Ben DiNucci

Browns Host Large Workout Including WR Kenny Stills, QB Ben DiNucci

Cleveland hosted one of the larger groups we’ve seen this season for tryouts today, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. The group consisted of ten players: six skill position players, one offensive lineman, and three defensive tackles.

The Browns’ quarterback position was one of the most talked about stories of the offseason. As it currently stands, presumed starter Deshaun Watson still has seven games remaining on his suspension, interim starter Jacoby Brissett has led the team to a 2-2 start (good for first place in the AFC North), and backups Joshua Dobbs and Kellen Mond have yet to be seen. Still, the team felt the need to offer an audition to former Cowboys quarterback Ben DiNucci. DiNucci has some experience helping out in a tough spot from his time in Dallas two years ago when both starting quarterback Dak Prescott and backup Andy Dalton were injured. He got one opportunity to start against the Eagles before being benched for the winner of a Cooper RushGarrett Gilbert battle. DiNucci recently tried out for a quarterback practice squad spot in Miami that was awarded to Reid Sinnett.

Similarly, the Browns seem set at running back, utilizing a three-man backfield of Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and D’Ernest Johnson. Yet the team auditioned, two running backs today in undrafted rookie Abram Smith and former Ravens practice squad back Nate McCrary. Smith had signed with the Saints out of college but was waived days before the roster cut deadline. During his lone productive season at Baylor, Smith broke the school’s single-season rushing record with 1,601 yards, adding 12 touchdowns to his resume. McCrary came out of Saginaw Valley State last year, signing in Baltimore as an undrafted free agent. He was the Ravens’ leading rusher in the preseason that year, likely due to the litany of injuries at the position that removed carries from J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill.

Cleveland brought in three wide receivers today including the biggest name of the day, Kenny Stills. The veteran Stills has long seen his most productive years pass by but could still remain an effective deep-threat if needed. Through his first seven years in the league, Stills never averaged less than 14.0 yards per reception and was always good for a few touchdowns. His stats and usage have plummeted in the past two years but, in the right system, Stills could still have some use left in the tank. The team also brought in Jequez Ezzard and Brandon Lewis to audition. Ezzard is a smaller return-specialist who signed with the Commanders after going undrafted out of Sam Houston State this year. Lewis is another smaller receiver who initially signed with Tennessee out of college after going undrafted. Being from the Air Force offense, Lewis never blew up the stat sheet with receiving yards but has a unique skillset to add to an offense as a gadget player who has lots of rushing experience in the Falcons offense.

Another position the Browns brought three players in to audition at was defensive tackle. Cleveland invited Tyler Clark, Prince Emili, and Jordan Williams to work out today. Clark came out of Georgia undrafted two years ago spending time with the Bengals, Chiefs, and Commanders since then but never making an active roster. Emili joined the Bills as an undrafted free agent this year and was even called up to appear in two games on Buffalo’s defense, appearing most recently in the Bills’ win over the Ravens, in which he racked up three tackles and a pass deflection. Williams originally signed with the Dolphins after going undrafted out of Virginia Tech but was waived in mid-August.

Lastly, the Browns worked out undrafted Arkansas offensive tackle Myron Cunningham who initially signed with the Texans but was also waived in mid-August. None of the auditions have resulted in a roster spot yet, practice squad or otherwise, but seeing a group of this size come in for a workout is something to keep an eye on moving forward.

NFL Workouts: Dolphins, Lions, Kindley

In light of the recent injuries to starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and the prospect that he could miss some time, the Dolphins worked out three quarterbacks today, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Ben DiNucci, Jake Fromm, and Reid Sinnett all auditioned in Miami for the depth spot.

DiNucci has some experience helping out in a tough spot from his time with the Cowboys two years ago when both starting quarterback Dak Prescott and backup Andy Dalton were injured. He got one opportunity to start against the Eagles before being benched for the winner of a Cooper RushGarrett Gilbert battle.

Fromm has had a bit of trouble finding the success he enjoyed in college at the NFL-level. Since being drafted in 2020, Fromm has served as a backup for the Bills and Giants. He got two starts while with the Giants that delivered uninspiring returns.

Sinnett has no regular season in-game experience, but he has spent time previously with the Dolphins. Miami ended going with familiarity, signing Sinnett to their practice squad. This is all a practice in contingencies as the Dolphins can still rely on backup quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson.

Here are a few other workout notes from across the NFL, starting with a bunch of kickers:

  • The Lions are dealing with a combination of injuries and struggles at kicker. Austin Seibert is dealing with a right groin injury and the kicker brought in to replace him, Dominik Eberle, missed two extra points last weekend. Detroit brought in Lirim Hajrullahu for a tryout today, according to Wilson.
  • The Giants brought in offensive lineman Solomon Kindley for a visit today, according to Wilson. Kindley started much of his rookie season at right guard for the Dolphins, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2020. His workload decreased in Year 2 down to only two starts before he was eventually waived just prior to the 2022 regular season. New York is likely reaching out due to injuries that seventh-overall pick Evan Neal is dealing with. Kindley doesn’t have much experience at tackle, but he can provide the offensive line with a little more depth that can allow for some flexibility.

Cowboys Set 53-Man Roster

The Cowboys got their roster down to 53 players today, and to get there, they cut all their backup QB options, their kicker, and their long snapper:

Released:

Waived:

Waived/injured:

Placed on reserve/NFI:

The Cowboys are currently rolling without a second QB behind Dak Prescott after the team moved on from Cooper Rush, Will Grier, and Ben DiNucci. Rush has the most experience of the group, appearing in 10 career games, including five appearances (one start) with Dallas in 2021. The 28-year-old finished last season having completed 30 of his 47 pass attempts for 422 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. The Cowboys also aren’t rostering a kicker or long snapper at the moment, something that will certainly change over the next few days.

Special teams ace C.J. Goodwin could also land back on the active roster once the dust settles. Goodwin has spent the past four seasons in Dallas, and he hasn’t missed a game over the past three years. The 32-year-old finished last season with a career-high 10 tackles.

Cowboys To Waive QB Ben DiNucci

Ben DiNucci will not be on the Cowboys’ 53-man roster to start the season. Dallas is cutting the third-year passer, Todd Archer of ESPN.com tweets.

The former seventh-round pick was behind Cooper Rush and Will Grier on the Dak Prescott-topped depth chart. Rush and Grier have vied for the backup job during the preseason, and the presence of both could impact DiNucci’s status as a practice squad arm.

That said, the Cowboys kept three quarterbacks last season, with Rush — who returned after his Giants stint — and Grier on the team’s active roster. DiNucci, who started a game and played in three during Prescott’s injury hiatus in 2020, spent last season on Dallas’ P-squad. DiNucci, who attempted 43 passes as a rookie out of James Madison two years ago, stayed with the team via reserve/futures contract this offseason.

Teams must pare their rosters from 80 to 53 by 3pm Tuesday. Waiver claims will process Wednesday afternoon. At that point, teams can begin assembling their practice squads. Despite the NFL doing away with the reserve/COVID-19 list this season, taxi squads remain at 16 players. If the Cowboys are planning to keep the same arrangement as 2021, DiNucci — should he clear waivers — would be on track to stick with the organization as its fourth QB.

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/17/22

Here are today’s reserve/futures deals:

Dallas Cowboys

Las Vegas Raiders

New England Patriots

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.

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.

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.