Connect with us

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Backup QB Debate Taking Over Preseason

Jess Haynie

Published

on

Cowboys Backup QB Situation

We went into this preseason with Rico Gathers, Jaylon Smith, and the big names from our 2017 rookie class at the forefront of our minds. A few weeks later, the rising debate at backup quarterback between veteran Kellen Moore and undrafted rookie Cooper Rush has taken over the collective consciousness of Cowboys Nation.

You have seen and will continue to see opposing viewpoints. Some believe that no rookie, let alone an undrafted one who played in the MAC, could be ready for the speed and complexity of NFL football. Rush won't be getting first-team reps in practice or preseason, so could he really take on the responsibility of replacing Dak Prescott when the game's elite players, and most intense situations, are in front of him?

On the other hand, we've seen Kellen Moore's work. We saw his struggles in 2015 and we've seen his issues in these last two preseason games. He's getting many of the same vanilla defenses and low-end defensive talent that Rush is, so why isn't his experience shining through? What good is a veteran backup who can't even outperform an undrafted rookie?

Kellen Moore

QB Kellen Moore

We've all heard the same old lines about Kellen Moore, about how he's such a great asset in the quarterback room and to the offensive coordinator. It's the go-to defense for any Moore supporter; Kellen's value is more in game preparation than what he can do on the field. He's like an extra coach for Dak Prescott or whoever the starter is.

That's really neat and all, but doesn't Dak have enough coaches? He has Wade Wilson and Scott Linehan, two of the most experienced assistants out there. His head coach was a career backup quarterback. And if that's not enough, Dak himself is noted for his devotion to study and perfecting his craft.

It's great that Kellen Moore can contribute to all of this, but is that really more important than how he plays? Is he influencing wins and losses from the sideline as much as if he actually has to come into a game, or especially take over for an extended stretch due to injury? Does he really have the physical ability to play NFL football?

Moore's lack of arm strength is well known, but that's not just about being able to throw it deep. Passing windows are often tight and a quarterback needs to be able to zip the ball in there with accuracy. Kellen can't throw with zip, and if he tries that's going to affect accuracy. Anyone who's played golf knows that the more power you try to force into your swing, the more you open yourself up for a bad hit. It's no different for shooting a basketball, swinging a bat, or throwing a football.

Cooper Rush

QB Cooper Rush

That isn't to say Cooper Rush is out there slinging it like John Elway. A lack of arm strength was actually noted in his pre-draft scouting reports. But the proof is on the tape; Rush's passes simply look better and more professional grade than Moore's. On average, he will be in a better position to complete throws because of basic biological advantages. He's also three inches taller, and being able to see over your offensive linemen is never a bad thing.

The irony of this is that Rush was compared to Kellen Moore in his scouting report, prior to ever becoming a Cowboy. He got credit for the same things that Moore does when it comes to the mental side of the game. Essentially, he may be a taller, stronger version of Moore.

Of course, it will take time for Cooper Rush to catch up to Moore when it comes to experience and the off-field contributions. But if he has that potential and the clear physical superiority, do you really want to discard that asset? Do you even want to risk it on the practice squad?

The Cowboys have tried that in the past with promising preseason performers like Matt Moore and Alex Tanney. Moore didn't even make it past waivers in 2007, getting claimed by the Panthers after final cuts. Tanney got signed off the 2013 practice squad a few months into the season.

Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore, Wade Wilson

Cooper Rush, Kellen Moore, and Dak Prescott with QB Coach Wade Wilson. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

It doesn't happen often in sports or in life, but circumstances may allow the Cowboys to actually have their cake and eat it too. As was covered a few days ago by K.D. Drummond, Kellen Moore is still eligible for the practice squad. This surprising reality, given his years in the league, opens up the possibility to secure Cooper Rush with a roster spot, retain Moore's services with the off-field help, and keep a roster spot open for other positions. As Michael Scott would tell you, that's a "Win-Win-Win" scenario.

Of course, that scenario is contingent on Moore accepting the job. It may sound improbable that he'd be willing to take the demotion and drop to the practice squad, but keep in mind that he was a free agent last March and ultimately took a one-year, $775k contract to come back to Dallas.  Kellen was on the open market for two weeks and still took that nothing deal to remain a Cowboy, which probably tells you how much interest there was in him.

