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Mick Shots: A Who's Who Schedule Of Quarterbacks


FRISCO, Texas – With one more OTA practice to go on Thursday, three minicamp practices to follow next week, then it's "school's out for summer," er, at least until the start of training camp the fourth full week in July.

That's six full weeks of dead time.

That's a long time for these Cowboys defensive guys to consider the quarterback gauntlet they will face with this 2024 season schedule.

Like, usually when considering the new schedule, first taking into account opponents' records from last year, order of games and for sure if there are any or many cold weather games lined up.

Well, here is one didn't immediately consider:

Strength of quarterbacks. Oh my.

Short of having to face the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes or Matthew Stafford, the Cowboys will travel through the Burma Road of quarterbacks this season.

The Cowboys potentially will face seven of the top 11 rated quarterbacks of last season, and one of the four not included in that group is their own Dak Prescott, his 105.9 ranked second behind league leader Brock Purdy's 113.0.

So, in order of rankings after Purdy and Dak, get this:

No. 3 Kurt Cousins (Atlanta).

No. 4 Lamar Jackson (Baltimore).

No. 6 C.J. Stroud (Houston).

Maybe No. 8 Russell Wilson (Pittsburgh), that is if former Chicago 2021 first -rounder Justin Fields doesn't beat him out.

No. 9 Jared Goff (Detroit).

No. 12 Baker Mayfield (Tampa Bay).

And for good measure, also let's throw in there Cincinnati's Joe Burrow, injuries limiting him to just 10 games last year, but ranked No. 6 in 2022 at 100.6 and ranked No. 2 in2021 at 108.3. And let's not totally dismiss two games vs. Philly's Jalen Hurts, his 2023 rating of 89.4 dropping to No. 20 from his 2022 high of No. 4 at 101.5.

Get out of here.

Good thing corner Trevon Diggs is returning from his torn ACL of last year, the Cowboys hoping good as new to pair with DaRon Bland and Jourdan Lewis at corner. And that pass rush better be on point, having lost Dorance Armstrong (7½ sacks) and Dante Fowler Jr. in free agency (four sacks, 32 pressures).

Yep, just another on paper hurdle for the Cowboys to become the first NFC East champs to repeat since 2004.

  • Wide Open: With the Cowboys liking to sign wide receiver CeeDee Lamb to a long-term extension that would lessen that 2024 cap impact of his fifth-year option charging $17.9 million, NFL teams continue to throw oodles of money at wide receivers. We know CeeDee's 2023 contributions, with Cowboys single-season highs of 135 receptions, 1,749 yards and a team-leading 14 total touchdowns. Well, the latest is Houston wide receiver Nico Collins, compiling three-year numbers of 150 catches for 2,224 yards and 11 touchdowns, just signing a three-year extension for $72.5 million ($24.5 million average) to become the seventh highest paid receiver. Why the Titans just signed Calvin Ridley to a four-year, $92 million deal with $50 million guaranteed, this for a guy who stepped away after five games in 2021 for mental health reasons while in Atlanta, then suspended the 2022 season for gambling and then producing a 2023 season for Jacksonville worth 76 catches for 1,016 yards and 10 touchdowns. And remember, the Eagles made A.J. Brown the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL by signing the sixth-year receiver to a three-year, $96 million extension, now leading the league averaging $32 million a year. Taking all of this into account, what you think CeeDee's folks are asking for, since in four seasons the three-time Pro Bowl receiver has amassed 395 receptions, for 5,145 and 32 touchdowns, along with five more rushing and one more on a kickoff return? We talking shooting for the moon at $40 million? All these comps in his negotiating favor.
  • Private Lessons: Last year's first round pick Mazi Smith, continuing to rehab from offseason shoulder surgery, sure seems to be getting one-on-one conditioning work with Cowboys strength and conditioning coordinator Harold Nash. While not scheduled to resume football work until the start of training camp, The Maz seems to be Nash's pet project during his current rehab and conditioning workouts, and if nothing else, his diminished weight from last year notwithstanding, he should be in tip-top football conditioning.
  • Sleeper Target: For good reason, keep asking myself after taking in a couple of these OTA practices in person who's this No. 80 out there? He's big, 6-3. And seems to run like the 80- mph wind blowing over my house Tuesday morning, knocking out the power, the WiFi and me out of bed. Name is Racey McMath, and my eyes are not deceiving, ran a 4.39 pre-draft 40 out of LSU and a sixth-round pick of the Titans, riddled his first couple of seasons by injuries and spending last year on the Cowboys practice squad. Intriguing.
  • Short Shots: While these OTA and upcoming minicamp practices are pretty sanitized, can't wait to see Trey Lance get into some ultra-competitive reps during training camp and especially in preseason games, and wouldn't be surprised if the fourth-year QB gets a start or two . . . Anxious to see how the Cowboys might carve out a role for last year's sixth-round pick Deuce Vaughn to get him on the field more than the 61 snaps of last season, 43 of those over the first four games, then inactive for eight games and landing on IR the final regular season game . . . Another one of those anxious to see more of this training camp is Eric Scott, the cornerback from Southern Mississippi thought enough of to trade this year's fifth-rounder to grab him with Kansas City's first pick in the sixth last year, though a game-day inactive all 17 games . . . Will also find out if there is something to OT Earl Bostick, considered an intriguing rookie free agent developmental pickup last year out of Kansas who spent the entire season on the practice squad.

And this came up on today's Mick Shots, the NFL still considering at some point expanding the regular season to 18 games, thus reducing the preseason to just two, keeping with the 20-game total season established in 1978, though for the next 23 seasons teams playing a preseason game abroad, in Mexico or in the Hall of Fame game could end up with five preseason games.

So, for today's last word, we turn to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who addressed the possibility during last week's NFL meetings.

"The key thing for us is looking at making sure we continue to do the things that make our game safer," Goodell said. "Seventeen games is a long season, so we want to make sure we look at that and make sure that we continue the safety efforts."

Goodell would go on to add, "Working with our players association is No. 2. We would reach an agreement with them if we're going to proceed on that. But also, third, and this is not necessarily in order, is the quality of our game. We would do it in the context of reducing the number of preseason games. We think that's a good trade: Less preseason games and more regular-season games. I think most anybody would think that was beneficial.

"But again, those other two factors are important."

Here's a fourth brought up today on Mick Shots by former Cowboys nine-year veteran cornerback and Super Bowl XXV winner with the Giants Everson Walls, wanting to know is that means the players under current contracts would receive more money for playing more games, and he didn't want to hear that playing just two preseason games instead of the current three in the 17-game regular season is any sort of financial concession.

As we know in this world, money does talk.