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Despite shaky start, Cooper Rush should be the Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback

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After yet another solid preseason outing, the Cowboys need to make Rush’s place on the depth chart official.

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Cooper Rush continues his impressive preseason play.

Every chance he gets, the undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan has balled out. When Rush enters the game, the offense is taken to a completely different level than with Kellen Moore under center. The confidence, the execution, and the swagger are night and day when Rush is in the game compared to when Moore is running the offense.

At this point, it cannot be any clearer: Cooper Rush needs to be the guy behind Dak Prescott on the Cowboys quarterback depth chart.

Despite Moore’s all-world football IQ, Cooper Rush just runs the offense better in every way than Kellen ever has on the NFL level. He’s been doing it all preseason long for America’s Team. Each and every week, albeit against opponents’ reserves in non-regular season games, Rush has performed as good as you can ever hope for from the average undrafted free agent at the most important position on the football field.

After the Cowboys’ preseason Hall of Fame game against the Arizona Cardinals, I wrote a piece looking at the case for Kellen Moore to be QB2 and the case against the veteran. Rush had an impressive game that Thursday evening:

Rookie quarterback Cooper Rush also played in the Hall of Fame game, and the Central Michigan product played pretty solid himself. Rush appeared in the second half of the Cowboys’ opening preseason game against the Cardinals last Thursday in Canton. Rush threw the ball 18 times, completed half of his throws, and even beat the blitz and found Allen, Texas, native Uzoma Nwachukwu for a score.

Little did the Cowboys fan base and coaching staff know that Rush would get even better. The undrafted rookie has only upped his game from his first appearance. Following the Rams game, Rush made a big case for himself to be the number two guy on the QB depth chart.

Against the Rams, Rush gave the Cowboys life. After a sluggish performance with Kellen Moore in the game, the Cowboys looked to have a jump in their step with number 7 behind center. The confident undrafted rookie completed nine of his eleven passes — hitting his first eight before his first incompletion — for over 100 yards and a score. He marched the Cowboys down the field and hit freakishly athletic tight end Rico Gathers for six on a beautiful dime from 25-yards out.

The undrafted quarterback has impressed in both contests this August. He had an impressive career on the collegiate level and is an older, mature rookie. Through the first two games, it has been blatantly obvious that Rush has a higher ceiling than Kellen Moore. While the season may be over if Dak goes down for an extended period of time, Rush at the very least looks to give the Cowboys a better chance of winning than Moore does.

And then in the third game versus the Colts, Rush all but sealed his place on the ‘Boys 53-man roster with another widely impressive eight-for-nine, 92 yard, and two-touchdown performance in Jerry’s World.

With Kellen Moore in behind center, the offense hits a speed bump. With Rush, though, the offense is able to move the chains and even reach the end zone. Rush led the Cowboys on a scoring drive as soon as he hit the field. He finds seventh-round selection Noah Brown for six here:

He may just turn out to be another preseason star, but Cooper Rush looks to be the Dallas Cowboys best option on the roster if something were to happen to Dak Prescott. Cooper Rush’s potential, combined with Kellen Moore’s limitations, makes the undrafted rookie an intriguing option behind Dak.

Our own OCC wrote on just how impressive Cooper Rush has been this preseason, showing how his preseason play stacks up with Tony Romo, Dak, and former Cowboys backup signal callers.

Does that mean Cooper Rush is a franchise-quality QB on par with Romo and Prescott? Probably not.

What is does mean is that Rush has performed much better than most other backup QBs the Cowboys have tried over the years. Sure, there are still two preseason games left, and his stats might not look quite as stellar if he throws a few interceptions.

But consider this: Rush could throw 26 consecutive incompletions over the next two games and would still have a better passer rating than Kellen Moore currently has.

On Saturday, Rush continued his amazing August. Sure, it wasn’t all pretty. Rush was hit from behind in the third quarter that resulted in a fumble and six points the other way for the Raiders. But, a missed block from Alfred Morris perhaps had more of an impact on the turnover than Rush himself. Nonetheless, the rookie quickly made up for his mistake on multiple occasions.

On a second and nine, Rush showed off his legs and picked up 13 yards for a Cowboys first down to keep the drive alive. The drive ended up stalling, but as the game went on, Rush found former Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman for six:

Later in the game, Rush showed off his arm and displayed excellent touch on a deep ball to Lance Lenoir for another Cowboys touchdown right over the top of Oakland’s defense. The 44-yard pass was the second of a two-play drive for Dallas.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the former Central Michigan quarterback, though. Despite his two touchdown throws, Cooper didn’t get off to the hot start that we have been accustomed to watching this preseason as our own Tom Ryle points out:

Rush did not have the same hot start he had in his past two games. He was accurate with his passes, and a very good throw to Noah Brown was just knocked loose. But the first two series for him ended on passes that wound up just short of the mark to make. He finally got something going with his third try, completing a ball to Brice Butler that he hauled in despite clearly being interfered with. And it didn’t hurt to have Alfred Morris running well. But things would go very badly for him as Morris was just late in pass protection, and the ball was knocked loose from Rush’s hand to be plucked in midair behind the line and returned for a touchdown. It would be scored as a fumble, and was not really Rush’s fault, but it was part of a performance that momentarily had a bit of a cooling effect on the Cooper fever.

But, he ended his outing on a high note. Rush played the entire third quarter and was pulled from the game with just over three minutes remaining in the contest in favor of Kellen Moore. The talented rookie completed his fourth preseason game with an impressive stat line of 12-for-13 for 115 yards and two touchdown tosses. Rush posted a crazily impressive 143.1 QBR last night.

If the worst case scenario were to happen (knocks on wood that it does not come to that), Rush looks to be the guy that has the best chance to give the Cowboys hope without Dak behind center. Like Dak, albeit against lesser competition, Coop appears to have the trait of making players around him better. If that’s the case, the Cowboys are in good hands in the QB room.

If this game is any indication, the coaches have realized what the fans have been screaming: Cooper Rush needs to be Dak Prescott’s primary backup quarterback in 2017. At the very least, the staff has given Rush a legitimate chance to overtake Kellen on the depth chart. Based on how much playing time the two backups received on Saturday, Moore looks to have been demoted to the third string quarterback on the roster, which is the correct move for the team. Rush gives the offense a much, much better chance of moving the football — much less finding the end zone — than 17 does.

The question is: will Kellen Moore be on Dallas’ 53-man roster come September 2nd? This will be an intriguing situation to monitor.

With his preseason performances this August, along with Kellen Moore’s shortcomings, Cooper Rush proved again why he should be the man who the staff rolls with behind Dak Prescott for this season.