Ben DiNucci readying for first start as Andy Dalton remains out
Dak Prescott’s first start came only after Kellen Moore and then Tony Romo were injured before the 2016 season opener. Ben DiNucci will make his start only after Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury and Andy Dalton’s concussion.
The Cowboys have not ruled out Dalton, but it seems unlikely the veteran quarterback will play after the illegal hit from Washington linebacker Jon Bostic knocked Dalton out of Sunday’s loss. Dalton did not practice again Thursday.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” DiNucci said Thursday. “I think, as a rookie seventh-rounder coming in, you see Dak and you see Andy at the top of the depth chart. It’s, ‘Hey, there’s no chance that I’m going to be on the field this year.’ But hey, this is 2020. What else do you expect? Here we are. Week 8 of my rookie year I’ve got a chance to go out there on Sunday Night Football and do what I love to do. I couldn’t be happier or more excited.”
Prescott started 69 games in a row. The Cowboys now expect to start their second quarterback in two weeks.
DiNucci, 23, saw Prescott before Wednesday’s practice, DiNucci’s first taking all the first-team reps.
“I walked up to him and said, ‘Hey this isn’t what you said my rookie year was going to be like,’” DiNucci said. “He laughed and gave me a hug and just said, ‘We’ve talked about this. Go out there and do you. Take completions. Trust the guys around you. You’ll be great. Don’t overthink it. Football’s football.’ It’s a game I’ve been playing since seventh grade. I’m not going to try to make it any more than it is. Going to have fun with it, bring a lot of energy, bring a lot of confidence and let my play speak for itself.”
DiNucci, who played at the University of Pittsburgh before transferring to James Madison, got his feet wet the past two games. He has played 15 total snaps, going 2-for-3 for 39 yards and fumbling twice, though the Cowboys recovered both.
The good news for DiNucci is it appears All-Pro right guard Zack Martin is ready to return to the lineup. Martin missed last week’s game with a concussion but has had full practices this week.
The Cowboys also got safety Xavier Woods back on the practice field after his non-injury absence Wednesday.