ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — All signs point to another start for Cooper Rush at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, which means no NFC East reunion for Dak Prescott and Washington's Carson Wentz.
While Prescott continues his recovery from a fractured thumb, Wentz is trying to get the Commanders (1-2) — not to mention his career — back on track when they visit the Cowboys (2-1) on Sunday.
These QBs figured to be division rivals for years when Wentz went No. 2 overall to Philadelphia in the 2016 draft, while Prescott rose from a fourth-round pick to instant star in a remarkable rookie year.
Instead, Wentz is trying to avoid the label of journeyman with his third team in three seasons after a year away from the NFC East, while Prescott is still the franchise QB watching Rush keep Dallas afloat.
“We’re still learning and growing as a team and things I gotta be better at myself,” Wentz said.
“Just find ways to kind of get a play here or there that can really get us some momentum. I think we gotta find a way to do that and I can definitely be better to help that process.”
Wentz, dumped by Indianapolis after last season following a loss to last-place Jacksonville that kept the Colts out of the playoffs, is leading the NFL's No. 9 passing offense. But he just got sacked nine times in a 24-8 loss to his former team.
The Cowboys haven't allowed 200 yards passing in a game, and that's after facing Tom Brady and Joe Burrow the first two weeks.
Rush has led two victories since Prescott fractured his right thumb in a season-opening loss to Brady and Tampa Bay. Including one start last year, the undrafted sixth-year player is 3-0 filling in for Prescott.
All three Rush-led victories included game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. Only one other other NFL quarterback — Chicago's Virgil Carter 1968 — has done that in his first three starts.
The most recent was a 23-16 victory at the New York Giants on Monday night, a second consecutive victory for Dallas after opening with a loss while Washington has done the opposite.
“I just think the climate and how we’re set up is really conducive for the next guy to be ready,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s put together two excellent games. But the more you play, the more film you have, and I’m sure Washington will challenge us accordingly.”
No one has more yards from scrimmage against the Cowboys since 2020 than Washington running back Antonio Gibson with 363. The Commanders will count on him heavily again with rookie Brian Robinson Jr. still out.
“He’s been aggressive,” coach Ron Rivera said. “I like how he is running hard. He’s gotten into the secondary a couple of times and you see him just roll over his pads and lower himself and deliver the blow.”
One key for the Commanders is not falling behind early, as they did 22-0 and 24-0 at halftime each of the past two games. It would allow offensive coordinator Scott Turner to balance the run and pass games.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott appears closer to a tandem that at any point in his seven seasons.
The two-time rushing champ had 15 carries for 73 yards with a short touchdown run against the Giants while Tony Pollard's 13 carries included the longest run of the season for the Cowboys. The 46-yarder keyed his fourth career 100-yard game (105).
“I’m good with that, man,” Elliott said. “All I’m worried about is winning football games and going to chase that ring.”
Most of Washington’s defense has struggled so far this season. The defensive line drew praise from Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, and it’s especially impressive given pass rusher Chase Young is still recovering from a torn ACL, rookie defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis injured his left knee in his NFL debut and the depth is wearing thin.
First-round picks Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat are filling the void. Sweat, in particular, is handling double teams well with opponents focusing on stopping him in Young’s absence.
“We’re trying to put him in position where they’ve got to identify him, but then once they do and they do something different, the other guys have to step up,” Rivera said. “We’ve had some guys that really played well, especially the interior guys. Those two interior guys have done a heck of a job and for what Montez has had to deal with, he’s been pretty stout.”
The timing couldn't seem worse for the Commanders after allowing nine sacks with an offensive line in flux and facing the team with an NFL-leading 13 sacks.
Not so fast, says Cowboys sacks specialist Micah Parsons, who went without one for the first time this season against the Giants while DeMarcus Lawrence tied his career high with three.
“The name of the game is execution,” the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year said. “The Eagles just executed at a really high level. Are we going to get the same Commanders? No.”