What’s been the best feel-good story of the NFL season thus far? Tom Brady’s short-lived retirement and return to football? Maybe it’s the Eagles’ 4-0 start behind Jalen Hurts who was getting tons of criticism during the offseason. Or what about those Jacksonville Jaguars? Proving they can compete with teams behind second-year stud Trevor Lawrence. All of those would be good picks and normally would be difficult to argue against, that’s if it wasn’t for the undrafted quarterback from Central Michigan who’s currently excelling in Dallas filling in for an injured Dak Prescott: Cooper Rush.
Cooper Rush came into the league back in 2017 when he signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent, but it wasn’t until last year on Halloween night that the league was introduced to him. Rush got to start for one game in order to fill in for an injured Dak Prescott when the Cowboys played the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football. Rush made the most of that opportunity getting a win in his first career start, many believe this win was a career-altering performance that earned him the opportunity to compete for and inevitably wins the backup quarterback job again this season.
It didn’t take long for Cooper Rush to be thrown back into action this year as Prescott exited week one with a hand fracture in a 19-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Everyone everywhere immediately began to write Dallas off saying their season was over as the initial report stated Dak would need six to eight weeks to recover from this injury. It’s understandable why so many would assume a team couldn’t stay afloat for that long if they didn’t have a reliable backup option. What they didn’t know was that Cooper Rush would solidify himself as one of the best backup options around the league.
Three weeks later, Dallas finds themselves at 3-1 and sitting in second place of the NFC East behind only the Philadelphia Eagles, the lone remaining undefeated team in the NFL. While Cooper Rush has played very well stepping in, there are a lot of things going well around him as well. Let’s break down some of the biggest factors behind the Cowboys’ success with Cooper Rush under center.
Biggest Factors With Cooper Rush At Quarterback
Effective Running Game
A good running game is a quarterback’s best friend, and what Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard have been doing on the ground has tremendously helped not only Cooper Rush but the team as a whole win game in Prescott’s absence. Elliot is the power back who can run between the tackles and bruise a defense while Pollard gets to be the explosive speedster who can break loose at any moment. That combination has already had them considered to be the best running back tandem in the league by a lot of people.
The way they’ve been able to lift some of the weight off of Rush’s shoulders is only helping that argument. In the three games that Rush has started so far, they together are averaging 109 yards a game on the ground. This type of rushing attack opens up a lot of play-action and soft coverage during the game, which allows offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to dial up easy completions for his backup quarterback.
The Dallas defense throughout four weeks of the season has been absolutely lights out. The unit has yet to allow a team to score 20 points on them even facing the likes of teams like Tampa Bay and Cincinnati. Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs have both picked right back up from their amazing breakout performances last year and are playing stellar football once again. Parsons has four sacks so far this season and is making plays all over the field lining up as a linebacker and edge rusher. Diggs has two interceptions and is slowly putting the yards-allowed narrative to bed as he has most often just been very good in coverage this season.
They are not alone, however. So many guys are making an impact on the defensive side of things this season including Demarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Donovan Wilson, and so many others. Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn is putting all of his guys in a position to succeed and will continue to do so with help on the way as Jayron Kearse, one of the unit’s best players looks to work his way back from injury.
Finding Their Identity
Possibly the biggest blessing in disguise, well the only blessing in disguise to Prescott being injured is the way the gameplan has been simplified to help Cooper Rush play more comfortably with this team. The strategy is to manage the clock with a good run game and allow an elite defense to do its work. Kellen Moore isn’t being too cute with play calls, the boneheaded mistakes from last season have died down a lot, and most importantly the ball is not being put in harm’s way. The Dallas Cowboys have found a formula in the last few weeks that they should be allowed to emulate when Dak is ready to return.
No one truly knows when Prescott’s return will be, but he recently stated that he would like to return to face the Rams in week five. He followed it up by stating that a return against the Eagles the following week was more realistic. However, owner Jerry Jones says the team will not rush him back and will allow him to get fully healthy. Until whenever that is the team will continue to roll with Cooper Rush, the only quarterback in franchise history to begin his career 4-0 as a starter.