Going into this 2021 training camp we weren't sure exactly how the Dallas Cowboys felt about their reserve quarterbacks. But based on this first week of practices, it's clear that Garrett Gilbert is the primary backup to Dak Prescott now and for the upcoming season if nothing changes.
Gilbert's one solid game against Pittsburgh last year wasn't enough for us to be sure. After all, Ben DiNucci is a younger prospect that the team just drafted and Cooper Rush was trusted as QB2 from 2017-2019.
But it's been well established now through recent camp reports that there's a clear pecking order among the passers. Garrett appears to have been exclusively receiving the 2nd-team reps while DiNucci and Rush are vying for opportunities at the lower half of the depth chart.
Dallas' confidence in Gilbert was enough that they didn't sign any more-experienced quarterback during the offseason. Even though free agents like Jeff Driskel and Brett Hundley (a former McCarthy player, no less) came in for visits, the Cowboys have ultimately trusted that someone from their current group would be a sufficient backup for 2021.
Given the treatment he's received so far in camp, that trust seems to have a lot to do with Garrett Gilbert.
The tale of Gilbert's big day against Pittsburgh in 2020 has gotten taller over time. While Dallas did come close to upsetting the then-undefeated Steelers, Garrett's actual performance was nothing more than adequate.
It also helped he came in a week after Ben DiNucci took the bar and dropped it on the floor. There was nowhere to go but up.
Some have suggested that Gilbert should have remained starter even after Andy Dalton came back, which isn't defensible statistically, analytically, or even by the good ol' eye test. But he did do enough to remain QB2 for the rest of that year behind Dalton and to have now carried over into 2021.
Obviously, nobody in their right mind wants to see Garrett Gilbert or any other QB taking snaps this year for Dallas other than Dak Prescott. And unlike Tony Romo in 2006, this isn't a situation where some prospect is seen as a potential upgrade over the current starter.
But still, as we know painfully well now as Cowboys fans, QB2 is a critical component of any NFL roster. As bad as losing the starter is in any situation, we saw in 2016 with Dak how having the right guy ready can make a huge difference.
Hopefully, we'll never find out how much a difference-maker Garrett Gilbert can be. But unless something changes over the next month with these quarterbacks, it appears he's going to be the next man up for the Cowboys in 2021.