QB Still Growing, But How Ready Is McGee?

With No. 2 quarterback Jon Kitna still resting what appears to be a serious, potentially season-ending back injury, the light has begun to shine a bit brighter on one of the most often overlooked players on the Cowboys roster.

Third-year developmental passer Stephen McGee typically gets plenty of attention in the preseason, but very little when the games on consequence roll around. However, he's slid into the role of Tony Romo's immediate backup amid Kitna's injury, and the Cowboys are doing more to prepare him in case he has to play.

"He's just one step closer," Garrett said. "He gets a lot of the stuff Jon was getting. Typically he and Jon split the scout team reps. He's obviously getting all of those. He's getting more work in the individual and group drills with the first guys. His work load increases a little bit. I think he'll benefit from that."

Last year in Arizona, McGee made his regular season NFL debut, leading a go-ahead touchdown drive late in the game before the Cowboys gave away the lead with a missed extra point and field goal drive by Arizona. Against a team of Eagles backups to close out the season the next week, he and the offense were mediocre for the majority of the game, until he threw the game-winning touchdown to Jason Witten in the final minute.

Whether in the regular season or preseason, McGee has displayed a penchant for the dramatic basically every time he has played. However, he is still relatively inexperienced, and the Cowboys find themselves currently in a chase for a division title. Last week they placed a waiver claim on veteran quarterback Kyle Orton, who was awarded to the Chiefs.

With Kitna's contract set to expire at the end of this season anyway, perhaps the time has come for the Cowboys to get settled with McGee as their long-term No. 2. It's why they drafted him in 2009, with the top pick of the fourth round, and put in the effort to help him develop.

"I think Stephen has grown a lot as a player since he's been here," Garrett said. "I think the thing he needed more than anything else was just experience as a drop-back passer. That wasn't the style of offense that he played most of the time in college . . . I think he showed us at different times that he's a poised enough guy to help lead a team at the end of the game. He's done that in preseason games and he's done that in regular season games. And that's a good trait for a quarterback to have.

"He has to grow in so many areas like a lot of young players, and certainly a lot of young quarterbacks, but he's taken advantage of his opportunities up to this point."

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