All signs point to Andy Dalton’s imminent return under center.
“He was cleared to participate in practice,” McCarthy said Monday. “He had a good day. We had a mock game type of practice. And he was a full participant.”
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Dalton sustained a concussion on Oct. 25 amid Dallas’ 25-3 loss to Washington. He missed the next week’s road game at Philadelphia before being sent to the COVID list on Nov. 3. The 31-year-old reportedly was not asymptomatic, though little else is known about his experience with the virus.
Rookie Ben DiNucci started for Dalton against the Eagles and third-stringer Garrett Gilbert got the nod for the Cowboys’ Week 9 defeat to Pittsburgh. Despite Gilbert’s impressive showing, team brass quickly reaffirmed Dalton’s standing as the QB1, health willing.
“Andy is (the starter),” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said last week on 105.3 The Fan, per the Cowboys’ official website. “When we signed Andy, I really thought we had arguably the best backup quarterback that I’ve ever been associated with, and we’ve had some good ones. But still, to have Andy Dalton as your backup quarterback when in fact Andy is, in my mind, a very legitimate starter.”
Dalton is on track to start Sunday when the Cowboys take on the suddenly surging Vikings, winners of three straight, in Minnesota. But McCarthy eschewed the opportunity to crown him based on a singular practice.
“I think realistically, we have to get through the whole week of practice,” he said. “He hasn’t been involved for a couple of weeks now. He looked good today. We’ll take it one day at a time.”
Barring a setback, however, it clearly will be Dalton — not Gilbert — leading the offense and hoping to secure the club’s first victory since Oct. 11.
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Insane Stat Proves Dak Among NFL’s Best QBs
Since franchise signal-caller Dak Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury in Week 5, the Cowboys have trotted out three QBs and failed to score more than 19 points in any game. Put another way: the Dalton-DiNucci-Gilbert troika have combined for 914 yards and two passing TDs.
Prescott, meanwhile, still ranks 21st in the NFL in air yards (1,856). Indeed, as StatMuse noted, that’s more than Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins (1,855), reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson (1,762), Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield (1,646), and New England’s Cam Newton (1,535). He tossed nine touchdowns, 93 first-down passes, and 25 throws of 20-plus yards across 18 quarters of play, with a 68.02 completion percentage.
After missing four and a half games this season, Dak Prescott still has more passing yards than Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton and Kirk Cousins. pic.twitter.com/93ylCp6oQ2
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 16, 2020
Incredibly, there remains a sizable sect of the Cowboys’ fan base that strongly disputes Prescott’s standing as an elite player at his position. Let this be a lesson to them: He’s really, really, really good.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL