Dallas Cowboys: Revisiting quarterback Ben DiNucci

Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /
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. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The Good Stuff

The Choice of Accessories

Somehow in the span of one year, I went from liking his aesthetic to disliking it. It’s possible the white long sleeve on the right arm doesn’t work with the Cowboys uniforms, but I now seem to be a man who can only appreciate equal sleeve length on both arms. You could say I’ve grown up, or that the purple in James Madison’s uniforms brought more contrast allowing the white right arm sleeve to not stand out as much.

Either reason is at your disposal.

Ball Placement

Oh lordy, how things have changed!

Accuracy is the byproduct of many factors, but as we’ve seen with Dak Prescott‘s improvements over the past couple of years, the two big factors include release and wind up. Footwork is obviously scattered in their but DiNucci’s footwork in college was often lacking. So what gives now that he’s in the NFL?

Everyone loves DiNucci’s sidearm because it’s a relatively unique motion, but it’s clear that it doesn’t hold much value at the professional level. Traditionally with sidearm motions, the ball travels in a flat line more than an arc. There is value in that when the quarterback needs to get the ball to the outside quickly, but the NFL generally requires more touch and arc especially when targetting the middle of the field.

So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that almost all of DiNucci’s pass completions came when working towards the boundaries.

His lone interception came when he tried to bullet a pass deep down the field with the middle of the field closed allowing the safety to come down and played the ball. Without the correct viewing angle, we can’t decipher if he read the progression correctly, but the ball was problematic because it split two receivers and was incredibly low arching making it incredibly easy for defenders to play in the air.

Something quarterbacks have to get used to at the next level is leading receivers into their routes versus throwing to open receivers. DiNucci’s low arching throws worked in college because it got the ball quickly to wide-open receivers. When you lead receivers, you have to put some arch under it such as to give the receivers something to run under.

His release and wind-up obviously neglect his bad footwork that naturally alters throws as well. When he can’t plant his feet and drive forward the balls have no zip on them and fall to the ground. When he’s throwing off his back foot, the ball gets too high and becomes harder to track as it usually requires receivers to alter strides a bit.

The arm strength is so clear with DiNucci, but he simply looks too casual out there. I’m not sure why he does either because he hasn’t been particularly productive the last two NFL games he’s played in.

Mobility/Pocket Presence

One of these is really good, the other is a work in progress.

DiNucci is incredibly mobile. The fourth and 19 conversion for 27 yards is a pretty clear indicator of this. When the pocket crumbled, which it did often, he had the quick twitch to move out of the way. There isn’t a question about his athletic ability as he looked the most athletic of all the Cowboys quarterbacks that played Thursday night.

The obvious issue is his pocket presence. In college, his pocket presence was good often displaying a good feel for the pocket with the lateral agility to elude defenders and move out of the pocket. There’s no question the NFL is challenging his confidence. In his 91 snaps last season, DiNucci was sacked seven times (14 percent) and fumbled the ball four times and when he feels the pocket collapse he’s pretty quick to bail.

Quarterbacks take a long time to develop these things and you can see that growth as his college career matured. However, as it currently stands DiNucci just doesn’t have a feel for the pocket. He’s an aggressive passer always looking downfield instead of a rhythm passer and it disrupts his ability to put plays together when he takes a sack.