Dak vs. Wentz through 25 starts: Everything you need to know

Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott will likely be compared for the foreseeable future.

They were both part of the 2016 quarterback class and, since they both play in the NFC East, they will meet at least twice every season.

The two second-year quarterbacks meet for the third time on Sunday Night Football (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC). They split last season’s meetings, with Prescott’s Cowboys winning the first matchup in Dallas, and Wentz’s Eagles winning the second in Philadelphia.

With that in mind, we wanted to take a look at the two quarterbacks, breaking down their NFL arrival, strengths, weaknesses and stats.

Path to the NFL

Prescott: Growing up in Haughton, Louisiana, Prescott was a Cowboys fan his entire life. His dream was to play for the Cowboys. How he ended up with the Cowboys, however, was almost an afterthought.

The Cowboys worked out all of the top quarterbacks prior to the 2016 draft, including Prescott. They had private workouts with Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch. They did not have one with Wentz because they coached him for a week at the Senior Bowl.

On the first day of the draft, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones badly wanted to trade back into the first round to take Lynch. On the third day of the draft, the Cowboys thought they had a deal with the Cleveland Browns to take Connor Cook in the fourth round, only to see the Browns make a trade with the Oakland Raiders, who took Cook. The Cowboys took Prescott with the 135th overall pick, but he wasn’t even their first fourth-round selection. They took Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper with the 101st overall pick.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson, who became enamored with Prescott through the draft process after a successful run at Mississippi State, made their pitch to take Prescott with pick No. 135, which the Cowboys had as a compensatory pick.

Sometimes luck is involved with draft success.

Wentz: Wentz became the highest-drafted FCS quarterback in league history when the Eagles traded up twice to select him No. 2 overall in the 2016 draft.

Raised in Bismarck, North Dakota, an injury late in his high school career kept him further under the radar as a prospect. He did not receive a single official FBS scholarship offer. Wentz instead attended North Dakota State, where he threw 45 touchdown passes to 14 interceptions while running a pro-style offense for the Bison, guiding them to a pair of FCS championships.

The Eagles coaches and personnel department were clearly locked in on Wentz at the Senior Bowl and were sold on him during the interview process, awed by his football acumen and convinced he had the mental makeup to thrive in the media-intense Philadelphia market. Motivated to secure a franchise quarterback, they made a deal with the Dolphins to move from No. 13 to 8, then completed a blockbuster trade with Cleveland to land the No. 2 spot eight days before the NFL draft.

Passing statistics

Strengths

Prescott: The most important stat for any quarterback is the record. Prescott has an 18-7 record through the first 25 games of his career and last season helped the Cowboys to a 13-3 mark, the best record in the NFC.

Prescott had one of the best seasons in NFL history for a rookie quarterback, finishing with 23 touchdown passes and four interceptions after taking over for an injured Tony Romo. The most important trait for Prescott, however, is his ability to protect the ball. He has eight interceptions in 748 pass attempts. Over the past two seasons, only Brady and Rodgers have a better touchdown-to-interception ratio than Prescott, who has 39 touchdown passes. He enters Sunday’s game against the Eagles with a streak of 119 passes without an interception. It’s the fourth streak of at least 100 pass attempts without an interception.

The Cowboys rave most about Prescott’s leadership skills. From his first time in the huddle as the starter, he acted as if he belonged and his teammates have followed. They like him so much that he was named an offensive captain in 2017 with Jason Witten.

Wentz: His rookie year was unspectacular statistically, due in large part to the fact that he was named the starter eight days before the opener and handed an offense that lacked firepower.

The big, eye-opening strides have come in Year 2. He leads all quarterbacks in touchdown passes (23) through 10 weeks and is third in quarterback rating (104.1). Wentz, 24, is the youngest NFL QB since 1950 to throw 23-plus touchdowns and no more than five interceptions through nine games. Only three other NFL QBs have accomplished that feat since 2014: Matt Ryan with Atlanta in 2016 (23-4), Tom Brady with New England in 2015 (24-3) and Aaron Rodgers with Green Bay in 2014 (25-3).

Wentz wanted to improve on third-down and red zone performance in his sophomore campaign. Mission accomplished. He has a league-high 10 touchdowns on third down with a completion rate of 66 percent, and a sterling 15 touchdowns to no interceptions while operating in the red zone. That’s one of the most striking signs Wentz is a star in the making: When he focuses in on a particular aspect of his game, he has experienced significant growth.

Situational passing

Weaknesses

Prescott: Prescott has answered almost every challenge. He has won games when he has played poorly, like last year’s overtime win against the Eagles at AT&T Stadium; he struggled for three-plus quarters but led the Cowboys on a late game-tying drive and won it on the first possession of overtime.

Prescott has won big games on the road. He has won big games at home. Statistically, he can’t do much better than what he has done by completing 66 percent of his passes and staying away from interceptions. He has also run for 11 touchdowns, the most by a quarterback in the NFL over the past two seasons.

If there is one thing Prescott has to improve on, it is his deep-ball accuracy. So far he and receiver Dez Bryant have not been able to connect as well as Romo and Bryant did for six seasons. Bryant is tied for the Cowboys’ lead with 42 catches this season, but his 11.4 yards per catch is the lowest of his career. Romo could put the ball in a spot where only Bryant could get it, like on back-shoulder opportunities, while Prescott is still trying to get comfortable on those downfield throws.

The absence of running back Ezekiel Elliott will also put more on Prescott’s shoulders. How he handles not having last season’s rushing champion in the backfield for the next five games will speak to how far along Prescott is in his development.

Wentz: He has worked to eliminate most of them. One area that stands out is completion rate. He ranks 28th in completion percentage (60.5) to this point in the season, though it should be noted that he is third in air yards per attempt (9.90), which speaks to the fact he pushes the ball downfield. Wentz has also been blitzed on 41 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, the highest rate in the NFL. That can impact your accuracy numbers.

If there’s an area of concern, it surrounds the number of hits Wentz absorbs. He is sixth in QB contacts with 63. Part of his game is extending plays and looking for opportunities downfield, and he is not afraid to stand in the pocket and deliver a pass amid pressure. While effective, it leads to an above-average amount of punishment. Wentz is still searching for the perfect balance of aggressiveness versus self-preservation.

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