Many have said that Moore's future is in coaching, and accepting this arrangement could be the first step to securing long-term employment with the Cowboys. Wade Wilson is 58-years-old and perhaps Kellen could start a paid internship now to eventually become the new quarterbacks coach.

Even if the Cowboys keep both guys on the 53-man roster, there's still the matter of who is the primary backup. Cooper Rush came in before Kellen Moore in Monday's practice and is sharing second-team work. Dallas is clearly assessing their options now, which many have said would never happen given Moore's experience edge and relationship with Scott Linehan.

Coaches are like fans when it comes to their principles, priorities, and preconceived notions. Many don't budge easily. Cooper Rush was going to have to be pretty damn impressive to cause a shift and it looks like that's exactly what he's done. It's a pleasant surprise for the 2017 preseason, and perhaps a critical development at some point later this year.



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!

Advertisement
6 Comments
  • Daniel Helms

    Rush has not had one snap against a 2nd string defense. This is massive issue. You can’t compare the production. If you are looking at yardage Moore is blasting Rush by more than 100 yards. The defenses Rush faces wouldn’t be able to stop anything Moore throws. Rush has already thrown Int and Moore still has looked better in practice when playing at the same level.

    • Jess Haynie

      Way to cherry pick those stats, Daniel. Unfortunately, you didn’t even get that right. It was Kellen who threw the interception, not Cooper. As for Moore “blasting” Rush in yardage, he’s thrown the ball 17 more times. Cooper actually has the higher YPA.

      Also, you forgot these stats. I can’t imagine why:

      TOUCHDOWNS – Rush 4, Moore 1
      COMPLETION % – Rush 68.4%, Moore 54.5%
      PASSER RATING – Rush 125.2, Moore 75.0

      • Matthew Harrell

        Haha wow. I wonder if that was Babe Laughenberg posting under a pseudonym. He is the only bone head arguing for Moore over Rush

  • georgemachock

    The same initial arguments were used against Dak. Cooper is a QB and has an arm that your 2nd string needs for their development. If Moore had performed all these years at a better level there’d be no question. The fact that he hasn’t says it all. He may be a great guy but, this is a business and with injuries the way they are in the NFL, a lot of 2nd stringers need to be max ready.

  • Randy Martin

    Lest we forget, one Dak Prescott, with not a shred of NFL experience was thrust into the limelight last year and proceeded to have arguably the best rookie season for a QB in NFL History. Now I’m not suggesting we have another Dak in Cooper Rush but watch him in the game. He stands poised, has pocket presence, delivers the ball on target, and commands the huddle. He will likely start this game against Oakland, unless Dak runs a series and we will all see what he can do. We know what Moore can do and it scares us all!

  • Russ_Te

    I still think being out 1.5 years is showing up for Moore. Part of his game is getting out of the pocket and that looks hampered to me because of the leg recovery. Whether he gets more mobile, no real way to know.

    Old-days Bengals NT Tim Krumrie suffered a fractured leg in that Super Bowl they made it to with Esiason at QB. He came back, but never the same player. Joe Thiesman, done in by it.

    Dak should play the 1st half this week with the starters. That gives Moore 1 quarter and Rush 1 quarter (unless they decide that Rush earned both quarters).

    Then Dak sits and again Moore and Rush are likely to split halves in the last PS game. So Moore has 3 quarters left in this preseason. I think he will play better not worse, and remain the #2 QB.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Draws Comparison to Dallas Legend

Jess Haynie

Published

on

Tavon Austin

It will be a few weeks before new Cowboys receiver Tavon Austin can make a big impression on Dallas fans. But apparently he's already done that with team owner Jerry Jones, who went so far as to compare Austin to the biggest legend in Cowboys WR history.

According to Rob Phillips of DallasCowboys.com, Jones said the following about Tavon after a recent practice:

Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Draws Comparison to Dallas Legend

Considering that Michael Irving's energy and leadership were an integral part of the 1990s Super Bowl teams, that's high praise. And given recent developments on the Cowboys offense, that sort of leadership is needed.

