalil Mack and the Rams' Aaron Donald, get mega-contracts within the last week. He hopes Steelers star running back Le'Veon Bell eventually gets paid by Pittsburgh, too.
But Lawrence didn't take the same approach as Bell, who continues to hold out rather than accept the Steelers' franchise tag. Lawrence, who made his first Pro Bowl last year with a career-high 14.5 sacks, quickly signed the Cowboys' one-year tag worth just over $17 million.
He believes in himself and the Cowboys organization – and that a big payday will come with another big season.
"I'm just being patient and waiting on my turn," he said Thursday.
Defending Cam No Easy Task
Defensive captain Sean Lee has faced Panthers quarterback Cam Newton twice in his career and knows how difficult it is to bring down the 6-5, 245-pounder.
"That's not easy, the combination of size and athleticism," Lee said. "He can make you miss. He can run around you. And then he can run over you.
"He is an extreme challenge in the run game but also the pass game. He is a playmaker."