IRVING, Texas – Matt Cassel and his wife welcomed their fourth child, Clayton, over the bye weekend -- perfect timing while Dad gets ready for his debut as the Cowboys' quarterback.
"I kind of slept in the room the other night to get some rest," Cassel said with a smile Wednesday. "I wonder how long that's going to last before she brings me in and makes me do the bottle feeding. But she's great about it."
It's been a cram session of sorts for Cassel since he arrived in a trade with Buffalo a month ago -- first preparing as Brandon Weeden's backup, and now preparing as the starter Sunday against the Giants with Tony Romo (fractured collarbone) due to miss a minimum of four more games on the Reserve/Injured-Designated to Return list.
Last week's pair of practices were Cassel's first with the starting offense. The 11-year veteran is on his fifth NFL team, and he says the Cowboys' scheme is sort of a combination of three or four systems in which he previously played. The biggest challenge has been retraining his mind to combine all the different terminology.
"My comfort level with the guys has been great," he said. "Last week I think with the bye week, having two extra days of practice, was very helpful, actually getting in there and getting some rhythm with those guys. Now it's just about building each and every day leading up to the game.
"I think so far, so good. I haven't had much work with them, but at the same time I think this is a veteran group and they're doing a really good job."
Head coach Jason Garrett announced last week that Cassel would start against the Giants after the Cowboys lost their third straight game with Weeden under center. The team's six points Oct. 11 in a 24-point loss to the Patriots was its lowest total since 2004.
And, at 2-3 with Romo out another month and wide receiver Dez Bryant (foot) uncertain for Sunday, the Cowboys badly need a win at New York to keep pace in the NFC East race.
Cassel, 33, offers seven extra years' experience and nearly 50 more starts than Weeden.
Garrett emphasized, though, that it will take a team effort to help Cassel succeed -- just as Weeden needed help in his three starts against the Falcons, Saints and Patriots.
"I think there's a lot to like about him," Garrett said of Cassel. "He's physically capable of doing anything we ask him to do. He's a big guy, he moves around, he can make any throw we could ask him to make, he's a veteran player.
"He has good command of the offense in a short period of time. You can tell he's been in a lot of different offenses. He understands offensive football, he understands defensive football. We're just excited to see him play. He's done a nice job in the practice work he's gotten here in the last few days."
The Cowboys want more from their 18th-ranked running game, which is averaging 106.2 yards per contest. The defense has not registered a takeaway during this three-game losing streak.
And the receivers know they must make Cassel's job easier by winning coverage matchups and building trust.
"It comes down to the small things and details in routes and basically just finding ways for Matt to throw you the ball, because he's a great quarterback, a great leader," Terrance Williams said. "Whenever you present a presentable, throwable target, the ball will come to you perfect.
"We have to find ways to get open and present him a great target."