Ben DiNucci

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.