Dak Prescott is on his way to cementing himself among the elite at the quarterback position around the NFL. The Mississippi State product put the NFL world on notice during his first season in the professional ranks. Between finding Cole Beasley in the slot, Dez Bryant deep, or just using his legs, Prescott burned defensive coordinators week in and week out during the 2016 season.
His rise up the Cowboys depth chart was initially thanks to an injury to Kellen Moore. Moore was originally listed as QB2 for Dallas, but an ankle injury prevented the Boise State product from playing in the preseason. Needless to say, Dak more than took advantage of the opportunity and he never looked back en route to a historic rookie campaign.
What happens if Dak goes down, though?
The Case FOR Kellen Moore
Why should Kellen Moore be QB2 heading into 2017? He hasn’t exactly proven to be an elite backup quarterback during his time in the NFL, but Moore has earned the trust and the respect from seemingly everybody involved in the Cowboys front office.
Moore left Boise State as the school’s most decorated player ever. The Washington native made his mark on the Boise State football program during his four year career in Idaho. He led the program to unprecedented success and even became the winningest quarterback in college football history back in 2011.
While he hasn’t shown the same kind of promise that he did on the collegiate level, Moore did put together a solid showing for the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game. With Dak Prescott resting, Moore was able to take advantage of quality snaps in the contest.
He threw 17 passes last Thursday night and completed 12 of them for 182 yards and two scores. Veteran wideout Brice Butler and up-and-coming freak of nature tight end Rico Gathers each hauled in a throw from Moore for six points. Head man Jason Garrett was impressed about his quarterback’s performance in the first preseason game, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer:
"Kellen played like Kellen always plays," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He has a real poise and composure about him. He's got a great understanding of what we're trying to do offensively. He just has a good feel for playing the game and he made a lot of good throws in the game. I think he recognized what it was they were trying to do defensively and attacked it."
Now, it was just a preseason outing. Nonetheless, Moore handled the situation like the veteran he is and helped put the Cowboys in position to win in Canton. It was a quality showing from a guy who hadn’t taken a live snap in a year-and-a-half.
The confidence the coaching staff, namely Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett, shows in Moore is a reason why he has a legitimate chance of opening the season as the second guy on the quarterback depth chart. As Kate Hairopoulos writes, Linehan loves the experience that the sixth-year veteran brings to the QB room.
"Kellen's the most experienced guy with the least amount of playing time that I've ever been around," Linehan said. "He's really progressed, he's really a veteran. He gets the game. He's been around some of these great quarterbacks with Matthew [Stafford] in Detroit and Tony, and kind of being there for Dak last year."
With his experience on the NFL level, the confidence and respect the coaching staff shows in him, and his familiar with the Dallas Cowboys system, Kellen Moore is a reasonable candidate to be the man behind Dak Prescott in 2017.
The Case AGAINST Kellen Moore
Unfortunately, though, Moore hasn’t proven to be able to be a consistent winner at the NFL level. The 28-year old has a 1-2 career regular season record. While not a big sample size by any stretch, it is clear that Moore simply doesn’t have the tools to become a number one guy at the professional level. His high football IQ, work ethic, and the respect he has earned from the coaching staff has allowed him to be an important part in the Cowboys’ locker room.
On the field, though, Moore’s short stature prevents him from making the plays that he became accustomed of making throughout his college days. Moore is listed at 6-foot on his NFL profile, but that may be a little generous. Why does this matter? Well, his short stature may contribute to why he doesn’t always see the open man. Bleacher Report’s Cowboys writer Marcus Mosher points out that Moore missed Rico Gathers for a huge gain during his otherwise solid Hall of Fame game.
Another example of Rico getting open, but Kellen Moore misses him. Would've been a huge gain. pic.twitter.com/lao0aFbsk6— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) August 7, 2017
Enough about that, though. There are other reasons why Moore’s chances of becoming Dallas’ number two guy behind Dak are in jeopardy.
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.
Central Michigan's Cooper Rush throws for a Cowboys touchdown in the Hall of Fame Game. pic.twitter.com/5q46yTNlL6— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) August 4, 2017
After the game, Jason Garrett said that the undrafted rookie was “poised and composed” during his action last week.
“Thought he did a really good job,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “Thought he handled himself very well. Poised and composed. There were not many game situations that came up that he didn’t handle well. They did a few different things to him defensively and he recognized them, made some big plays. The touchdown was a big play and he really did a nice job on that play, recognizing the Cover 0 blitz and getting it to the right guy. That’s really what he’s shown us in all the opportunities he’s gotten up to this point. So it was good to see him take that to the game.”
SportsDay writer Rick Gosselin wrote an interesting article back in May that was brought back up after Rush’s outing. Could Rush become the next Tony Romo? That question seems absurd, but Gosselin makes some interesting points throughout his piece. He notes that the former Central Michigan star may have a cleaner transition to the pro level:
Quarterbacks who started four years in college and threw at least 1,300 career passes are worthy of long looks because they already have been exposed to everything the college game has to offer. It's a much smaller step from NCAA Saturdays to NFL Sundays for them.
Cooper Rush fits that profile. The Cowboys signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan, where he was a four-year starter who threw 1,648 passes. He started 50 games and passed for 12,891 yards and 90 touchdowns. He sits ahead of NFLers Ben Roethlisberger, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich on the all-time Mid-American Conference passing list.
Gosselin also notes that Rush has experience playing against high-level competition, which can’t hurt his progression on the next level.
Rush has been exposed to power five competition, though. He started against Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue from the Big Ten, Kansas and Oklahoma State from the Big 12, and North Carolina State, Syracuse and Virginia from the Atlantic Coast Conference. He passed for 430 yards against Syracuse, 402 yards against Virginia, and 368 yards and four touchdowns in a stunning road upset of No. 11 Oklahoma State in 2016.
But it was the 2014 Bahamas Bowl that probably punched his ticket to the NFL. Rush completed 28 of 45 passes for 493 yards and an NCAA bowl-record seven touchdowns in a 49-48 loss to Western Kentucky.
Now, comparing Cooper Rush — or anybody — to Tony Romo is a bit of a stretch, but the 6-foot-3 signal caller provides the Cowboys an intriguing option at backup quarterback behind their reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The Dallas Cowboys also signed veteran free agent quarterback Luke McCown. McCown provides some valuable experience on the NFL level that can potentially help Dak’s growth into his second season. The 36-year old has played for a handful of teams and may be an option for Dallas.
Who should be Dak’s primary backup in 2017?