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Cowboys Backup QB Battle Intensifies with Preseason Opener

Jess Haynie

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Cooper Rush, Mike White

The battle between Cooper Rush and Mike White for the Dallas Cowboys' backup quarterback job in 2019 has been going on all offseason, from meetings to OTAs and now into training camp. But as past years have shown us, nothing moves the needle like preseason games. How will tomorrow's opener against the 49ers, and the rest of the preseason, impact the backup QB competition?

This may simply comes down to which version of Cooper Rush shows up this preseason. Will it be the 2017 version, when an undrafted rookie put on a show that rivaled Dak Prescott's dazzling play a year earlier? Or will Rush have another disappointing run like last August, killing the hype and leaving many wondering if Dallas should sign a veteran backup?

If Cooper falters, can Mike White step up and take over the job? You'd like to think that a 5th-round pick, now in his second year, can at least challenge for the backup role. But we simply haven't seen enough of White to really know what he brings to the table.

What will be interesting to note in preseason games is not just how these guys play but also what opportunities the team gives them.

Any playing time is valuable, but so is getting to play with the right guys around you. Having guys like Joe Looney and Cam Fleming blocking in front of you is a better chance to succeed than if it's Adam Redmond and Mitch Hyatt. Throwing passes to Blake Jarwin is far better than Codey McElroy.

Jon Kitna, Cooper Rush, Dak Prescott, Mike White

Dallas Cowboys QB Coach Jon Kitna and QBs Cooper Rush (7), Dak Prescott (4), and Mike White (5)

Back in May, new Quarterbacks Coach Jon Kitna said that there would be a "clean slate" for evaluating Rush and White as far as the backup role. Preseason play will be a major factor; seeing how these players execute when the pressure increases.


Even though Cooper has that one extra year of experience, it's somewhat mitigated by the changes on offense. Kellen Moore has replaced Scott Linehan as Offensive Coordinator, and Kitna was added to fill the vacated QB Coach job. Any changes to the offense, plus Kitna's added voice and preferences to the position, are new wrinkles for both Rush and White to work through.

Dallas has reason to root for Mike White in this competition. He has three years left on a cheap rookie deal, whereas Cooper Rush becomes a restricted free agent in 2020. Even the lowest projected RFA tender of $2.1 million would be roughly triple what White is projected to cost next year.

Of course, if Rush is clearly the better player then he's going to keep the job. It's not enough money to override superior skill and NFL readiness, but it certainly would be a tiebreaker if needed.

The Cowboys won't base their decision solely on these games. There are extenuating factors to performance, and all that these guys are doing in Oxnard and in other practices will be significant as well.

But these preseason games will get the engine going on the hype train. Hopefully the noise is for either Cooper Rush or Mike White's strong play, and not the clamoring for some other quarterback to replace them.


Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Game Notes

Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Need More From Randy Gregory and Taco Charlton 1

Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Taco Charlton might be turning things around. The former first round draft pick didn't have a great couple of seasons to start his career off, which forced him to be in a battle to earn a spot on the Cowboys 53-man roster this offseason. Three weeks into the preseason, it looks like he's a lock to make the team. In a "Dress Rehearsal" game that went great for the Cowboys, Charlton's performance was among the best players.

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how the Cowboys' younger defensive ends could force the team to move on from Taco. From Dorance Armstrong to Jalen Jelks, there's a handful of promising players that were participating in a positional battle that one way or another, included Taco Charlton.

However, the Michigan product showed up to play versus the Los Angeles Rams with two passes batted down. Despite making such plays, we still hadn't seen much from him in the pass rush department.

Taco Charlton

That changed against the Houston Texans last Saturday when he managed to get two sacks (one strip-sack), two forced fumbles and a recovery. This was undoubtedly Taco's best game in his career. He still has a lot to prove, but it was definitely good to see him have a "breakout" preseason game.


With such performance, it doesn't seem like he'll be going anywhere in 2019. Charlton won't be a starter for this team, but he could become a very important rotational piece for Rod Marinelli's defense. He has a great opportunity to find playing time during the first two weeks of the season before Robert Quinn returns from suspension.

One unfortunate note was that in his best game yet, Taco went out injured twice (ankle). The first time he went back to the field to get some more but had to walk off the field for a second time. Hopefully, he's able to play next Thursday but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't after having a breakout game versus the Texans.

