When the Dallas Cowboys knew they wouldn’t be retaining DeMarco Murray after the 2014 season, they seemed fine with giving him 392 rushing attempts and 57 receptions over 16 games. Then 48 more touches in the playoffs. Murray’s 449 regular season touches was the most by any player since Larry Johnson in 2006, and similar to Johnson, Murray had slowed down and been injured during his first season with the Philadelphia Eagles after signing with them in free agency.
Perhaps the Cowboys are taking a similar approach with Dak Prescott and pass attempts.
Through four games, Prescott has thrown an NFL record 201 passes, 10 more than any other player through four games in history. He has passed for 1,690 yards, also an NFL record over a team’s first four games.
The previous record belonged to Kurt Warner, who returned from his Super Bowl party in 1999 to throw for 441 yards, 386 yards, 394 yards and 336 yards in each of the St. Louis Rams first four games in the following season, totaling 1,557 yards. The previous record had belonged to Drew Bledsoe, who had 1,417 yards for the New England Patriots in the first four games of 1994, attempting 176 passes in the process; Bledsoe would go on to throw 691 attempts that year, a record that would stand until Matthew Stafford’s 727 in 2012.
I don’t believe we should be focusing on “pace” this early in the season, but Prescott has attempted 201 passes at the quarter mark. What else needs to be said? Prescott is averaging 50 attempts per game. If he cuts that down to 35, he’ll still throw the ball 621 times this season.
Warner also threw for 390 yards in game five and 313 yards in game six. Only Steve Young in 1998 and Matt Ryan in 2019 threw for at least 300 yards in the first six games of team’s season. Warner’s Rams were 6-0 in those games, Young’s 49ers were 5-1 and Ryan’s Falcons were 1-5.
Prescott, Russell Wilson, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow have thrown for at least 300 yards in three of their first four games.
But Warner still stands out in any era for his accomplishments in no less than the early parts of the 1999 and 2000 seasons. Out of 92 quarterbacks to throw for at least 1,200 yards in their team’s first four games of a season, Warner’s 11.53 yards per attempt in 2000 still ranks first all-time. Warner needed only 135 attempts to get nearly 1,600 yards in the first four games of 2000.
The second best Y/A mark of all-time: Kurt Warner in 1999, 10.77 Y/A
Prescott has gone way above Warner’s total yardage record but his Y/A sits at only 8.41 and the Cowboys are 1-3. Dallas has been unable to reach an extension agreement with Prescott, who is playing on the franchise tag, but they haven’t been hesitant to put the franchise in his hands and he has three straight games over 450 yards.
Is it because they trust him or they don’t trust him?