For the first time in a while, the Cowboys won’t be entering the preseason with a veteran presence at backup quarterback. There’s only three years of NFL experience between all four quarterbacks with Dak Prescott entering his third-year. The preseason isn’t for guys like Dak, who have established their current positioning on the roster. The preseason is for guys like Cooper Rush and Mike White, who will be auditioning for Dak’s primary backup spot.
Cooper Rush impressed coaches enough in his rookie preseason that the Cowboys decided to give him the QB2 duties for the 2017 season. Even though Kellen Moore was close by, Rush was the primary backup. Since then, Moore has retired and is now a rookie all over again as the position coach. Rush will now be challenged by rookie fifth-rounder Mike White.
These two players have skill sets that are quite different. Cooper Rush was lauded for his ability improvise in the pocket and show the necessary mobility to run the Cowboys offense. Rush impressed Jason Garrett last preseason with his ability to maintain his composure and deliver the football.
Mike White is advertised as a strong-arm talent that can place the ball anywhere he wants with precision. In White, Garrett is looking to see if he can take command of the offense and continue to make the right decisions when the lights are on:
“[White] is a smart guy,” Garrett said during OTAs. “He’s poised. He certainly is very talented throwing the football but maybe more than anything else, he’s just handling himself the right way. He’s got a good command of the huddle, good command of the line of scrimmage and he’s a good decision-maker so far....He’s getting better and better.”
These two have different styles but ultimately Jason Garrett said he and his coaches are judging one key component:
”At the quarterback position, I think it starts with the ability to move the team down the field. That’s an important thing.”
After all, that’s THE most important thing about this preseason for each young quarterback. They need to show that they can lead the offense down the field or this will be one very ugly four weeks of exhibition games. As expected, these quarterbacks have had their shining moments in practices but have also sprinkled in a few they would like to forget. The preseason will finally give them a chance to put it all together in a live game.
This is where the real battle of the backups will take shape because if Cooper Rush picks up where he left off, it’ll be hard for White to move past his QB3 designation. However, if Rush struggles to move the second-team similar to how Kellen Moore struggled last preseason, White will get his opportunity. The pockets won’t always be clean, mistakes are bound to happen but Jason Garrett will be evaluating their responses above all else.
“That’s where it starts with the quarterback to see if you can get guys to respond to you and you play well as a unit. And then you look at a guy like that play by play. What is he supposed to do on this particular play? Is he reading it the right way? Is he physically delivering the ball the way he wants to, where he wants, on time, all of that stuff?”
The Cowboys are brazen in their decision to field one of the youngest teams in the NFL. With no plans to revert back to their old philosophy of keeping a veteran in the quarterback room, it’s time to let the young guns fly!