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Mick Shots: Who's Next Is The Big Question


FRISCO, Texas – Who's next?

No, not the album by The Who.

Not even who will be the next president of the United States, though did make the wisecrack on Tuesday after we found out Andy Dalton had been placed on reserve/COVID-19 what will we find out first:

Who actually won the United States presidential election?

Or who will be the next Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Sunday against the defensively rough-and-tumble Steelers?

At this point early Wednesday evening, looks like it's a tossup.

Either Biden or Trump since we are waiting for an antiquated counting system of absentee and mail-in ballots to be tabulated.

As for the Cowboys, either Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush, since Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy eliminated the possibility of rookie quarterback Ben DiNucci making two consecutive starts with those alternatives now available.

Said he made that part of the decision based on the other two guys' experience. He meant in the NFL, including preseason games since DiNucci had no exhibition snaps this summer. Gilbert is the most seasoned, having spent five seasons on and off practice squads with St. Louis, New England, Oakland and Carolina before emerging in the preseason of 2019 with Cleveland to earn a backup spot on the Browns roster.

In fact, his coming out party that year was in a preseason game, as documented on In the Browns second preseason game Saturday against the Colts, however, Gilbert looked like a seasoned NFL veteran. He squeezed passes into tight windows and found open receivers to lead the Browns offense in the first half of their 21-18 win over the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Gilbert would appear in five games for the Browns last year, but still hasn't started an NFL game … yet. His career NFL snaps in six regular-season games total 21.

As for Rush, he had spent the previous three seasons with the Cowboys as a backup to Dak Prescott. The Cowboys never needed him to start a game. But he did appear in five games for mop-up duty. His career NFL snaps total is 26.

Those two combined to complete three of nine passes for 42 yards.

But if we're getting technical, out of the threesome, the rookie DiNucci actually totals the most NFL regular-season snaps, 91, and one start. His totals are 23 of 43 for 219 yards.

"With the opponent that we're playing, we need some more experience at that position," McCarthy said, with little argument here.

We should know his decision maybe by Friday, since he'd like the chosen one to take starter snaps during Saturday's practice. But then that's if he's in a divulging mood since McCarthy moved Wednesday's practice into the privacy of the Ford Center.

Who knows? Might not find out until 3:25 p.m. Sunday when the undefeated Steelers (7-0) march into AT&T Stadium.

As for the prez, maybe a smidge before that if the courts don't get involved.

And proud of myself. No cheap shots.

  • Who Cares: Must be comforting to Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin arriving in Arlington Sunday with the NFL's fifth-ranked defense, sixth in scoring defense and leading the league with 30 sacks, 18.5 of those belonging to T.J. Watt (6.5), Stephon Tuitt (6) and Bud Dupree (6). So, as for maybe not getting a heads up on just who the Cowboys will start at quarterback on Sunday, Tomlin shrugged off the espionage, saying, "Either way, we're getting ready for Ezekiel Elliott. He's one of the best in the business, and I'd imagine common sense tells you he'll be a central figure in any plan." Especially if the Cowboys overly focus on the Steelers last game when Baltimore rushed for 265 yards, by far a season high, with Denver's 104 the previous high in Game 2.
  • Hunter the Punt: This has been a long time coming, since Cowboys veteran punter Chris Jones has been dealing with an abdominal muscle issue most of last season. Jones certainly hasn't been his old self this season, averaging just 42.6 yards with a net of 40.2. He is scheduled for surgery on Thursday, meaning practice squad punter Hunter Niswander, a rookie signed on Oct 26, will handle the punting chores, and who knows, possibly for the remainder of the season. And unless someone else tries their hand at it, since Jones has also been the Cowboys holder on place kicks, Niswander figures to kneel in there, too. The combination of Jones holding snaps from L.P. Ladouceur has been flawless.
  • Huge Trade: As in bringing in a huge guy, the Cowboys agreeing to send a 2022 seventh-round pick to Houston for 6-3, 325-pound defensive tackle Eli Ankou, in his fourth season out of UCLA. Played 11 games with Jacksonville in 2017-18, then in 2019 was signed by Cleveland off the Jaguars practice squad and had two starts in nine games. He was waived on the final cuts in 2020, claimed by Indianapolis where he was inactive the first five games and waived. Houston claimed him on Oct. 19 then traded him to the Cowboys. He will clear COVID-19 testing protocol on Thursday when he's eligible to begin practicing.
  • Where You Be: That's Chidobe Awuzie. McCarthy early last week sounded optimistic over the Cowboys starting cornerback being ready to go in Philadelphia, but McCarthy said the day after the game he was "not quite ready." Cowboys owner Jerry Jones seems optimistic Awuzie will be ready this Sunday, but Wednesday McCarthy was vague on the matter, pointing out he was scheduled to practice, "but I don't know if he's going to play or not." Since Awuzie still is on injured reserve, the Cowboys don't have to list his status in practice.
  • Shorter Shots: Beware this stat, the Steelers fourth in the NFL with 13 takeaways, one short of the lead (Seattle, Kansas City and Cleveland, and the Cowboys dead last with 18 giveaways, three of those inflating the Browns total) … Still curious why what turned out to be Rodney McLeod's 53-yard fumble return for a touchdown to give Philly a 21-9 lead Sunday was not reviewed for more than maybe five seconds, providing a prime example of why coaches should be able to challenge scoring plays … Maybe also need to challenge neutral-zone infractions, too, since that also occurred on that play, Jones very judiciously saying, "We thought it deserved to be really analyzed." … Maybe replay official Ross Smith had dinner reservations at Pietro's, our yearly dining spot in downtown Philly we missed this time around.

Final word goes to me this week, with so many at the trade deadline bringing up the Cowboys' 1989 trade of Herschel Walker to Minnesota for the boatload of draft choices tied to the Vikings players that the Cowboys really didn't want. But what most don't remember is new Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson was not a fan of Walker's straight-line running style and knew he would be moving on from the two-time Pro Bowl running back the next year. Another great hunch Jimmy played, winding up in 1990 with some guy named Emmitt Smith. And how fortunate the Cowboys were that they spent what turned out to be the first pick in the 1990 draft on his Miami quarterback Steve Walsh in the 1989 supplemental draft. Because in 1990, with the second pick in the draft, the Jets selected running back Blair Thomas, considered at the time the top back in the draft. The next running back to go was Emmitt at 17. My guess is with that first pick the Cowboys would have taken Jimmy's All-American defensive tackle, Cortez Kennedy, going third to Seattle, especially since with the first pick in the 1991 draft, Jimmy grabbed his other All-American defensive tackle from Miami, Russell Maryland.

Oh, and my money is on finding out about the election first.

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