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Cowboys' Trey Lance 'at my best' entering QB2 battle with Cooper Rush

Tumultuous as Trey Lance 's two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers proved to be, the 2021 NFL Draft's No. 3 overall pick still came away with some experience.

Lance saw action in eight games with four starts for the 49ers.

Nary a snap has been played by Lance since he joined the Dallas Cowboys ahead of the 2023, however.

Despite that, Lance finds himself far more confident and comfortable in his own shoulder pads during the spring of 2024. As the player once tabbed to be the 49ers' future franchise QB embarks on a QB2 battle in Dallas, Lance believes he's the best he's been since joining the pro ranks.

"I think the biggest thing is I've learned a lot about myself and who I am on and off the field," Lance said this week, via the Cowboys team website’s Nick Harris. "This offseason, I've been at my best mentally, physically, spiritually knowing who I am, where I am and being able to be present."

Lance is set for arm-to-arm combat with Cooper Rush this training camp and preseason for the right to back up Dak Prescott. Rush, 30, is an undrafted free agent who joined Dallas back in 2017 and has played in 26 games over his career, which included a memorable run in 2022. With Prescott down, Rush stepped up, delivering a 4-1 record as a starter.

Thus, Lance doesn't have an easy road to Dallas' second-string spot, much less reclaiming the prospects of lofty aspirations lost.

However, his raw skills remain and he's more comfortable not just with himself, but his new squad. One of the biggest concerns regarding Lance ahead of the '21 draft was his lack of experience, having only started one full season for North Dakota State, an FCS program.

Then with the 49ers, injuries and the Cinderella story of Brock Purdy were among the leading reasons he was a bust in the Bay Area.

Lance was 2-2 as a starter for the 49ers and 0-1 in QB2 competitions, having lost a backup battle to Sam Darnold in the 2023 preseason, which paved the way for his trade to the Cowboys.

Lance listened and learned in 2023, which he believes will pay dividends for him going forward.

"[My confidence] is much higher than it was when I got into the NFL, for sure," he said. "I kind of didn't know what to expect. I think that's probably most rookies, if not all of them at one point or another throughout that first year. I feel great about where I'm at. Continuing to get better, continuing to learn and continuing to be a better quarterback."

That includes becoming a better QB in an offense unalike the one he first learned in San Francisco.

"It's just a different offense," he said. "In San Francisco, we weren't really dropping out in the gun and passing on first-and-10 too many times. It's totally different here where we do that. We have the guys to do that and the coaching staff to do it as well."

This is a pivotal season for the Cowboys, who lost a number of notable free agents, did little to revamp the roster in the way of free agency and are entering contract years with Prescott, CeeDee Lamb and Zack Martin, among others.

Lance is likewise at a pivotal juncture in his career. He's still just 24 and heading into the final year of his rookie contract after Dallas unsurprisingly did not pick up his fifth-year option. Winning a QB battle with Rush could potentially lead to a career rekindling. At the least, it could lead to Lance finding his way back into NFL action. He hasn't played since suffering a season-ending ankle injury on Sept. 18, 2022.

"I'm excited," Lance said. "I haven't played a snap, obviously, since last preseason. I'm just excited and looking forward to it and making sure I'm ready when that time does come."

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