Dallas Cowboys Backup Quarterback: A Hot Position Battle


In 2014, heading into training camp, the Dallas Cowboys looked like a losing franchise in desperate need of a rebuild. The list of worries was vast: an injured and aging quarterback, a fumble and injury prone bell-cow rusher, a wide receiver who couldn’t stay out of trouble, and the worst defense in franchise history.

In the upcoming season, Cowboys fans and football pundits are singing a very different tune when it comes to America’s Team. The Cowboys are a legitimate Super Bowl contender from the start of the 2015 campaign coming off a 12-4 record with one win and one controversial loss in the postseason.

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What’s best? The Cowboys have added talent and filled the void created in free agency with veterans looking for a resurgence, and a stable of talented rookies.

A little healthy competition between teammates will only help the ‘Boys in their quest to lift the Lombardi Trophy come February. Heading into training camp, there will be many heated battles for starting spots: running back, strong safety, right guard, and defensive end to name a few. However, there’s a Texas sized position battle that’s heating up in a place that might surprise some.

Only in Dallas can there be so much interest in a competition to hold a clipboard on Sundays. Yes, one of the inter-squad competitions to watch for is the coveted backup quarterback position.

Due to today’s injury policy and the monetary investment on the field, it has become harder and harder to keep three quarterbacks on an active roster; the extra roster spot created by carrying just two arms has become increasingly valuable over the years.

In training camp, Brandon Weeden must prove that he’s not a first round bust and a lost cause after his lackluster lone start in 2014. His counterpart, Dustin Vaughan, must prove that he is worth the resources to develop as the heir apparent to franchise signal-caller, Tony Romo.

Weeden failed to produce in his only start in 2014 when asked to step in for an injured Romo. Albeit against a stingy Arizona Cardinals defense, Weeden managed just a 54.6% passer rating with only one touchdown opposed to two interceptions. To top it off, Weeden’s advanced age, 31, will most certainly play a factor in in this contentious battle.

However, just when Weeden’s hopes looked bleakest, quarterbacks coach, Wade Wilson, proclaimed Weeden the Cowboys’ most improved player:

"“I think he’s probably the most improved player. He has a greater understanding of the concepts, the protections, calling the plays, all those kinds of things. He’s made a big jump this year. His confidence and his demeanor, his complete understanding and grasping exactly where he’s supposed to go with the ball, handling blitzes and things like that, he’s been very improved.”"

Dustin Vaughan will have to step it up after Wilson’s vote of confidence for Weeden. Vaughan only received 43 passing attempts in the preseason, but he was sacked a total of five times in these dropbacks. The Cowboys’ project quarterback failed to impress against less than stellar competition in last year’s preseason, tossing one touchdown on a dismal 51% completion percentage and 212 yards, culminating in a passer rating of 73.0. He is also eligible for another year on the practice squad, a luxury which will only hinder his chance at a roster spot.

Vaughan looks the part, standing at 6’5” 235 lbs. Now, can he gain a better understanding of the position with improved pocket presence? Only time will tell.

To the victor goes the spoils. The Cowboys’ number two passer will win a package consisting of the tutelage of one of the NFL’s brightest quarterbacks, a fancy new virtual reality training system, and a chance at a Super Bowl ring. Even if it’s just for a backup position, in the battle between Weeden and Vaughan, the stakes could not be higher.

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