Quarterback Controversy Is Heating up in Dallas

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Ron Jenkins, left; AP Photo/Rich Schultz, right)

One of the key battles in camp right now is for the backup quarterback job. The Cowboys currently have four quarterbacks on the roster and it’s unlikely that they will keep as many as three. That means two of the quarterbacks we’ve seen in the last three games are likely to get cut by the August 31 roster cut deadline. One thing is certain in this QB controversy; it doesn’t involve star QB Dak Prescott who is beginning to get more work in practice.

Prior to training camp, Garrett Gilbert seemed like he would step into the role vacated by Andy Dalton who signed with Chicago, but upstart Cooper Rush is making the competition interesting. Ben DiNucci has shown enough to earn a spot on a practice roster somewhere but probably hasn’t done enough to upset the QB3 spot in Dallas.

Gilbert is in his seventh season and his second with Dallas. He got one start last year after Andy Dalton suffered a concussion. Gilbert, who was a high school star quarterback at Lake Travis High School in Texas, managed 21 completions on 38 attempts with one touchdown and one interception. Despite public calls for Gilbert to start over Dalton, it ended up being the only game of the season for Gilbert.

Rush has been with the Cowboys since 2017 and was an undrafted free agent from Western Michigan College. He has been achingly close to securing the QB2 spot numerous times in his tenure with Dallas but has completed only one pass in a game way back in 2017. During the 2020 preseason, Rush was released by Dallas, signed with the New York Giants, and was subsequently released from New York. He re-signed with Dallas five months after the team had released him.

After the preseason game versus Houston last weekend, the Cowboys decided to give Rush first-team reps in practice over Gilbert. Although the move could be seen as nothing more than an opportunity for the Cowboys to take a closer look while knowing what they’ve got in Gilbert, it also brings up the possibility that Rush will earn the QB2 spot this year.

The controversy became even more heated on Monday when team owner Jerry Jones told listeners on 105.3 The Fan that Rush “can do everything.” Jones did not mention Gilbert while discussing the QB2 spot, leading to speculation that Gilbert failed to impress in his three preseason starts.

The Cowboys wrap up the preseason on August 29 at Jacksonville and Rush is expected to get the start. In his three preseason games this year, Rush has completed 25 passes on 38 attempts including two touchdown passes to no interceptions against the second and third-string defenses. Starting against the Jacksonville Jaguars will give coaches the opportunity to see how well Rush handles the game against a first-team defense.

Rush and Gilbert are both due a salary of $920,000 this season with an equal salary cap hit. Jones has said that the team is not looking for a big contract backup, unlike last season. Dalton failed to impress last season despite a $2 million signing bonus and a one-year contract that paid him $3 million.

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