Dak to rookie DiNucci: ‘Go out there and do you’

  • Covered NFL since 1997, Cowboys since 2003
  • Previously covered Bengals and Dolphins
  • Lives in Dallas area with his wife and two children

FRISCO, Texas — Ben DiNucci isn’t sure whether he will start Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, but Dak Prescott has offered up advice to the Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback.

DiNucci, who has taken the starter’s reps in practice the past two days and would replace Andy Dalton, saw Prescott, who is out for the year because of a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle, on Wednesday at The Star.

“Kind of just walked up to him and said, ‘Hey this isn’t what you said my rookie year was going to be like,'” DiNucci said. “He laughed and gave me a hug and just said, ‘We’ve talked about this. Go out there and do you. Take completions. Trust the guys around you. You’ll be great. Don’t overthink it. Football’s football.’ It’s a game I’ve been playing since seventh grade. Not going to try to make it any more than it is. Going to have fun with it, bring a lot of energy, bring a lot of confidence and let my play speak for itself.”

Dalton remains in the concussion protocol from a vicious hit he took in the third quarter from Washington Football Team linebacker Jon Bostic. He was able to take part in quarterback meetings on Thursday but has yet to practice.

DiNucci took over for an injured Dalton last week. He completed 2-of-3 passes for 39 yards and was sacked three times.

“For me, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. I think, as a rookie seventh-rounder coming in, you see Dak and you see Andy at the top of the depth chart, it’s, ‘Hey, there’s no chance that I’m going to be on the field this year.’ But, hey, this is 2020. What else do you expect? Here we are. Week 8 of my rookie year I’ve got a chance to go out there on Sunday Night Football and do what I love to do. I couldn’t be happier or more excited.”

DiNucci would be the first rookie quarterback for the Cowboys to start a game since Prescott in 2006. Overall, rookie quarterbacks are 3-10 in their debuts in Dallas’ history. The last rookie to win in his first start was Jason Garrett against the Phoenix Cardinals in 1993, but he was pulled in the first quarter in favor of Bernie Kosar, who was signed a few days before the game.

If DiNucci starts against the Eagles, it would mark the first time since 2015 the Cowboys have started at least three different quarterbacks in the same season. In 2015, Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore were needed with Romo suffering a twice-broken collarbone on the way to a 4-12 finish.

“You see right away Ben doesn’t lack confidence just in the way he plays, the way he steps into the huddle,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s definitely a characteristic trait that he brings to the table. It’s important. But frankly that’s the first step. It’s important to continue to play with confidence during the bumpy times. And his first responsibility is to make sure he has total command and he’s doing a really nice job of that.”

With the Green Bay Packers in 2013, McCarthy started four different quarterbacks and still made the playoffs: Aaron Rodgers, Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn.

“I think the biggest thing he told me is just, hey, do you, protect the ball. As long as we have the ball at the end of every play, as long as every drive ends in a kick, whether it’s a field goal, an extra point, a punt, that’s a plus for the offense,” DiNucci said. “I’m going to do what I’m coached to do, take completions, play inside myself and let the rest take care of itself.”

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