Dak Prescott is doing all he can to lead the Dallas Cowboys from the injured reserve list, having suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the Week 5 victory over the New York Giants. He's since been forced to watch Andy Dalton suffer a concussion after Washington linebacker Jon Bostic laid a brutally illegal blow to his head in Week 7, which start only six months after being selected in the seventh-round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Dalton has yet to practice and the expectation remains DiNucci will lead the way against the Philadelphia Eagles, sources have continued to affirm to CBS Sports since Monday, and while the situation isn't anything he envisioned when he entered training camp, he's not lacking for confidence. And after speaking with Prescott this week, it's likely been leveled up a bit.
"Actually saw [Dak] yesterday before we were going out to practice," DiNucci told media on Thursday. "He's in great spirits. Kind of just walked up to him and said, 'Hey this isn't what you said my rookie year was going to be like.' 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.'"
For his part,-- be a football player.
"It's game I've been playing since seventh grade," he said. "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."
Now garnering all of the first-team reps in practice as Dalton remains in concussion protocol, DiNucci is impressing his teammates who are just now getting an abundance of reps with him, like Michael Gallup.
"He's been slinging that thing," Gallup said of the former James Madison star QB. "He's been good. He comes up after every period that we've got and he's like, 'My job is actually pretty easy, I've just got to get [Gallup, Amari Cooper, and CeeDee Lamb] the ball and let y'all go to work. It's not that hard.'
"So it's been good. ... I knew he had [a cannon for an arm], but it's just like now I'm catching it. He's got a little speed up under that ball. It gets up on you quick.
"It's just something you've got to get used to."
Additionally, Gallup loves DiNucci's swagger, an attribute the young signal caller been consistently praised for.
"Yeah, he's got a little bit," said a smiling Gallup. "He comes in the huddle, he's got that deep voice. DiNucci is DiNucci -- he's a good kid to be around. He's going to do good things for us."
DiNucci doesn't look at it as swagger but, instead, his mental build.
"I'm just being me," he said. "Being a quarterback, you've got to have a little something to you -- got to have confidence. You've got to have a leader whether you're a veteran in your 15th year or a rookie about to make your first start.
"I've just got to go in there and be the same guy that I've always been, whether it's letting these guys hear my voice inflection when we're in the huddle. If I sound confident, these guys are going to know they can trust me when I'm out there. I'm just one of 11. It's going to take a team effort, it's going to take all 11 on every play on Sunday night.
"We're looking forward to it."
Things won't come easy for the rookie, though.
It's one thing to have a learning curve coming into the NFL at the most important position in all of football, but to do so in prime time, and for the Dallas Cowboys, and behind an offensive line that's been ravaged by injury is quite another. The odds are severely stacked against DiNucci remaining upright against the Eagles dominant defensive front, so he'll have to deploy his escapability as much as he ever has. But in doing so, he'll have to avoid injury himself -- considering both Prescott and Dalton were injured on plays in which they took off and ran, meaning he'll equally be tasked with trying to go through his reads and be productive in a consistently collapsing pocket.
He was sacked three times in only 12 snaps against Washington, and while perennial All-Pro guard Zack Martin is slated to return from a concussion that sidelined him last week, the rest of the Cowboys o-line leaves much to be desired. And yet, DiNucci's elation isn't tempered in the least.
"For me, this is an opportunity of a lifetime," he said. "I think, as a rookie a 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."