By Dwain Price, NDG Sports Special Contributor
ARLINGTON – Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will be the first to admit that backup quarterback Cooper Rush struggled mightily during last Sunday’s 27-3 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in a preseason game at AT&T Stadium.
Garrett also will be the first to admit that there were mitigating circumstances attributable to those struggles by Rush.
In going down in flames to the Cards, the Cowboys played without – among others — center Travis Frederick, right guard Zack Martin, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Those four players are very key components to a Cowboys’ offensive attack that’s expected to make a lot of noise while advancing to the playoffs this season.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge (for Rush) with the combination of guys that we were playing with versus the combination of guys that they had in the game early,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Obviously we were depleted on the offensive line, and that is one of the reasons that Cooper got the opportunity to play.
“They were playing their frontline guys, so we knew it was going to be tough sledding in that situation. But again, that’s a great opportunity to evaluate a guy, to see how he handles that adversity. Unfortunately for him, turning the ball over a couple times hurt us.”
Overall, the Cowboys turned the ball over a whopping eight times against the Cardinals. Obviously they hope to retain possession of the pigskin a bit more when play their final preseason game on Thursday at 7 p.m. on the road against the Houston Texans.
Rush, who is battling Mike White for the backup quarterback spot behind Prescott, was 11-of-17 for 93 yards and a pair of interceptions against the Cardinals. He’s just happy the Cowboys are working on a short week after that disastrous showing against Arizona.
“You want to get back out there, you don’t want to think about it all week,” Rush said. “I’m really excited to go out there and get another shot at it.
“We’ve got a strong group of guys, a strong team. Everyone picks each other up. Throw that one away and get right back to this week for Thursday.”
In the three preseason games, Rush is 32-of-49 for 275 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, while White is 17-of-22 for 157 yards and one interception.
The Cowboys are closely monitoring Rush’s performance just in case something happens to Prescott.
“I think the biggest thing you want to go back and look at is just play-by-play in how (Rush) responded to the adversity,” Garrett said. “You just don’t want to get out of whack when you’re struggling as a group.
“You’ve got to maintain your poise, you’ve got to keep making good decisions. We’ll evaluate that when we look at the tape.”
Elsewhere, Prescott has only been on the field for four drives this preseason while leading the Cowboys to 17 points. With the regular season set to start Sept. 9 at Carolina, is that sufficient enough time to get on the same page with a mostly new cast of receivers?
“I don’t think there’s never enough work, but I think we’ve had a lot of reps together, we’ve had enough to play well,’’ receiver Cole Beasley said. “I’m going to continue to work with him until it’s perfection, and I don’t think that’s ever achieved.
“We’re going to keep grinding all season. There’s always room for improvement.”
In the meantime, Martin participated in practice on Tuesday for the first time since hyper-extending his left knee during the Aug. 18 preseason game against Cincinnati. Frederick, meanwhile, is suffering from an auto-immune disease call Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and it is not known how long he will be sidelined.
Frederick, in a statement, said he had received a pair of treatments already and will continue those treatments.
“After a very extensive examination and discovery process over the past few weeks, I have been diagnosed with having Guillain-Barre Syndrome which is an auto immune disease. I am feeling much better from an overall strength perspective.
“I am very optimistic about my condition and the immediate future, as I have been told that the illness was detected at a fairly early stage. My doctors have told me that it is not possible to determine a time table for a return to the field right now, but I am hopeful that I will be able to play as soon as possible.”
The Cowboys also had to reluctantly address the status of defensive end Randy Gregory, who has returned this summer after being suspended three times by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy. During the game against the Cardinals, a tweet by NFL writer Jason La Camfora raised concerns about Gregory’s battle with addiction, but it didn’t elaborate.
After Tuesday’s practice, Gregory, who collected a sack against Arizona, repeatedly said he had no comment on the tweet. But owner Jerry Jones said: “His status is really day-to-day. Every day is another day there. Randy came into this league as an outstanding player. There is no questioning his talent.
“Having said that, we just have to continue to work. He’ll be the first one to tell you. It’s the same story from me, but we have to go day-by-day with him. We wouldn’t have him out there if we couldn’t plan on him. You saw (Sunday night) and you saw in his other work – really, this entire training camp – that he gives us that additional pressure.”
The importance of having Gregory on the Cowboys’ defensive front wall can’t be overstated.
“He has just done a really good job, right from the start when we started practicing out in Oxnard,” Garrett said. “He looked like he was in good shape, he looked like he had his football legs underneath him.
“He is a very instinctive player, a very instinctive pass rusher. He has got great quickness, speed, and explosiveness, and a real knack for getting to the quarterback.”