Who is Ben DiNucci? You might be surprised to find out just how much potential he has. This is suddenly a question making the rounds in the fandom of the Dallas Cowboys, in the wake of the team losing Dak Prescott for the season to a compound fracture and dislocation of the right ankle. and his or early May, but until then, Andy Dalton is man the ship for 2020, along with DiNucci and the signing of veteran quarterback Garrett Gilbert heading to North Texas by way of the Cleveland Browns practice squad to provide depth.
With Dalton leaving the Cowboys' Week 7 contest against the Washington Football Team after suffering an illegal blow to the head, DiNucci entered the game and completed the first pass of his NFL career, but also got sacked to end his first drive. His growing pains will be on center stage if he's required to be the starter going forward, but his talent is something to keep an eye on.
While the 29-year-old Gilbert has more experience and is quite familiar to Cowboys scouts from his time spent as a quarterback for both SMU and Texas prior to 2014, it's the 23-year-old rookie seventh-round pick who'll stay in the second chair behind Dalton, sources tell CBS Sports. This is a nod to the belief Mike McCarthy has in the former James Madison University star who made a bigger name for himself following a transfer from Pitt, and who the Cowboys decided against releasing in final roster cutdowns ahead of the regular season.
In an exclusive talk with his former JMU compatriot Ron'Dell Carter -- who has since been poached from the Cowboys practice squad by the Indianapolis Colts -- the talented defensive end who saw DiNucci's growth and talent firsthand the last two seasons warns everyone to not sleep on the former AFCA First-Team All-American and CAA Offensive Player of the Year (both in 2019).
"Ben is a baller," Carter told CBS Sports, emphatically. "That's pretty much it. I don't want to speak for him, but I know this kid. I've seen him improve from his junior year to his senior year. I've seen everything about Ben change. He's a different kind of guy."
DiNucci is also a former First-Team All-CAA talent who entered Pitt as a USA Today High School All-American in 2014, so it's clear there's no lack of talent in his arm or IQ. A shifty signal caller who can do some damage with his legs as needed, and most certainly with his arm, DiNucci has some baseball in his background -- which of course conjures a smirk thanks to a certain Super Bowl MVP who resides in Kansas City.
Is he Patrick Mahomes? No, because no one is.
What he is, however, is a promising rookie talent who isn't afraid to let his abilities in one sport help push his abilities in another.
"He makes the craziest throws that I've never seen anybody make," said Carter. "I think him playing baseball helped it. ... Ben is a baller. Film speaks for itself. Ben is a baller.
"He's a great guy who has a lot of charisma -- a lot of personality. And I think the City of Dallas is going to love him. He's one hell of a ballplayer."
DiNucci left JMU tied for third on the school's all-time completions list (479), fourth all-time in passing yards (5,716), and fourth all-time in passing touchdowns (45). The Cowboys grabbed him just ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft coming to a conclusion because they loved what they saw and didn't want to risk him to undrafted free agency. Like every other rookie in 2020, he's suffered from not having a traditional offseason that would've included rookie minicamp and a preseason, but he's still making progress -- so much so the Cowboys aren't looking to bring in a veteran to keep him at QB3.
That third seat belongs to Gilbert, as DiNucci gets to work taking second-team snaps in the event he's needed this season.