Cowlishaw: Thinking big picture - Cowboys' preseason loss to 49ers reveals one major concern

Iamtdg

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By Tim Cowlishaw, Staff Columnist

Cooper Rush had a very busy night in Santa Clara on Saturday, and I can only assume this means the Cowboys are getting serious about their backup quarterback situation. And it isn't pretty.


That's not to say Rush was awful. After a one-drive opening act from Dak Prescott, Rush played into the third quarter, completed 16 of 26 passes and avoided big mistakes (no turnovers) and small ones alike (no sacks) in the Cowboys' 17-9 loss. He also did not produce big plays or touchdowns even though he spent much of the night against what would be third-string players on the San Francisco depth chart.

The Cowboys made no pretense about what they were working on. In a game they led most of the way, they threw 50 passes to just 18 running plays. Only two quarterbacks threw more passes than Rush on the NFL's first full weekend of preseason play, and perhaps the Cowboys are making certain that they either have someone they can trust if needed or that they don't.

To this point, Prescott has proved impregnable, making all 51 starts including playoff games in his first three seasons. Maybe the Cowboys figure that if he can be sacked 52 times like he was last year (second most in the league) and bounce back up, the depth chart is not a concern.

But it is.

Rush and Mike White have no real NFL game experience. Not to be cruel but based on Saturday night, White won't be getting any, either. He went 9-for-20 for 87 yards, was sacked three times and lost fumbles twice although one was negated by a whistle.

In all, the Cowboys threw 50 passes against a team that sat all of its starters on both sides of the ball and never found the end zone. If there's a big-picture concern coming out of another exhibition loss (the Cowboys lost all four games last year before winning the division), that would be mine.

When we visited this topic a year ago, the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers were the only other teams that lacked any experience at backup quarterback. That's not to say they all had a Roger Staubach-Craig Morton situation going on, but 29 teams had someone who had thrown NFL passes waiting in the wings.

The argument that teams are dead, anyway, once they lose their starting quarterback has always rung false. One can dive deep into the archives with the 1971 Dolphins, the only unbeaten Super Bowl winner, to show that Earl Morrall started nine of the 14 regular season games and the first two playoff games. For those more in tune with the modern game, the speculation of how the Philadelphia Eagles will fare this season without their Super Bowl backup Nick Foles answers this question.

The fact that Prescott has been durable in college and the pros is a great sign, and there are certainly a number of veteran quarterbacks (Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers) that have mostly avoided injury throughout long careers.

Still, it's surprising that having turned the team over to a rookie in 2016, the Cowboys have never sought more assurance behind Prescott. Perhaps they soured on the Kyle Orton situation and his refusal to play a few years back. Maybe it was the disaster of 2015 when both Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel were unable to produce victories with what had been a playoff roster the previous year.

Regardless, they should be scouring other rosters unless they truly believe that Rush's pedestrian numbers achieved with backups facing backups -- 16-for-26, 142 yards, no touchdowns -- suggest he's ready when called.

I'm not saying the Washington Redskins are always the proper organization to follow in these things, but after losing quarterback Josh Woodrum in the preseason opener, the club moved quickly to add Jalan McClendon. We are talking fourth string quarterbacks here. The Redskins want to avoid exposing any of their top three candidates -- first-round pick Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State, Case Keenum or Colt McCoy -- to too much risk in preseason games.

The Cowboys believe they are prepared not only to successfully defend their NFC East title for the first time since the 20th century, but to perhaps go deeper into the playoffs as well. The roster is solid, and one day Ezekiel Elliott will find his way back to town. Maybe Rush's good-but-not-great performance is a sign of his growth. He had a fine preseason two years ago, was not so good in 2018.

If they believe Rush can handle the job if called upon, then maybe he's the risky answer to this question. And with all that down time as a backup quarterback, I wonder if Rush can kick field goals.
 

Genghis Khan

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I was pretty happy with what Rush showed last night. Not sure what this dope is on about but this is not even close to being a real issue for us right now.
 

Iamtdg

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I was pretty happy with what Rush showed last night. Not sure what this dope is on about but this is not even close to being a real issue for us right now.
There are a lot of fans on Cowboys twitter going on about how bad Cooper was. Most everything I am reading here and from other beat writers is telling a different story.
 

Chocolate Lab

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He was okay, but he was so bad last year, I'd still want to see more.

Bottom line, I agree with Cowlishaw here. I think it's shocking how cavalier they've been about backup qb the last couple of years. I guess they think Dak is big enough that he'll never get hurt.
 

deadrise

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Among 32 NFL teams, there are more than a few that don't have legitimate STARTING QBs. So if the college ranks can't produce enough QBs to fill starting spots on all 32 NFL teams, why would anyone think that legitimate backup QBs are easy to come by?
 

Cowboysrock55

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He was okay, but he was so bad last year, I'd still want to see more.

