The Eagles' film study of college games earlier this week is going to pay off.
The Dallas Cowboys have listed quarterback Andy Dalton as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Eagles, meaning third-string rookie Ben DiNucci will get his first career start at Lincoln Financial Field in a primetime divisional matchup. Dalton was filling in for Dak Prescott, who is out for the season with an ankle injury.
DiNucci, a seventh-round pick out of James Madison, came in for Dalton midway through the third quarter of the Cowboys' 25-3 loss to Washington last Sunday after Dalton took a hit to the helmet. DiNucci had mixed results, going 2-for-3 for 39 yards and taking three sacks.
The Wexford native was the 2014 Pennsylvania player of the year at Pine-Richland High. He began his collegiate career at Pittsburgh and started six games as a redshirt sophomore in 2017 but was passed on the depth chart by a freshman and transferred to JMU.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said the team’s coaching staff was digging up college tape of DiNucci to get a sense of what the defense might be facing Sunday night.
“We were on that tape [Monday] watching some of his college film, just getting a feel for him more as an athlete and some of the throws that he made and things like that,” Schwartz said Tuesday. “Anybody that makes an NFL team is good enough to play, so I think you start there. That’s going to get your respect right away. You’re good enough to make a 53-man roster, that deserves our respect.”
Schwartz said he employed the help of the Eagles' scouting staff, particularly Midwest area scout Jim Ward, for input early in the week.
“Just watching him run some zone-read stuff when he was at JMU, our scouting staff has really helped us that way,” he said. “Jim Ward has watched him since he was at Pitt. Actually, saw him when he was a high school player. Just those kind of inputs and that kind of perspective helps us."
DiNucci’s running ability seems to have the Eagles' attention. He rushed for 569 yards and seven touchdowns last season for the Dukes on 122 attempts and was named the Colonial Athletic Association offensive player of the year.
“[He’s] a guy who really is comfortable in the zone read and things like that,” Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “[He] did that in college, and I think we’re really expecting kind of the full arsenal of his game. So I really have to be just on our reads and on our cues at all times. Just because they’re in the same boat as us, nothing to lose and we both want to win this game, so we’re expecting just about everything from him.”