ARLINGTON, Texas – For all the buzz he's generating during these preseason games, Cooper Rush said his moment of clarity came during the dog days of training camp.
It's easy to gloss over the 27-day grind of the Cowboys' time in Oxnard. Almost a full month's worth of grueling practices and repetitive drills. The starters get the bulk of the work, the backups come next. The third-string feels almost like an afterthought.
Not for the guys fighting for jobs, though, and not for Cowboys coach Jason Garrett – and certainly not for Rush, who was presented with an opportunity by his coach and seized it.
"There was one day back in Oxnard. The three's didn't know we were going, and Coach Garrett said the three's were up – and we just did a drive," Rush said on Saturday. "That's where it really clicked. I got in a rhythm, and it was like a 12-play drive – went all the way down the field. Those were valuable reps and momentum that I could carry into games."
To say Rush has carried that momentum into the preseason would be a woeful understatement. Through three of the Cowboys' five exhibition games, he is arguably the story of the summer.
In Saturday's 24-19 win against the Colts, he led the offense in four of its five second half possessions, and he shined again. Rush completed 8-of-9 passes for 92 yards on the night, finding Noah Brown for an 18-yard touchdown and Lance Lenoir from three yards out.
This latest performance gives the rookie quarterback a sterling record through the preseason. In three games, he has combined to complete 26-of-38 passes for 283 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
"What he's been able to do every time he's come in is help our team move the ball and score points," Garrett said.
Nobody who has watched this team in the preseason needed Garrett to tell them that. Of course, there were some who didn't need to see an exhibition game to believe in Rush. After playing a fantastic first quarter of football himself, Dak Prescott was quick to praise the rookie's performance throughout the past few months.
"I've been one of Cooper's biggest fans since the moment he got here," Prescott said. "You can ask Orlando Scandrick – he told Cooper I was handing out applications for his fan club."
Prescott might have been the first one on the bandwagon, but it has filled up quickly during the month of August. Dating back to his strong outing against the Los Angeles Rams last weekend, fans began to wonder if Rush was the better option at backup quarterback than Kellen Moore.[embeddedad0]
Rush's continued success on Saturday, coupled with another forgettable outing from Moore, prompted that question to be asked out loud.
"I'm just glad to see Rush taking advantage of his opportunities out there," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. We wouldn't want to get ahead of ourselves, in any way here. We have a lot of confidence in 17."
Not surprisingly, Rush wasn't about to engage that line of questioning. As an undrafted free agent, his priority is simply to earn a job – any job.
"Right now I just want to be on this roster," he said. "It's really all I think about – building every day and every game on each other and keep improving."
To this point, that's exactly what he's done. If he keeps it up, he's going to give the Cowboys quite a bit to think about.