Bottom line, I agree with Cowlishaw here. I think it's shocking how cavalier they've been about backup qb the last couple of years. I guess they think Dak is big enough that he'll never get hurt.
I have no problem with it. Glad to not waste time and resources on a shitty QB just because he has played games and sucked in the NFL.
 

Genghis Khan

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There are a lot of fans on Cowboys twitter going on about how bad Cooper was. Most everything I am reading here and from other beat writers is telling a different story.
I'm not going to pretend he looked like a legit starter or anything, but he moved the ball, was evasive, and made good decisions and accurate throws. Not sure what else people want from a backup QB.
 

Iamtdg

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I'm not going to pretend he looked like a legit starter or anything, but he moved the ball, was evasive, and made good decisions and accurate throws. Not sure what else people want from a backup QB.
Exactly.
 

boozeman

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He was okay, but he was so bad last year, I'd still want to see more.

Bottom line, I agree with Cowlishaw here. I think it's shocking how cavalier they've been about backup qb the last couple of years. I guess they think Dak is big enough that he'll never get hurt.
Well they paid out the ass for the Johnsons, Weedens, Cassels and Ortons in the past and it didn't matter.

There are not many teams who are in great shape and it isn't like there are many competent ones out there.
 

Chocolate Lab

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Eh... To me, you at least try. Kitna and Orton in the past were legit backups. I don't think Rush is. Now maybe he could be, but last year he was so, so bad.

I just don't agree with the idea that if Dak gets hurt you automatically surrender the season. Most teams have no chance of doing anything anyway, so there isn't a point in finding or paying up for a legit backup. This team does have that chance.
 

p1_

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Eh... To me, you at least try. Kitna and Orton in the past were legit backups. I don't think Rush is. Now maybe he could be, but last year he was so, so bad.

I just don't agree with the idea that if Dak gets hurt you automatically surrender the season. Most teams have no chance of doing anything anyway, so there isn't a point in finding or paying up for a legit backup. This team does have that chance.
and to have no viable backup is embarrassing.
 

Cowboysrock55

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Eh... To me, you at least try. Kitna and Orton in the past were legit backups. I don't think Rush is. Now maybe he could be, but last year he was so, so bad.

I just don't agree with the idea that if Dak gets hurt you automatically surrender the season. Most teams have no chance of doing anything anyway, so there isn't a point in finding or paying up for a legit backup. This team does have that chance.
Out of curiosity what NFL backups are in your opinion "legit" and is it worth blowing 6-10 mil of your cap on a guy you never want to see hit the field?
 

Cowboysrock55

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Honestly, the way it is constructed....not really.
I mean if this great team is the main reason Dak looks good we should be able to plug and play a decent backup and look great... Zeke is the whole offense and all.
 

jsmith6919

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I mean if this great team is the main reason Dak looks good we should be able to plug and play a decent backup and look great... Zeke is the whole offense and all.
On the flipside of this angle, if Zeke sits out a couple actual games this is actually the perfect scenario for Dak to prove he's worth the money
 

L.T. Fan

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On the flipside of this angle, if Zeke sits out a couple actual games this is actually the perfect scenario for Dak to prove he's worth the money
Also it might send a message to Zeke that the team can win without him.
 

p1_

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On the flipside of this angle, if Zeke sits out a couple actual games this is actually the perfect scenario for Dak to prove he's worth the money
I kinda wish we could do that. It would probably burst his $40m bubble pretty quick.
 

Iamtdg

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I mean if this great team is the main reason Dak looks good we should be able to plug and play a decent backup and look great... Zeke is the whole offense and all.
This is my thing about all of this. You can't argue both ways. Either the team carries Dak, or Dak has some sway in whether we win.
 

L.T. Fan

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This is my thing about all of this. You can't argue both ways. Either the team carries Dak, or Dak has some sway in whether we win.
This is where everyone will get to see if Moore has what it takes. If he can get the offense to be cohesive and execute then he will have a great deal of praise owed to him. If Zeke stays out then the OC wIll have a tougher job but if everyone steps up then hooray for Moore.
 

Simpleton

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They should've went after Tyrod Taylor, who is a borderline starter and would give us a dual-threat backup, I think he signed with the Chargers for only like 5-6 a year. Aside from that, there's slim picking in the QB market, if someone like Colt McCoy shakes loose in DC I'd give him a look but other than that we're basically looking at the Brock Osweiler's of the world.
 

Chocolate Lab

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Out of curiosity what NFL backups are in your opinion "legit" and is it worth blowing 6-10 mil of your cap on a guy you never want to see hit the field?
IMO there are many. Like simp said, Taylor would be good. McCoy might work. Probably either of the San Fran backups. Tannehill. Here are some:

https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2019/5/...s-ranking-2019

(And how many of those cost 10 mil of cap space?)


I'm surprised everyone is so opposed to this considering our biggest enemy just two years ago won the Superbowl on the back of a good backup. Anyone think the Eagles beat anybody with Cooper Rush?
 

Genghis Khan

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Yes. The Eagles have been running a system that makes backup QBs look good for like 2 decades. Same thing the packers and 49ers have done.
 
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