There’s a Nu sheriff in D-Town.
The Red Rifle, Andy Dalton, has fallen to a case of illicit misfire that now has him likely watching his team’s next game from a perched view on the sidelines.
This springboards Ben DiNucci into the forefront of the foray, and responsibility will squarely lie on the fledgling young gun’s shoulders to guide his squad over the hump, and back into first place in an abhorrently weak NFC East.
Although it’s his first showdown, the young interviewee will have to arrive to the duel on time and on target, with full preparation to bolster his starter’s résumé with enough juice to vault him into a regular weekly position.
The résumé he brings from irregular playing time throughout this campaign isn’t chock-full of production by any means, but in the little chances he’s gotten to showcase his abilities, DiNucci hasn’t been half bad.
He did surrender two fumbles (you can chalk a part of that up to lousy protection, ball security will need to be a big emphasis this week), but in the snaps he was actually able to get off a pass, he didn’t disappoint.
DiNucci’s statline was short and sweet: 2-3 throwing for a 39-yard total - 32 of which came on one throw to Amari Cooper.
And short and sweet is exactly the type of play-calling we ought to see from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore should he expect his quarterback to foster any form of success Sunday (with an extra emphasis on short, like really, really short - I’m talking three seconds or less-type drop backs to avoid being ransacked by Philly’s downhill avalanche).
Aside from avoiding the Eagle’s curdling rushing forge - namely Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, swiftness in play-time will aid DiNucci’s own escapades as he attempts to conquer what currently look like indefeasible waters in maneuvering through Philly’s defensive fort.
They are also the type of snaps DiNucci thrived in during his college days at Pittsburgh and James Madison, respectively.
Flare outs, screen calls, and five-yard slants were his bread and butter while there, and although he was able to show off his robust arm strength in college, his forte remained methodically driving his squadron down the field before finding paydirt.
DiNucci was a throwing aficionado at JMU once he transferred there from Pitt, and fire-balled their offense with both his arm dexterity and nimble leg bursts, tracking 3,441 yards for 29 touchdowns through air-mail on a near 71% completion rating. He also called his own number 122 times for 569 yards and seven rushing touchdowns on the ground. His sneaky speed added an entirely different level to their offensive arsenal, and it was DiNucci who was mainly responsible for their appearance in the FCS National Championship game his senior year.
His college game tape also reveals a savvy propensity for nifty arm angles, and he's able to thread footballs through a variety of bends to locate his receivers, as seen here:
Did we mention that DiNucci could run? He actually led all qualified players in rushing touchdowns his junior year (9), and broke off several 20+ yarders during his college tenure. In fact, he’s likely the fastest QB on Dallas’ roster, and this includes pre-injury Dak Prescott.
QB Ben DiNucci— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) October 30, 2020
"sneaky rushing upside" pic.twitter.com/yqVtyZW52I
More pros: DiNucci does a solid job of keeping his eyes downfield in situations that have forced him to scramble out of the pocket, and he’s shown courageous cajones in several plays to remain in the trenches and parlay pressure in light of a more effective forceful throw.
Nifty maneuvering from Ben DiNucci pic.twitter.com/SikfOEbzdO— alFFred (@al_FF_red) October 28, 2020
But quarterbacking upsides come with their share of downfalls - and DiNucci is not exempt from that generality.
He’s shown a tendency to stare down potential targets for far too long, and while his passing blockade was dominant at JMU, he wouldn’t have nearly as many seconds to scan the field on the pro level even if the Dallas line wasn’t near the league’s basement.
DiNucci also heavily relies on his arm strength on throws. He doesn’t always drive his full body’s momentum through each delivery, and although he can dish out a dirty sidearm (which shows inklings of a baseball background), seasoned defensive backs will sniff out and devour weak attempts if he fails to add enough to mustard a toss.
And boy, did he seem to be having wonderful daydreams in the pocket during Sunday’s thrashing. The NFL’s speed of play significantly contrasts from the FCS (one would probably have to cut the average time to get off a throw in half - and then some to amply suffice for the difference), so DiNucci’s main mental focus needs to be getting the ball out of his hands in a hurry.
Jim Schwartz is certainly capable of disguise, so he’ll undoubtedly be shuffling massive amounts of pawns around in efforts to confuse the rookie.
Time will be of the essence, but there won’t be an overflowing bank in terms of pocket seconds come Sunday. DiNucci will have to utilize the little amounts of time he’ll receive to maximize his efforts in clipping the flying Eagles’ wings.