Say what you want about their declining performance, but Jason Witten and Dez Bryant were huge voices in the locker room. Their departures left a void of veteran leadership that, hopefully, Tavon Austin is helping to fill.

Personality is great, but a player also has to stand out on the field. Tavon's never been to a Pro Bowl and was almost a non-factor on the Rams last season. He won't keep his teammates' attention long if he's not backing it up with his play.

Michael Irvin's nickname was "The Playmaker." His performance justified his loud voice in the locker room.

Nobody expects Tavon Austin to be the Cowboys leading receiver in 2018, or even in the top three, but he will need to maximize his opportunities on offense and on special teams. He may not get close to the 907 combined yards and nine touchdowns he had as a Ram in 2015, but he still needs to be consistent and do the most with what he's given.

No, Austin's name won't ever be in the Ring of Honor with Michael Irvin's. But playing in his sixth season, Tavon has more experience than a lot of players on this young Cowboys roster. He's seen the highs of being an eight overall draft pick and the lows of being traded for peanuts for by his former team.

Hopefully, all of that has made him a voice of wisdom and encouragement for his new teammates. If so, Tavon Austin is an asset to this Dallas offense.



Continue Reading

Game Notes

Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

The collapse of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys can be, in large part, attributed to the collapse of their offensive line. When left tackle Tyron Smith was forced to miss time with various injuries, neither Chaz Green nor Byron Bell could get the job done in his place. Not only were these two replacements unsatisfactory, however, they were disastrous.

From the beginning of the 2017 season the Cowboys had a problem at left guard as well. With Ronald Leary departing for Denver and La'el Collins replacing Doug Free at right tackle, the left guard spot was left to an open competition between Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green. Quite frankly, neither was impressive.

As a result Dak Prescott's sophomore season was nowhere near as fun or remarkable as his rookie season, and the Cowboys faltered down the stretch as a team. Trying to rectify these issues, Dallas drafted Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams in the second round of last year's draft.

Though it could be argued that, on paper, the Cowboys had more pressing needs than their All-Pro filled offensive line, adding a player like Connor Williams was exactly what this team needed to do if it wanted to emulate its 2016 success.

So, through one preseason game, how does the rookie look? Let's take to the film to decide just how good (or bad) Connor Williams was in his debut.

dalvssf2018 connor williams

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Let's begin with the bad. Really the only completely poor rep of the night for Connor Williams came on the first drive of the game. Williams is working against former first round pick DeForest Buckner here. Buckner, lined up as the 3 technique over Williams' outside shoulder, knows he is in a one-on-one situation with the rookie.

Buckner immediately swipes Williams' hands down, quickly flipping his hips and getting upfield. Besides not getting a strong enough punch, Williams' biggest mistake is that he stops his feet on contact. This allows Buckner to get him off balance, forcing Williams to bend at the waist and look lost.

Buckner then blows by him for the easy quarterback hit.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Later on the same drive we see Williams struggle to execute a reach block. Once again Williams is faced with a 3-technique, this time defensive tackle Sheldon Day. Day gets a great get-off, beating Williams initially with his first step. Day then does a great job of stoning Williams' playside shoulder and redirecting the running back.

This is another example of Connor Williams needing to increase his play strength and speed a bit. Multiple Cowboys reporters at training camp have mentioned these issues with Williams' game, and they flashed on tape during this rep.

Thankfully for both Connor Williams and the Cowboys, things only went uphill from here.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On Dak Prescott's touchdown pass to Michael Gallup we see Connor Williams correct everything he had wrong earlier.

Williams comes out of his stance square, delivers a solid punch, and stones the defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. Williams stays strong with his hands even as the defender attempts to swipe them down as Buckner successfully did earlier.

He allows for no interior pass rush and keeps Prescott's vision clear down the field.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Earlier on the same drive we see Connor Williams work well off a double team and on to the second level. Williams delivers a solid punch to the 1-technique on the inside of him, allowing Travis Frederick plenty of time to overtake the man and drive him back.

What's most impressive, though, is how Williams keeps his shoulders square and his eyes on the second level the entire time. He never buries his head or over-commits to the down lineman, allowing himself to be an athlete and help spring Rod Smith for a nice gain.

