It’s safe to assume at this point that Ben DiNucci will not be the Dallas Cowboys‘ backup quarterback in 2021.
One week after nearly getting pick-sixed by rookie cornerback Nahshon Wright, the second-year signal-caller tossed an interception to rookie linebacker Micah Parsons during 11-on-11 drills.
Parsons — deployed in zone coverage — made a “poor throw” from DiNucci “look very, very easy” and, after the play, was mobbed by his teammates in celebration, according to beat reporter Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News.
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QB Competition Over?
The team’s 2020 seventh-round pick, DiNucci is currently battling Garrett Gilbert and Cooper Rush for the QB2 vacancy behind franchise cornerstone Dak Prescott. This, after Dallas opted not to sign any of the four free agents (Jeff Driskel, J.T. Barrett, Brady Davis, Brett Hundley) who auditioned for the job over the past two months.
“[Cowboys head coach] Mike McCarthy said backup QB Ben DiNucci has taken ‘a big step’ in his development and Garrett Gilbert has also improved. McCarthy said he talked with Will McClay today about the QB position,” Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News reported on May 25.
McCarthy’s vote of confidence certainly has to be waning. DiNucci showed in his one spot start last season — a noncompetitive 23-9 loss to the Eagles in which he was held to 180 scoreless passing yards and a 19.5 QBR — that he has a loooong row to hoe in the NFL, and his recent performances amid Organized Team Activities did nothing to alter that perception.
In the interest of fairness, however, such egregious turnovers tend to take place in voluntary OTAs, which are little more than glorified walkthroughs. DiNucci wasn’t the only one victimized by the defense …
“Cornerback Nahshon Wright jumped a comeback route by rookie receiver Osirus Mitchell to pick off Garrett Gilbert,” the Cowboys’ official website noted Thursday.
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Parsons The Playmaker
There is a reason the former Penn State star went No. 12 overall in this year’s draft. Several, actually. And they’ve been on full display since he first stepped foot inside The Star.
Parsons has operated at both inside and outside linebacker, as an edge rusher and a cover man. His versatility allows defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to move the 21-year-old around the formation, freeing Parsons to create unmitigated havoc.
“He understands football,” McCarthy said earlier this week. “There was an RPO in practice last week that he almost picked off so you can see the ability and the instincts with the way he can react.”
Parsons is expected to open the 2021 campaign at middle linebacker, sandwiched between returning vets Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith and free-agent addition Keanu Neal, depending on the package. “Even though I don’t know everything,” Parsons admitted, it won’t be long before his development catches up to his God-given talent.
“It’s one thing to cover or one thing to tackle, but if you can do the trifecta and do all three – cover, tackle and blitz and get pressure – then that’s what makes you a good ball player,” he said, per the Cowboys’ official website.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL