FRISCO, Texas -- Dak Prescott is ready for the season to start and to begin proving to doubters that the Dallas Cowboys can be as good if not better than they were a year ago when they won the NFC East and made the playoffs.
"Where we are right now, it's all excitement. It is," Prescott said. "It's truly a privilege to be the quarterback of this team, to be a leader of these guys, offense, defense, this coaching staff that we have. And yeah, especially with everything being said about us -- you know what I mean? -- the lack of what we have, keep writing, keep talking. We're ready to go play."
As Prescott was preparing for last year's season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while coming back from his own serious right ankle injury, there was talk of three potential 1,000-yard receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, plus a future Hall of Fame left tackle in Tyron Smith.
As he prepares for the 2022 season opener against the Buccaneers on Sept. 11, he has just one 1,000-yard wide receiver (Lamb), while Gallup continues to rehab from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament and with Cooper having been traded to the Cleveland Browns. Smith is out until at least December with a torn hamstring that required surgery and is expected to be replaced by rookie Tyler Smith.
With Gallup out at least for the first game, Lamb is the only other receiver to have caught a touchdown pass from Prescott.
"I believe high expectations create higher results," Prescott said. "I feel like I'm my biggest critic. I'm tough on myself. I'm always going to hold myself to extreme, super-high expectations, higher than I think anyone else can. When you feel other people have those expectations for you as well, it's fun. It's fun. At that point, what you believe in yourself, other people believe in it, too. You just want to continue to improve and be the best you can."
The Cowboys are accelerating Tyler Smith's learning curve. The first-round pick did not take a snap at left tackle during training camp and the preseason; however, he took more of his work in the spring there than at left guard.
"Left tackle has always been my primary position since like high school, so it wasn't something that was foreign to me," Tyler Smith said.
Said Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin, "We're not asking him to be Tyron Smith."
Prescott remembers being the rookie thrown into the starting lineup after Tony Romo suffered a back injury in the preseason in 2016. All he did was help the Cowboys to an NFC-best 13-3 record and win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
"If there's anybody that's supporting the next man up and about that mentality it's me," Prescott said. "Here to support him, give him the most confidence that he needs."
Not only have the Cowboys not won a Super Bowl or appeared in an NFC Championship Game since 1995, they also have not made it to the postseason in back-to-back years since 2006-07. Prescott's aim is to end that drought, at the very least.
"It's definitely time for us to go back-to-back winning this division, getting to the playoffs, things that you said haven't been done in my career and hadn't been done in a long time," he said. "That's how you make those steps. You got to compile good years on top of good years to make those runs to give yourself a good chance. We got a good team. We got a great team, great coaching, great organization. Now it's time not to have any lapse, be better than we were last year and take the next step on top of last year."