OXNARD, Calif. – It might be cliché, but it really is hard to undersell the value of preseason reps. Just ask Dak Prescott.
Few other NFL players can demonstrate the value of preseason reps as well as Prescott, who rode a fantastic preseason into the Cowboys' starting quarterback job and an eventual NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
And so, by virtue, the Cowboys have a unique perspective on the value of the back end of their depth chart.
That's why, in the ever-changing world of the NFL, it seems unlikely that Prescott will play a ton of snaps in Thursday night's preseason opener at San Francisco, instead ceding the field to his younger understudies in Cooper Rush and Mike White.
"It's real important," Rush said of the opportunity. "It's what it's about, the tape you put out there that other teams see, that your teammates see, that your organization sees. It's kind of your calling card as a player."
Rush had a fantastic preseason in his own right last year, climbing from undrafted afterthought to backup quarterback off the strength of those exhibition games. It wouldn't be hyperbole to say Rush authored one of the best preseasons in recent memory, as he completed 74 percent of his passes for 398 yards across four games.
Heading into his second preseason, Rush figures to get plenty more reps – and the goal is to recreate that success.
"It was a lot of fun playing well in those games and I want to do that again this year," he said. "That's the goal, and we get to go out and compete against someone else than the Cowboys. We get to go play an actually team, an actual game environment."
Of course, last year, Rush was the newcomer. This time around he gets to play the role of veteran – and competitor – with Mike White. In all honesty, the fifth-round draft pick has felt like an afterthought in his own right this summer. With Prescott and Rush accounting for the vast majority of practice snaps, it can be hard for a rookie draft pick to stand out.
Even with a smaller role, though, White said he thinks his camp has gone well to this point.
"I'm learning each and every day. I'm learning from my mistakes and making sure I don't make the same ones," he said. "Just trying to complete the ball and have as much fun with it as possible."
The real fun starts Thursday, when the lights come on. And with an opportunity to get some playing time, White should have a chance to insert himself into the conversation.
The Cowboys aren't going to reveal their pre-game plans for playing time, but it's a good bet that they won't involve a heavy workload for Prescott – if he plays at all. Instead, all eyes will be on the backups. With two weeks of camp to prepare, it's an opportunity they're ready for.
"I think we've gotten a good amount of reps, and more importantly a good amount of non-scripted reps, where we just put the football down and play football," White said. "I think that helped prepare all of us, and I think we'll be ready to roll come Thursday."