I really love training camp. I do. It gets me in the football mood and tells me stories I didn't know. I love to ponder the difficulty of making the NFL. You simply cannot understand the odds against these men playing football for a living. The math doesn't work out. The dreams are many -- the realized dreams are few.
But, that journey is what really gets me. I love to see how many different roads there are to pro football. We are spoiled to have one of the most unlikely stories right in front of our face with Tony Romo, having been pretty much being ignored in college recruiting and then again on draft day, only to start as an NFL quarterback at a high level for a decade. At times, we overlook how insanely improbable that story really is.
For every Romo, there are 1,000 players who would love to be the next. Many of them don't even make it to a training camp, but a chosen few survive and advance long enough to the second week in August. We have one in the 2016 camp who not only appears poised to make the team, but may even play meaningful snaps at quarterback for a team that fancies itself the team to beat in the NFC East. Because as of this moment in time, their backup quarterback appears to be Jameill Showers.
Showers is 24 years old for another month. He turns 25 on Sept. 6 -- five days before the Cowboys open the season against the Giants. He has had a long and winding road from Killeen to Texas A&M to UTEP to covering punts last year for the Cowboys. He is a dual-threat quarterback, but he really doesn't have a resume with success at the college level of doing great things. Rather, he is a quarterback who appears to be capable of two things: flash special traits and seem coachable. Both are vital as he does check many boxes for "today's quarterback." In fact, you can throw a rock and hit someone who has compared his traits on some level to Russell Wilson. This, of course, is a dangerous game because dozens of guys have been compared to Wilson, and yet I am not sure another Wilson has emerged from that pile. But, the search continues.
Regardless, because the Cowboys ignored my wishes in January of "addressing and fixing" the backup quarterback spot, instead deciding that Kellen Moore was their guy at QB2 and because Moore then broke his leg last week, the team must decide quickly whether or not Showers can be that guy. If we are all honest with ourselves, we must analyze this while remembering that just seven days ago, Showers seemed like an extreme long shot to make the team. Rookie Dak Prescott is almost clearly the No. 3 quarterback who will hopefully be "redshirted" this year (practice, develop, but don't play) and that left Moore and Showers to "compete" for the second spot, even though many Cowboys people refer to Moore as "Scott Linehan's son." In other words, it seemed unlikely that Showers was going to have a chance unless something crazy happened. Well, something crazy did happen: Moore broke his leg.
I have been asked to give my opinions of Showers by many readers, so I thought this morning I would try to show you with video what the Cowboys are dealing with here. He is very interesting to watch because his highs are pretty high and his lows are pretty low. In other words, this is a text-book project quarterback. And that means a few things. ... 1) You generally only want one project at a time and if Prescott is your guy, then you are choosing a guy 25 months younger and one with a far more decorated college resume. That isn't to say Prescott is a better quarterback right now, because he isn't. But, it is to say that if you had to choose one to have a chance to be Romo's successor, I assume most NFL minds would bet on Prescott over Showers with the information available. ... 2) Jason Garrett has chosen backup quarterbacks through the years who are safe and robotic in their play -- not improvisational players who may make an impulse decision that could go the other direction for a touchdown.
The other thing I want to point out is that the video I am using is from the 2015 preseason. For whatever reason, Showers only played sparingly. Dustin Vaughan was the guy they wanted to see play 12 months ago and Vaughan played 68 percent of the offensive series. Romo played 12 percent, Brandon Weeden played another eight percent, and that left just six series for Showers. And each of those series were in the fourth quarters when he had hideous pass protection, poor receivers and almost no chance.
So, on Saturday in Los Angeles, Showers may have a chance to play with better players in a more important spot. He also has now been with the Cowboys a full year to learn and absorb. So, we may be looking at a much better player now. But I can only go on what is already on film. These 17 videos are all from his work last preseason.
Let's get started.
This is what you will see all the time with Showers. They love this roll-out stuff with a tight end underneath that puts a linebacker in a bind. If you drop to cover the tight end (Geoff Swaim), Showers keeps it and runs. If you go to Showers, he then pops the ball over the top to the tight end in space. It's "dual-threat 101," and Showers can do this well to his right and sometimes to his left. It is always paired with a zone run to the left to bootleg off of.
