Ben DiNucci

Wednesday NFL Transactions: NFC East

Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These CowboysEaglesGiants and Washington moves are noted below.

Here are Wednesday’s NFC East transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.

Dallas Cowboys

Signed to practice squad:

New York Giants

Placed on IR:

Signed:

Claimed:

Waived:

Signed to practice squad:

Philadelphia Eagles

Signed to practice squad:

Washington Football Team

Placed on IR:

Signed:

Signed to practice squad:

Cowboys Cut Garrett Gilbert, Ben DiNucci

Same as it ever was. Dak Prescott will begin his sixth season as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, and Cooper Rush is set to be his backup. The Cowboys, however, will part ways with two other quarterbacks — Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci — on roster cutdown day.

Gilbert and DiNucci played roles during Dallas’ dreadful 2020 season, which featured Prescott go down in October and Rush begin the season with Jason Garrett in New York. A year later, the Cowboys have restored their late-2010s status quo.

I just think that he’s shown that he can run the complete offense,” Jerry Jones said of Rush. “Credit to him, he had some tough competition. Those guys didn’t cut him any slack. He’s had a lot of reps – a lot of our quarterbacks have, because of the absence of Dak.”

Rush spent three seasons with the Cowboys, from 2017-19, and will be the only non-Prescott passer on this year’s squad. The Cowboys signed Gilbert off the Browns’ practice squad shortly after Prescott went down. DiNucci arrived in Dallas as a 2020 seventh-round pick. Both quarterbacks ended up making one start apiece last season, one that featured plenty of Andy Dalton, who departed for Chicago in March.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Cowboys, Giants, Toney, Bears

Most of the talk about Cowboys quarterbacks this offseason has understandably revolved around Dak Prescott, his new contract, and his comeback from a devastating ankle injury. But flying a bit under the radar is the team’s unsettled backup QB situation. Last year the team had an established veteran backup in Andy Dalton, who ended up becoming the starter when Prescott went down. Dalton is off in Chicago now, leaving Dallas with very little on the depth chart. The team currently has only Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush, and Ben DiNucci behind Prescott.

Rush has thrown three career passes, and DiNucci (a 2020 seventh-rounder) and Gilbert have each made one start. That’s led to some speculation the Cowboys could add a veteran backup. Barring a bigger name veteran addition, Gilbert is currently the “favorite” to backup Prescott in 2021, Rob Phillips of the team’s official site writes. Phillips frames it as a battle between Gilbert and Rush without even mentioning DiNucci, who was disastrous in his lone 2020 start in primetime against the Eagles. Gilbert almost led Dallas to an upset victory over the Steelers in his one start last year, and was a star in the ill-fated AAF.

Here’s more from around the NFC as we kickoff the new week and continue to await training camps:

  • Elsewhere in the NFC East, it sounds like the Giants are scheming up various ways to get Kadarius Toney involved as a rookie. New York has Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton already at receiver, so it might be hard for the 20th overall pick of this past draft to get heavy targets right away. That doesn’t mean Toney won’t get touches. The Giants are “motivated to get the ball in his hands, whether it’s out of the backfield, on jet sweeps, screen passes or maybe in the Wildcat formation,” Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com writes. Raanan writes they want him to be a year-one factor, and that “they believe the best way to make that happen is to tap into his versatility.” In other words, use him as a gadget player. The Florida product should be fun to watch.
  • Heading down to the NFC South, Buccaneers receiver Antonio Brown may have just had his probation terminated early to close his previous criminal case, but he still has civil case headaches to deal with. In addition to a lawsuit from a truck driver alleging assault that came in mid-May, Brown was apparently hit with another lawsuit later that month. This time, it’s from a sports marketing company alleging that Brown didn’t pay them commission on $2MM in earnings they got him, Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The company, KCB Marketing, is seeking over $100K in damages.

Cowboys To Bench Ben DiNucci

After his rough outing against the Eagles, the Cowboys will bench quarterback Ben DiNucci, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Instead, the Cowboys will allow Cooper Rush and Garrett Gilbert to compete for the top job in practice.

The Cowboys entered the season with one of the best starter/backup situations in the league. Then came Dak Prescott‘s injury, followed by Andy Dalton‘s concussion and COVID-19 diagnosis. That led the Cowboys to DiNucci, who is not quite ready for primetime.

A former UDFA out of Central Michigan, Rush spent three seasons with the Cowboys, spent a bit of time with the Giants, then returned to Dallas in late October. Rush has appeared in five games for the Cowboys, exclusively in a mop-up role. Gilbert, meanwhile, has no NFL starts to his credit — his only first-string pro experience came with the Orlando Apollos, a team in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football.

Between the two, whoever emerges as the better option in practice this week will be the Cowboys’ starter against the Steelers on Sunday afternoon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Rule Out Andy Dalton For Week 8

The Cowboys will not have Andy Dalton available in their annual Sunday-night game against the Eagles. They downgraded the veteran passer to out due to the concussion he suffered in Week 7.

Third-stringer Ben DiNucci will start in Philadelphia. Dalton has yet to clear the protocol after taking an illegal hit from Washington linebacker Jon Bostic, and it will result in an unusual starting offense for the team many expected to win the NFC East this season.

Dallas is already down starting tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins for the season. Although Cameron Erving is back from IR at right tackle, DiNucci will represent an obvious change for a team that has not needed to deviate from its quarterback plan in many years. Dak Prescott started 64 straight games from 2016-19. DiNucci being summoned to start reminds of the 2015 season, when Tony Romo‘s injuries resulted in the Cowboys giving starts to Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden and current OC Kellen Moore.

DiNucci spent the past two seasons as the starter at Division I-FCS James Madison. The former Pitt recruit led the Dukes to the D-I-FCS national championship game, when they lost to North Dakota State and likely 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance. While DiNucci led the FCS level with a 71% completion rate last season and accounted for 35 TDs (six rushing), his forced ascent illustrates how far off course this Cowboys season has drifted. DiNucci completed 2 of 3 passes for 39 yards and took three sacks in Dallas’ 25-3 loss to Washington.

The Cowboys have Garrett Gilbert in place as DiNucci’s backup. Despite being drafted in the 2014 sixth round, Gilbert has only played in six games and thrown six passes as a pro.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Signings: 7/20/20

With training camps looming, teams are rushing to get picks signed. Here are the latest draft deals:

  • The Falcons signed third-round center Matt Hennessy. The No. 78 overall pick is set to develop behind Pro Bowler Alex Mack, whose contract expires after the 2020 season. Atlanta’s Hennessy pick caused Denver to change course, with the Broncos having a deal in place with the Jets to move up to No. 79 to draft the Temple blocker. But the Falcons struck one pick earlier, allocating another early-round resource to their offensive line after using two first-round picks on the group last year.
  • The Jets were busy Monday, signing three of their 2020 draftees. Third-round pass rusher Jabari Zuniga (Florida), fourth-round quarterback James Morgan (Florida International) and sixth-round punter Braden Mann (Texas A&M) are now under contract. Mann is on track to be Gang Green’s punter, while Zuniga may a rotational role from the outset. Despite an apparent need, the Jets were not especially aggressive in addressing their years-long edge-rushing issue this offseason. Morgan will be on track for the developmental route, with the Jets having signed Joe Flacco after the draft.
  • Two Cowboys picks agreed to terms as well. Fifth-round defensive end Bradlee Anae (Utah) and seventh-round quarterback Ben DiNucci are under contract. Both project as backups, with the latter — a former Pitt recruit who transferred to James Madison — joining Clayton Thorson as UDFA QBs behind Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton.