The Dallas Cowboys are under no illusions heading into this week's NFL Draft. They realize that their defense, which allowed the fifth-most points and 10th-most yards per game last season, lacks playmakers at several key positions, and needs a major overhaul.
Of course, this problem can't be solved overnight. But with the No. 10 overall pick, the Cowboys are in a prime position to put a defensive-centric draft plan into action, all while having the franchise quarterback's blessing.
"I think it'll be a heavy defensive draft for us," Dak Prescott told CBS Sports Radio's Tiki and Tierney show on Wednesday. "You just look on the offensive side at the weapons we've got, and I think that's why I say go defense. We've got Amari Cooper, we've got Blake Jarwin coming back from an injury, we've got CeeDee [Lamb] coming into his second year, Michael Gallup -- who I think is going to have the biggest year of his career yet -- and obviously Ezekiel [Elliot] is in the backfield. I just think it's obvious you go defense, and just make our team better along that side..."
Prescott, who signed a long-anticipated four-year, $160 million ($126 million guaranteed) contract extension with Dallas in early March, is returning from a gruesome season-ending ankle injury he suffered in Week 5 against the New York Giants.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and vice president Stephen Jones said that the franchise "couldn't be happier" with Prescott's rehab work. And based on their optimism, it sounds as though the 27-year-old -- who was initially given a four-to-six-month recovery window -- is well on track to return for the start of the 2021 regular season.
"[The injury] wasn’t damaging, it was challenging," said Prescott, who's participating in the team's voluntary spring workouts. "Obviously, when you're immersed in something like that, you've got to find it deep within yourself and be resilient. I have an amazing support system, starting obviously with my family and friends, and then going to the Cowboys and the fanbase... It wasn't damaging, it was challenging. And I accepted that challenge. I'm excited. I'm back. I'm healthy -- I'm getting close to being 100-percent -- and feeling game-ready. So, it was a challenge, as I said, but it's part of it. I've taken it, embraced it, and I'll be a better player at the end of it...
"I’ve never played this game for the rewards and everything that comes with it. I play this game to be the best at what I do and just play the most elite team game at the highest level. So, at that moment, getting carted off with tears in my eyes was all about knowing that my season was done, that I wasn't going to be able to finish that game and finish the rest of the season with my teammates. Never in a million years did I think about money that was potentially up for grabs that I didn’t get. The game's never been about money for me."
As is the case each year, there's immense pressure on the Cowboys to meet fans' high expectations and deliver on a Super Bowl promise. The franchise hasn't hoisted a Lombardi Trophy since 1996, and they've yet to appear in a conference championship game this century.
Prescott understands the impatience and discontent. But he's confident that the team will make positive strides in year two under McCarthy's stewardship, and contend for the NFC East division title.
"Me and [Coach McCarthy] have a great relationship. And that started last year when he first became the coach and it’s grown each and every day, even through the injury and through the time that I missed," Prescott said. "We probably got closer during that time... We’re excited to go into year two. I know last year, we had a lot of variables and a lot of things that didn’t play our way -- having a new coach, having to go through COVID, not having that time together... There's a lot of excitement, to have that year under our belt together, to have the continuity of the head coach... There’s a lot of excitement here in Dallas, starting in the locker room...
"I see pressure as a privilege. High expectations create high results. I only know the Dallas Cowboy way, and that’s the only way I want to know... You’re expected to win every game. You’re expected to go make a deep run, and if you don’t do that and win a championship, it’s a fail. So, I love it... I’m thankful to have it and be the quarterback of this team."
In five games last season, Prescott threw for 1,856 yards (222 attempts) with nine touchdowns, four interceptions, and a 68.0 completion percentage.
The entire conversation between Prescott and Tiki and Tierney can be accessed in the audio player above.