This is what makes him so interesting. He is really good when protection breaks down. In fact, he will definitely be one of those quarterbacks who is accused of leaving the pocket too early sometimes. But you see why -- in the open field, he has the chance to be one of the fastest guys on the field in when scramble mode.
Here he zips a slant right on the money. He usually does this. Good ball location on the slant, but, of course, the throw is short and a high-percentage one.
Here is another one. Again, his receivers were not helping him. That is the danger in reading preseason stat lines. So much is dependent on the quality of his help. There is nothing more he can do here.
This is the one worth looking at. He can really make "the NFL throw." The deep out. The Romo 18-yard rope to the sideline. It is the true measure of arm strength. He has a strong arm. But, two things make this the throw one that will get him in trouble. ... 1) The location. You can't miss to the inside. This brings the corner back into the play and he can drive on the ball. ... 2) The timing. Again, in man coverage, corners are jumping this. You will see below that he flirts with disaster on this route quite a bit. He also stares it down.
Let's jump ahead to the Minnesota game. He played so little here and not at all against Houston. I really don't know why they needed 34 series to figure out Dustin Vaughan, but it cost Showers lots and lots of reps. Anyway, above is that roll-out again. You can see that it's the calling card for the play-calling for Showers. Easy completion to start the drive.
And, another look at his escapability. He was dealing with Laurence Gibson, R.J. Dill, and Darion Weems as his tackles for most of the preseason, and none of them could pass protect at all. He was running for his life.
OK, now to the San Francisco game, where you really saw his tools. ...
We certainly want to be careful with this again. Another dangerous throw. See the stare-down, see the inside ball placement, and see the corner being just as close to the throw as the receiver. This league is too good to flirt with those throws unless they are on time.
Above, find the throw that will cause a coaching staff to want to move on to the next guy. The quarterback thinks he has man, but another defender sees the plan and steps right in to give the Cowboys' sideline a heart attack. Danger! Danger!
But, those feet! Blitzer is untouched and look at Showers smoothly make him miss and head down the field. He is the type of talent you will want to spy, because you aren't catching him in the open field.
Fourth-and-15, Showers has to make a perfect throw. He gets man coverage underneath and that leaves him and his man, Swaim, to make some magic. And they did. Many dual-threat quarterbacks excel at man coverage and can really get comfortable. But, this is a big-league throw.
Same play, different angle. You could argue this is the play that his defenders always think about when they wonder if he is the guy. Is this repeatable, or is this you striping that perfect drive down the middle that keeps you coming back to the golf course?
Here he finds Swaim again. Great chemistry there and it shows Swaim can catch the ball in many different ways. Again, no issue at all with the touch on his throw.
I just wanted to show this because it is very "Russell Wilson." We always hear about how hand size can save some fumbles -- look at this blind-side hit, but the ball stays in his hands. Pretty impressive hand strength and size to not lose the ball on that hit that he didn't know was coming. And, man, R.J. Dill can't do much in pass pro.
Here is that dangerous throw again. This time, not much velocity, no real ball placement, and the stare-down cost you an interception.
High-percentage slant inside and he sets and throws with confidence. Easy pitch-and-catch here.
And, finally, the play that makes you want to see more on Saturday -- his Romo impression in the red zone where he waits for the play to open up, rolls out, takes a hit right in the mouth and delivers a throw for a touchdown. This is a play that you love to know your quarterback is capable of. He is great in Phase 2 of each play (the improvisational spots where the play breaks down). The question will be: How good can he be in Phase 1 (the actual design of the play)?
Based on these plays, I like Showers. I want to see more. But, I also see him as a guy who will make a few throws that will drive you crazy, as corners are trying to undercut his throws.
Garrett always has enjoyed "Captain Check-down" as his backup, and Showers doesn't seem to be that guy at all. Instead, he is perhaps guilty of some irrational confidence at times, which I find admirable for a guy trying to make the league, but seems to be counter to the profile around here.
I know in this hot-take world, I am either supposed to declare him a bum or the next Romo, but most of the time, it is very complicated. His play this preseason will determine the path. He has faults, but he also has some very interesting strengths.
But for Showers, the news is good. He has the most priceless commodity in sports in his favor right now -- opportunity. Now, if he takes it well and puts a few solid weeks together, he could be a No. 2 quarterback in a league that completely ignored him. And from there, the path can lead almost anywhere.