OPINION: Rush shows early potential to make NFL roster
With all the buzz generating around the start of the 2017 Central Michigan football season, one former Chippewa is making his mark in the NFL.
Cooper Rush put on a show through the first three games of the NFL preseason as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys. The former CMU star quarterback is 26-of-38 for 283 yards with four touchdowns — the most among preseason QB's — and no interceptions. Check out his highlights here.
After Rush’s 8-for-9, 92 yard, two-touchdown performance on Saturday in a 24-19 win against the Indianapolis Colts, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett broke down his rookie quarterback's showing in a simple few words.
“What he’s been able to do every time he’s come in is help our team move the ball and score points,” Garrett told dallascowboys.com.
With all the talk about Rush amplifying the Cowboys fan base, the former CMU standout said he has one thing on his mind — earning a spot on the team.
“Right now I just want to be on this roster,” Rush said. “It’s really all I think about — building every day and every game on each other and keep improving.”
Rush is fighting for the backup QB spot, as Dak Prescott will be the week one starter, with former Detroit Lion and Boise State Bronco Kellen Moore. It's no secret that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones likes what they have with Moore, but simply can't push aside what Rush has done in his time since they signed him.
With what he has put on display so far, here's why the Cowboys may want to keep Rush on their roster:
Rush holds the CMU program record for the most TD passes with 90 , but also did have times where he would turn the ball over and make mistakes in the passing game. So far with the Cowboys, he has cleaned up the negatives. Through three games and 38 total passes in the preseason, Rush has been nearly flawless. His lack of interceptions shows that his decision-making and preparation for games has been key to his success. He has been able to work well with the receivers and if he can get this kind of chemistry with third string players, it's only a wonder on what he could do with even higher talented players.
Being just under 70 percent with his passes and avoiding key mistakes in his first professional action says something positive about Rush.
Making mistakes however, is something that his competition struggled with at times.
Moore has been in the NFL and actually played in real games, and in those games has shown he can fit the backup QB position by throwing four touchdowns and completing just under 60 percent of his passes in three games for Dallas a season ago. On the other side of that though, Moore has shown at times that he can't protect the ball, throwing six interceptions in his limited action last season. While Cowboys owner Jerry Jones may lean towards Moore, he can't just allow what Rush has done so far go unnoticed.
The physicality that Rush brings is visibly more than what Moore has. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound rookie Rush already has a larger body frame than Moore at 6-foot and 197-pounds. While it may not seem like much, when you combine Rush’s body build with his stats, it's hard to just let someone like him walk.
Rush is showing even on this level that he can throw the ball in almost any position. Throughout the preseason he has shown that he can move outside the pocket and find a open receiver down the field even on deeper routes. When staying in the pocket, Rush has also been able to find his receivers on a quick three-step drop or waiting for a route to develop.
In his most recent game, he threw a 19-yard touchdown pass in the front corner of the end zone to Noah Brown. Rush took the pass from the shotgun, dropped back three steps then pump-faked and showed his patience, letting the route develop and finding his receiver for the wide-open score. On his next touchdown pass of three yards to Lance Lenoir, he had a simple 3-step drop and quick gun on a slant route for the end zone, putting the ball where only his receiver could snag it.
Through all of his passes and touchdowns, Rush has displayed he can play the QB position in and outside of the pocket, which is vital to the position in the game today.
While Moore may have Jones and the organization on his side, what Rush has done with every opportunity available to him is impossible to ignore. He's showed that he can play the game at a high enough level to make an NFL roster.
It would be foolish for the Cowboys to let the potential Rush can bring to their team slip away. If they don't sign him, more than likely, someone else will.