FRISCO - Ben DiNucci, the 23-year-old rookie who ended last Sunday in Washington as the Dallas Cowboys QB and begins this week of preparation for next Sunday in Philadelphia in the same role, is right when he says, “This team drafted me for a reason; coach McCarthy brought me here for a reason.''
But not this reason.
DiNucci got his first call into action in the Week 7 loss at Washington in which starting quarterback Andy Dalton was shoved from the game, concussed by an illegal hit - shelving him, at least for awhile, right alongside Dak Prescott, Dallas' true starting QB, who is out for the year following ankle surgery.
At Wednesday's practice here inside The Star in Frisco (indoors at Ford Center due to the cold and drizzling rain), DiNucci was back in action, the James Madison product and seventh-round NFL draft pick doing his best to take charge of Dallas' failing offense. This after a morning media session in which coach Mike McCarthy confirmed that DiNucci will get all the work this week as he does not envision Dalton coming back this week.
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"If my number’s called in the future,'' DiNucci said Sunday, I’m going to make sure that I do everything I can to keep this show on the road and make sure that other guys in the locker room have got as much faith in me as No. 4 (Prescott) and No. 14 (Dalton).”
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DiNucci did not stand out in any negative way in the 25-3 loss at Washington - though his first play was an errant pick to Ezekiel Elliott that resulted in a loose ball.
“Bad pitch by me,” DiNucci said. “Ball’s a little wet. (But) I’m not going to stand up here and make excuses. But, yeah, first pitch was a little bad.''
On the next play, however, DiNucci rifled a 32-yard completion to wide receiver Amari Cooper for his first attempt and completion as a pro.
"The one I hit to Coop there on the sideline, they were playing Cover-2,'' said DiNucci, who ended his debut going 2-for-3 for 39 passing yards while being sacked three times. "Just kind of hit a hole shot in there to him. Heck of a play by him, got us started with a big gain. Big momentum for us. (It's) unfortunate we weren’t able to put points on the board the rest of the day.”
Yes, that was a problem. And it might be a problem in Philly as well. But if so, DiNucci won't be the singular blame; again, his up-and-down debut put him right on par with most every other person involved in this 2-5 team.
"My job, if I’m in there, is to do the same thing as Andy or Dak or whoever else is in there,'' DiNucci said. "So, no time to waste. Just have to try to pick up where they left off.”
That is the right thing to say and the right thing to do. As it's possible that Dalton will remain unavailable all week, maybe DiNucci - who the Cowboys think shares some traits with another low-profile acquisition at QB named "Tony Romo'' - will do something magical here.
Or, maybe DiNucci simply needs to stay grounded in reality.
“If you would have told me a year ago that this is where I was going to be in a year,'' he said, "I think I would say, ‘No way.” You’d have to pinch me. But here we are. It’s 2020. No one really knows what to expect the next day, let alone a week down the road. So here we are.”