Despite some legit reasons for concern about Williams' game, I do believe he will be fine moving forward. Connor Williams is an excellent plug and play left guard who provides some tackle depth as well, and is a vital addition to the Cowboys 2018 offense. His debut performance gives all of us even more reasons to be excited about this offensive line.



Continue Reading

Dallas Cowboys

Possible Cowboys Roster Cuts Who Could Have Trade Value

Brian Martin

Published

on

Possible Cowboys Roster Cuts Who Could Have Trade Value

I know it's a little early in the process to start thinking about roster cuts with a few weeks of preseason still remaining, but I've been doing just that. You see, the Dallas Cowboys have very few available spots up for grabs, which means they will have to let go of some talented players.

Once cut, players are subject to the waiver wire and have no control over which team puts in a claim to acquire their service. It's just how things work in the NFL. But, if a team truly values someone at risk of being cut, they could try to work out a trade before the player hits the waiver wire. We have seen the Dallas Cowboys do this in the past.

With so much talent on the roster, the Cowboys could end up shopping some of their players before final cuts are made. There is no way of knowing if anybody would be interested in entering trade discussions for any of the Cowboys potential roster cuts, but I do believe they have a few players who have some trade value.

WR Terrance Williams 

Terrance Williams

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

With the way some of the Dallas Cowboys younger wide receivers are performing in training camp practices and in preseason, Terrance Williams could find himself on the outside looking in when roster cuts are made. Yes, the Cowboys would have to be willing to swallow the dead money they'd have to take on by releasing him, but it could be worth it if it means keeping someone with more upside.

Williams could be viewed as a progress stopper with the Cowboys right now, which could make him expendable. He may not have value in Dallas any longer, but there are other teams around the NFL who could use his services. It probably wouldn't take more than a 2019 late round draft pick to acquire him if indeed the Cowboys are planning to move on.

TE Rico Gathers 

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

There is an unwarranted fascination surrounding Dallas Cowboys Tight End Rico Gathers, despite very little production to justify it. I'll admit, I was excited about Gathers' development and what he could possibly turn into, but I think my excitement has dwindled. He simply hasn't emerged as of yet and I just don't think the Cowboys coaching staff has much faith in him doing so.

We all know Gathers could be a mismatch in the passing game, but the Cowboys ask a lot more from their TEs in their offensive scheme. Unfortunately, Gathers just hasn't been able to pick up the mental side of the game or develop as a blocker since coming to Dallas. I don't really think he's shown enough in the passing game to warrant a roster spot either, which means his fate could be sealed. But, some other team could be interested in trading for him instead of trying to pick him up off of waivers.

DE Kony Ealy

Kony Ealy

Dallas Cowboys DE Kony Ealy

At the time, I thought the Dallas Cowboys signing Defensive End Kony Ealy in the offseason was a good move. He provided some much-needed depth to the DE position, but that was before and this is now. Unfortunately for Ealy, he could be buried on the depth chart behind some young up-and-coming pass rushers with more upside.

This year's fourth-round draft pick Dorance Armstrong hass been a pleasant surprise so far and has probably secured a roster spot. Taco Charlton, the Cowboys first-round draft pick last year, looks like an entirely different player and isn't going anywhere. Then, you add in the return of Randy Gregory and that just doesn't leave much room for Ealy. But, the veteran could have other suitors around the league, prompting the Cowboys to trade him.

DE Charles Tapper

Charles Tapper

Dallas Cowboys DE Charles Tapper (Paul Spinelli via AP)

It's really unfortunate Charles Tapper hasn't really been healthy since joining the Dallas Cowboys. I think he is talented with starting potential, but injuries have prevented him from becoming the player I think he could be. But, just like Kony Ealy, Tapper is stuck in a numbers crunch and will likely be a roster cut when all is said and done.

I'm actually going to be a little disappointed to see Tapper go. I've been a fan of his, but there's comes a time when you have to cut ties, and his time looks as if it's up. He is as physically gifted as just about any defensive end in the NFL, which could mean another team would like to take a chance on him and work out a trade with the Cowboys.

Do you think any of these potential Dallas Cowboys roster cuts get traded?



Continue Reading



Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here

Trending