Drew Brees: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott showing 'night and day' growth in command

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FRISCO, Texas — The evolution, Drew Brees says, is “night and day.”

The 20-year NFL quarterback who retired this spring to join NBC’s NFL and college football broadcast team sees quarterback Dak Prescott and thinks: This is a top-five quarterback. This is a quarterback whose game has blossomed since his rookie year in 2016.

“He’s at a level now where he feels like he has complete command,” Brees told USA TODAY Sports by phone Wednesday, speaking in connection with Avocados from Mexico Big Game campaign. “There’s not a look he’s going to see that he hasn’t prepared for or hasn’t seen before. So when you get to that point, there’s just a whole new level of confidence.”

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Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has thrown 16 touchdown passes this season.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has thrown 16 touchdown passes this season.

Confidence is a trait the Cowboys have attributed to Prescott repeatedly this season. His demeanor returning from a fracture and dislocation of his ankle to start the year? Confident. Teammates’ belief in their ability to win – the Cowboys have won six straight – with Prescott on the field? Confident.

With Prescott’s return from a one-game calf-strain absence, offensive and defensive players alike are confident.

“It brings a lot of confidence, honestly,” cornerback Trevon Diggs, who leads the league with seven interceptions, said. “We follow him. Everything. When he’s out there, you know it’s time to go. When he’s out there practicing, he’s going to practice at a high level so the defense has to practice at a high level. It just brings everyone together.

“He’s our leader. Our ringleader.”

Prescott enters Sunday’s contest with 4-4 Denver on a four-game streak of throwing at least three touchdowns. His 73.1% completion percentage leads the league while the Cowboys have compiled the most yards per game (454.9) and third-most points (32.1). Prescott has thrown for 1,813 yards and 16 touchdowns to four interceptions in six games.

“I admire the way he plays the game,” Brees said. “Tough. Physical.”

It’s that physicality, Prescott admits, that required him to miss last week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings as he rested his calf. Prescott was reminded of how unbridled he plays on Wednesday, when he scrambled and rolled out on his first snap despite the alleged ramp-up period for his calf.

“I thought about it and was like, ‘I probably shouldn’t have done that on my first rep,’” Prescott said. “That’s why I didn’t play last week. Because I don’t think about that and I’m not going to think about that. I’m going to think about whatever it takes to win the game.”

Instead, Brees said, Prescott has rebounded from the devestating injury to play more accurately and efficiently. Panthers coach Matt Rhule compared Prescott’s pocket awareness to that of Brees.

“You have an injury like he had, and I think it does force you to play the game a little bit different, but I see that as being a positive for Dak,” Brees said. “I see a guy who has great command over the offense in the huddle, a great understanding of the offense, protections, the guys who he’s throwing to. So everything he does is very decisive. The ball comes out on time, it’s going to the right place."

The Cowboys hope those benefits extend to postseason success, the franchise conference championship drought dating back to the 1995 season. Brees, whose Avocados From Mexico Big Game partnership will give consumers a chance at a $100,000 Smart Home Makeover, knows how difficult the jump is to make. He played in 18 postseason games in his career, winning nine. But only once did Brees capture a championship. How can the Cowboys catapult from regular-season success to the postseason?

“You want to be playing your best football toward the end of year,” Brees said. “You want to try to stay as healthy as possible. And you try to catch some breaks along the way.”

Brees laughed.

“That’s the best way to describe it.”

Next in the march toward the postseason: The Cowboys host the Broncos, who boast the league’s second-best scoring defense at 17.1 points allowed. Broncos safety Kareem Jackson acknowledged Prescott’s “big-time arm talent” and ability to “keep the play alive as well.” Head coach Vic Fangio wondered how Prescott’s physical and mental aptitude weren’t more clearly spotted before he entered the league.

“How does that guy last until the fourth round?” Fangio wondered of Prescott. “There you go. Somebody take a dive into that.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dak Prescott showing 'night and day' growth, Drew Brees says