The Dallas Cowboys will almost certainly be down to third-string quarterback Ben DiNucci when they meet the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football. But thanks to shaky play from Carson Wentz so far in 2020, could Dallas' rookie passer actually wind up being less of a liability?
After Dak Prescott's season-ending leg injury a few weeks ago and Andy Dalton suffering a concussion last week in Washington, DiNucci appears set to start in Philly. Despite entering the game midway through the 3rd Quarter last week he only attempted three passes and has put next-to-nothing on display.
Obviously, Carson Wentz has thrown a lot more passes over the last four-plus years of NFL service. But so far in 2020 there have been a lot of bad ones; Wentz is tied for the league-lead in interceptions (10) and has one of the worst passer ratings (74.3) of anyone who's had significant playing time htis season. His completion percentage has dropped below 60% for the first time in his career.
To be fair, things have picked up for Carson over the last few games. He's only thrown one pick in the last two games and has had his two best games in passer rating of the season.
And to be fairer, Wentz has yet to go up against the laughing stock that is the 2020 Dallas Cowboys defense. If there's ever a time to shine for any opposing offensive player, it's against Mike Nolan's clown show.
Still, everything we've seen from Carson Wentz so far in 2020 suggests a meltdown game is always on the table. One of his worst outings this season was at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, one of the NFL's other worst defenses.
On that day rookie Joe Burrow looked like the better quarterback. Could Ben DiNucci, drafted 230 spots after Burrow, possibly outclass Wentz this week?
The Eagles hasn't been stellar but is 12th overall right now, far more solvent than anything Dallas has shown this year. It still boasts DT Fletcher Cox, DE Brandon Graham, and CB Darius Slay among its top players.
Thankfully for DiNucci and the Cowboys, one of their key neutralizers will be back this week in All-Pro offensive lineman Zack Martin. Hopefully his presence will help the rookie QB have some more peace in the pocket after taking three sacks in his limited playing time last week.
Dallas will be getting some defensive help too in the form of CB Chidobe Awuzie. While he's not the player we hoped for from a 2nd-round draft pick, Awuzie is at least an upgrade over the departed Daryl Worley and a guy who might force Carson Wentz into more mistakes.
Most NFL games are about balance; teams being able to maintain a flow to their game based on the scoreboard. If the Cowboys defense can keep Wentz in check, it will allow DiNucci and the offense to feel less pressure and execute more smoothly.
And if Carson has one of his bad games, he could open the door for his rookie opponent to play controlled, conservative football and look like the more efficient player.
Superficially this one should be a blowout if you look at the two quarterbacks; a former 2nd-overall pick in his fifth season versus a 7th-round rookie in his first career start.
But Carson Wentz has created far more concern than confidence thus far in 2020, making this matchup with Ben DiNucci less of a mismatch than it should be. If the Cowboys' rookie QB can avoid big mistakes, Wentz may do just enough for Dallas to steal a win.