Taco Charlton still has a very long way to justify being a first-round pick, but his play against Houston was a start. It will be very interesting to see how he plays in the 2019 regular season. He'll have to fight for playing time and he'll have to make every snap count to turn his career around.

Tell me what you think about "Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys’ Taryn Christion Gets Time at QB; More Coming?

Jess Haynie

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Taryn Christion

Last night was the first time we've seen Taryn Christion, the Dallas Cowboys' fourth quarterback on the current depth chart, actually playing the position in preseason. Could we see more of Christion at QB in this Thursday's finale, and at what point should Mike White be worried?

Signed just a few days before training camp began, Christion has been tried at running back, receiver, and various special teams units while the Cowboys were in Oxnard. But last week he started getting more time at quarterback, and last night's win over the Houston Texans saw him playing a few drives at QB to close the game out.

Sure, Taryn came in fourth behind White in the rotation. But that Dallas thought to give him reps in that game, the critical dress rehearsal game, is telling.

Jason Garrett doesn't get cute with rotations and playing time. He's old school, and there's meaning in every decision he makes about when and how guys get time in preseason.

Ironically, the decision came following Mike White's best preseason game this year. He went 6-of-9 for 56 yards and a touchdown, plus avoided any sacks or turnovers.


Rather than let White keep building on that, though, Dallas pulled him for Taryn Christion in the 4th quarter. It seemed as if the Cowboys were determined to get him some time at QB.

An even better showcase will come this Thursday night. The Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final preseason game; we know Dak Prescott won't be playing, and the team may even protect Cooper Rush with limited time on the field.

Dallas likely intends to give Christion some significant playing time on Thursday. And to help make that easier, they played him last night to get some of those butterflies out of his system.

No, Taryn Christion probably isn't going to make the 53-man roster. Neither is Mike White, for that matter. It feels like the battle for the number-three QB is more about the practice squad now.

But whatever the case, the battle seems to be heating up. Dallas appears more invested in Christion now as a quarterback than at any other point since he arrived; some added intrigue for Thursday's final preseason game.


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Game Notes

HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game

Matthew Lenix

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HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game 1

The Dallas Cowboys couldn't have scripted a better result in tonight's dress rehearsal game against the Houston Texans. All three phases of the game made big plays as they dominated 34 to 0.

The night belonged to the defense as they terrorized Houston's starters and reserves along the offensive line with 8 sacks. Taco Charlton, a former first-round pick turned outcast was the star of the night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. In my opinion, if there were any doubts about him making the roster he put them to bed tonight.

Kerry Hyder showed once again why he's one of the smartest free-agent signings of 2019. After being a lost man in the 3-4 defensive scheme with his former team the Lions, he's done a really good job applying pressure even though he hadn't recorded any sacks in the first two preseason games. However, tonight he recorded 2 sacks and reminded everyone of the player who had 8 sacks in 2016.

The young guys weren't to be left out in this defensive clinic. Dorance Armstrong, Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise, and Joe Jackson all had half sacks. Rookie Safety Donovan Wilson had one of the plays of the night with a beautiful interception as he tapped both feet before heading out of bounds. Cornerback C.J. Goodwin, who will probably make the roster on his special teams ability, got in on the interception party himself high pointing a contested pass.

Dak Prescott was only 2 for 5 (11 for 14 in the preseason) but managed to escape what looked like a sure sack and roll to his left and threw a rope to Michael Gallup for a touchdown. The two have shown a lot of growth and chemistry during training camp, something that was missing at times in 2018.


Wide Receiver Devin Smith had 6 receptions for 79 yards while Cedrick Wilson snagged 3 passes on 4 targets. Both receivers are fighting for the final roster spots in the receiver group which they'll have to continue to do next week against the Buccaneers.

Tight End Marcus Lucas had a very solid game with 4 catches for 50 yards. He will definitely be a player to watch in the final preseason game before final cuts are made. Cooper Rush went 15 for 25 and further solidified his position as the primary backup to Prescott. Mike White was also solid going 6 for 9 and tossing a touchdown.

Special teams got in on the action themselves when Linebacker Joe Thomas recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.

Now the Cowboys have only one more preseason game before the 2019 season begins. All that's left now is figuring out the last few roster spots and staying as healthy as possible. September 8th is right around the corner.


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