FRISCO, Texas - No matter how many games you've started in the NFL, every rep counts at the quarterback position.
Andy Dalton began the season as the league's most experienced and accomplished backup. Now that he's filling in for an injured Dak Prescott, Dalton's practice time with the first-team offense is critical - and he's already seeing a difference in his second week with the starters.
"I think definitely," he said Thursday. "I've played, started a ton of games, but (with) a new place, a new system, all of that kind of stuff, the longer that you're in it, another game, I feel like things are a lot more comfortable now than they were last week.
"Not saying that I wasn't comfortable, but that's just how this thing works. FOr me, I've just got to run this offense and run it how it's supposed to be run, push our guys, lead our guys and allow our guys to go make plays."
Dalton completed 34 of 54 passes for 266 yards, one touchdown and two second-half interceptions in Monday's 38-10 home loss to the Cardinals. The 54 attempts tied for the second-highest single-game total of his 10-year career, a product of playing from behind in the second half after the Cowboys dug an early 21-0 hole with turnovers.
The offense will look for better balance Sunday at Washington. They'll need it to keep a talented defensive front from teeing off against an offensive line playing without three starters (Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Joe Looney) and potentially a fourth if Zack Martin can't play Sunday due to a concussion.
"Obviously, with some of these guys being younger, they haven't played in a ton of games, but I think that just comes down to preparation," Dalton said. "We've got the right type of guys. We've got the right guys here that can step up and fill these roles. That comes from the communication we have throughout the week, the way that we're preparing, and that gives you confidence going into Sunday."
That preparation includes fine-tuning the timing on routes with receivers.
"I think the biggest thing is communication, definitely," Amari Cooper said. "You have to make sure as a receiver you're seeing things the same way the quarterback is seeing them in terms of how the quarterback likes to throw certain routes, what he's looking at and things of that nature."
All part of the process as the offense moves forward with Prescott sidelined after ankle surgery.