FRISCO, Texas – Saturday night's showing clearly made an impression on the Cowboys' coaching staff.
When the Cowboys return to practice on Tuesday morning, head coach Mike McCarthy confirmed it will be Cooper Rush taking the first-team reps at quarterback, rather than Garrett Gilbert.
"He has earned this opportunity, absolutely," McCarthy said Monday.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who watched the 20-14 loss to Houston on Saturday. Rush entered the game at the tail end of the first quarter, after the offense sputtered in two lackluster possessions under Gilbert's guidance.
The improvement was instant, as Rush guided the first team to its first touchdown of the preseason, moving 75 yards in just five snaps. For the night, Rush finished a solid 10-of-12 for 97 yards and two touchdowns in five possessions of work.
"He was always prepared for his opportunity," McCarthy said. "He fought through two injuries, both the shoulder and the back. I thought he played well against Houston. He has earned this opportunity."
It's not a stretch to say Rush felt like a bit of an afterthought for most of this camp. As McCarthy noted, he was held out of practice on a few occasions with various bumps and bruises. And from the time Dak Prescott stopped throwing at practice due to a shoulder strain, it has been Gilbert who has taken all the first-team reps in his place.
Rush does have a bit of a leg up in terms of familiarity, though. Prior to being released in favor of Andy Dalton in the spring of 2020, he had been with the Cowboys for three seasons, including Kellen Moore's first full season as offensive coordinator in 2019. He re-signed in Dallas last October, which means he's been in the building for the vast majority of Moore's time calling the offense.
"You know, I've been around it for five years pretty much. So, it's definitely a comfort level," Rush said of Moore's offense. "You get a good flow of how he calls the game, kind of what's coming next. As you put in during the week you obviously you don't have to scramble your brain, what's going on, and stuff like that so that you're really comfortable with it."
Asked about the quarterback depth chart following the game, McCarthy said the Cowboys had one more week to figure it out – "and we're going to need it."
Dak Prescott is expected to increase his workload this week, but it still sounds like he won't be competing in the team portions of practice. In the meantime, this seems to be the first step in a crucial final week of deciding who is backup might be.