Quarterback Andy Dalton’s status for this week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles has been in question all week following his concussion injury last week in Washington. Yesterday, the Dallas Cowboys brought back last year’s backup QB Cooper Rush and it’s a pretty strong sign that Dalton will be absent this Sunday.
Dalton left in the 3rd Quarter last Sunday with a concussion following a dirty hit from Washington linebacker Jon Bostic. He has remained in the concussion protocol through yesterday and missed all practices.
Of course, Andy’s a veteran and would likely be trusted to play even on no practice if he gets medical clearance. But bringing Cooper Rush back to Dallas is telling of the team’s optimism, or lack thereof, for that to happen.
This isn’t to say that Rush will be sliding in at the top of the depth chart. You would expect rookie Ben DiNucci to get his first career start this Sunday if Dalton doesn’t play.
This move feels more about what happens if DiNucci now gets injured, or just has significant struggles. The Cowboys’ only other QB right now is journeyman Garrett Gilbert who they just signed two weeks ago.
If a QB change is required on Sunday, Dallas may feel like Cooper Rush’s familiarity with the system gives them a better chance at success.
Cooper Rush spent 2017-2019 as the primary backup to Dak Prescott. He ascended to the job midway through his rookie season, taking it from now-offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
This offseason the Cowboys could have retained Rush on a modest deal as a restricted free agent, but instead looked for more experienced depth in Andy Dalton. The strategy made sense given the team’s Super Bowl aspirations at the time, but we’re in a much different place now in terms of goals and expectations for 2020.
Still, the NFC East is highly winnable as potentially the worst division in NFL history. Even with just a their third win of the season, the Cowboys could retake the lead with a victory this Sunday over the Eagles (Washington is on bye).
All of that aside, part of me wonders if this isn’t also about some Cowboys decision-makers still wondering what they had in Cooper Rush. He never got a chance to play in a real game thanks to Prescott’s durability.
Rush took the backup job in 2017 thanks to a dazzling display in the preseason. That regressed somewhat in 2018 but he looked very capable again last year.
Jason Garrett still thought enough of Rush to snatch him up in New York this offseason but he was released from the Giants’ practice squad a few weeks ago.
Clearly, Rush is still on someone’s radar with the Cowboys. It could be as simple as trying to cover bases in the wake of Andy Dalton’s injury and potential COVID-19 issues, but perhaps there’s a little more to it given Cooper’s history with the team.
Where Cooper Rush falls on the depth chart in the coming weeks, if he’s active at all, will really tell us what the Cowboys are thinking.