FRISCO, Texas – Dak Prescott wholeheartedly believes he's a better player now than two years ago, when he led the Cowboys to a franchise-record tying 13 wins with statistically the best season ever by a rookie quarterback.
He has a better grasp of the offense in Year 3. He's got a group of linemen and skill players – though a largely different cast – that he believes in.
After five games, the results haven't been there. Outside criticism has followed.
Yet Prescott thinks the passing game is closer to a breakthrough than many might think.
"I don't think we're far off," he said Thursday.
The offensive problems aren't singular. Through five games, Prescott's 81.4 passer rating ranks in the bottom half among starting quarterbacks. He has pointed to himself on missed throws and reads in certain situations.
"Obviously I haven't had my best showing of that here recently," he said. "Getting my feet right, making sure it's all in line, feet and eyes in line, and just making sure the ball's coming out of my hand earlier."
The offensive line hasn't protected him as consistently, particularly on the road. Ezekiel Elliott leads the league in rushing but had little room in last Sunday's loss at Houston, with nine carries that went for zero or minus yardage.
The Jacksonville Jaguars' top-ranked defense comes to town this Sunday. As a group, the Cowboys rank 28th in total offense (307.8 yards per game) and 30th in scoring (16.6 points per game).
"Everybody's got a piece of it," head coach Jason Garrett said. "There's not one area where you say, 'If we got that shored up, we'd be an elite passing team.' It's everybody. We've all got to look at ourselves. We've all got to do a better job."
That said, the offense has also missed on plays that seem correctable with better execution and communication.
Twice in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Texans, pressure prevented Prescott from making a potential game-changing pass to Cole Beasley and Blake Jarwin. Wide receiver Allen Hurns has publicly expressed frustration with the offense's overall struggles, but he has also blamed himself for missing two pre-snap signals against the Texans.
Before Prescott heard about Hurns' comments, specifically the play call on Prescott's second interception against Houston, Hurns sent him a text message explaining what he meant.
"There's going to be frustration," Prescott said. "You say things sometimes that are taken out of context. Everything that I read or that he said was all understandable. We're fine."
"I think we've definitely made strides. I know and receivers know what we're good at, what me and that receiver's good at. (Offensive coordinator) Scott (Linehan) knows that. It's important that we just keep working."