Setting high bar for Dak, Zeke and Heath

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) hands off to running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Can key Cowboys continue to resemble past stars Emmitt Smith, Roger Staubach and Bill Bates?

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spoke to the media over the weekend and compared Tavon Austin to Michael Irvin. It wasn’t a player-style comparison as the 5-foot-8 speedster Austin bears little resemblance to the classic 6-2 WR Irvin. But Jones said they bring a similar energy to the field.

But it got me to thinking about comparisons and things that might be reasonable to look for this season. Let’s say the key pieces along the offensive line and on defense that need to stay healthy for the Cowboys to thrive do so, then what might we hope for from a few statistically measured positions?

Why not start by comparing Ezekiel Elliott to Emmitt Smith.

Name -- rookie season -- Year 2 -- Year 3

Elliott -- 1,631 yards, 15 TDs -- 983, 7 TDs (10 games) -- ???

Emmitt -- 937, 11 TDs -- 1,563, 12 TDs -- 1,713, 18 TDs

In terms of mobility-plus-passing efficiency, Dak Prescott compares most closely to the great Roger Staubach. That’s a lofty comparison, I know. So please don’t hammer me in the comment section for putting Prescott on the same level as Staubach. Just take the statistical comparison for what it’s worth.

Name -- first season as full-time starter -- Year 2 -- Year 3

Prescott -- 3,667 passing, 282 rushing, 29 total TDs -- 3,324 passing, 357 rushing, 28 TDs -- ???

Staubach -- 2,428 passing, 250 rushing, 26 total TDs -- 2,552 passing, 320 rushing, 14 TDs -- 2,666 passing, 316 rushing, 21 TDs

And one more, let’s look at how safety Jeff Heath’s career seems to match up with former blue-collar star Bill Bates. It took Bates until his fourth season to become a full-time starter. Similarly, Heath took on that role in his fifth season with the Cowboys, becoming a full-time starter last season.

Name -- first season as full-time starter -- Year 2

Heath -- 55 tackles, 3 INTs -- ???

Bates -- 87 tackles, 2.5 sacks -- 81 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 INTS (12 games)