The Dallas Cowboys may have escaped New England with the victory, but sadly they didn’t escape unscathed. On the game-clinching touchdown to CeeDee Lamb in overtime, Dak Prescott came down a little awkwardly, straining his right calf muscle. The jury is still out on the seriousness of the injury, however, it does raise some concerns moving forward.
First and foremost, the biggest concern is Dak Prescott’s health and availability as the season progresses. Will this calf strain cause him to miss time? Will it be an injury that lingers throughout the season?
Right now, it’s a wait-and-see approach during the bye week for the Dallas Cowboys. Neither they, nor Dak Prescott, know how this injury will respond with a little extra time to rest and recuperate. And, that brings us to the other concern, the backup QB position.
As things stand right now, Cooper Rush is the next man up if anything were happen to Dak Prescott. If, for whatever reason, this calf injury sidelines Prescott, the Cowboys would be forced to start either Cooper Rush or Will Grier in his place, most likely Rush.
No offense to Rush, but he is in no way close to being as good as No. 4. In fact, if he’s forced into the starting role that’s a pretty significant downgrade for the Dallas Cowboys at the QB position.
It is a bit scary to think about life without Dak after we all saw that picture in 2020. We witnessed firsthand how important he is to this team, both on the field and in the locker room. He is no doubt the heartbeat of this team. His current calf strain definitely heightens those concerns moving forward, although if this injury sidelines him it will likely be for a short period of time.
Looking ahead to the week after the bye, the Cowboys will take on the Minnesota Vikings. If for some reason Prescott couldn’t go, the team would have to choose between Rush and Grier.
As far as Cooper Rush is concerned, he at least is familiar with the playbook and personnel. Rush suffers from a lack of athleticism and doesn’t have the prototypical arm strength you would like from a quarterback. But coming out of college he was lauded for his understanding of offenses and his processing skills. Obviously he is very familiar with Kellen Moore and what he would want from an offense, but the Cowboys would need to alter the game plan significantly with Rush under center.
Will Grier is the other option, but since he has only been in Dallas just under a couple of months, and he doesn't have a starter’s pedigree behind him, it seems like a longshot for him to be called on to play. Grier was able to take advantage of a scheme in college that allowed him to excel, but his skillset may not allow that in the NFL. There were scouts who questioned his arm strength, and given he liked to push the ball downfield, that could be a problem in the NFL. His only full game as a starter in Carolina ended with three interceptions.
Of course, the Cowboys would lean heavily on their running game if either of these quarterbacks had to play. Their Week 8 opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, haven’t exactly been stellar against the run. They are giving up an average of 128 yards per game which puts them in the bottom third of the league. They also rank 30th in ESPN’s team run stop win rate at 27%.
Still, the Vikings boast a defensive line with talent. They could pressure the inexperienced quarterbacks into mistakes as they have 21 sacks on the season, evidence of the pressure they can generate. The Cowboys would likely go to a quicker passing game with less reliance on Prescott-like plays of breaking the pocket and hitting deeper passes on scramble drills.
Let’s hope we don’t have to see it, because watching anybody other than Dak Prescott operating this offense will certainly be a downgrade, and the running game along with the opportunistic defense will have to carry the day.
The Cowboys are rolling the dice with their current quarterback backups, and there will be a lot of concern if they have to play in the next game.