What to watch in Sunday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals

Ron Jenkins / /AP

Jerry Jones said it best.

The loss of cornerback Trevon Diggs for the season to a torn ACL is a huge blow to the Dallas Cowboys defense and their Super Bowl chances in 2023.

Diggs is that good.

And there is no need to find a replacement for him via a trade or with an unsigned free agent.

“That’s like saying I want to be Tom Cruise,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “So the point is you don’t replace these irreplaceable players.”

The good news is the Cowboys have viable options on the roster. Slot cornerback DeRon Bland can moveoutside opposite Stephen Gilmore, Jourdan Lewis will likely move to the slot starting Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

“The facts are that we do have depth,” Jones said. “We don’t have depth with somebody with his unique abilities, but we’ve got depth relative to playing the position.”

“The facts are that we do have depth. We don’t have depth with somebody with his unique abilities, but we’ve got depth relative to playing the position.”

The loss of Diggs is huge. He signed a five-year, $97 million contract extension at the start of training camp and has played as well as any cornerback in the NFL through the first two games. He has an interception and a forced fumble.

When targeted, Diggs has allowed a passer rating of 1.0, the lowest possible passer rating in the NFL in 2023.

Since 2020, no cornerback has more interceptions than Diggs (18). He’s held the lowest passer rating to opposing quarterbacks in that time at 63.0 This year he’s allowed just three catches on eight targets for 31 yards, with the one interception.

“It’s makes us sick when you see one of your one of your guys go through this and I think just clearly the response of his injury shows you who he is and how the team feels about him,’ coach Mike McCarthy said. “The locker room and the coaches and the ongoing support has been tremendous. And he’s very appreciative of that. You feel sick about him and it’s definitely a punch in the gut for our football team, but this is what this is an opportunity for, for our defensive depth to stand up and continue to move forward.”

McCarthy said the injury happened in a 1-on-1 red zone drill. It’s an unfortunate injury but McCarthy said the drill is not to blame.

“It is very safe drill,” McCarthy said. “And when you see the video, just something that can can happen anywhere. Two guys going for the football and looks like he came down on the foot or stepped on the foot of the receiver. This was not a drill issue at all. By no means.”

The Cowboys feel very good about Bland, who led the team with six interceptions as a rookie last season and is tied for the team lead with 1 in 2023. Lewis is a proven veteran.

“Both guys are prepared,” McCarthy said.

What to watch in the Cowboys match up vs. the Cardinals:

Who’s in and who’s out

The loss of Diggs has dominated injury news for the Cowboys heading into the Cardinals game but it’s not the only issue in what is a mixed bag of information.

The Cowboys should see safety Donovan Wilson and left guard Tyler Smith make their season debuts. They missed the first two games with a calf strain and a hamstring strain, respectively.

The Cowboys offense should also get receiver Brandin Cooks back in the lineup. He missed the Jets game with a sprained knee.

The return of Smith to the offensive has the Cowboys anticipating getting their starting group on the field together not just for the first time all season, but the first time since the end of 2021.

Left tackle Tyler Smith missed the first 13 games last season with a hamstring injury and replaced right tackle Terence Steele, who suffered a torn ACL in December.

On paper, the Cowboys will have Smith at left tackle, Tyler Smith at left guard, Tyler Biadasz at center, Zack Martin at right guard and Steele at right tackle.

Biasdasz suffered a hamstring strain in practice on Thursday and underwent an MRI. Martin his missed practice all week nursing a groin strain.

“Talking with the medical staff last night, they think he’ll be ready to go,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Biadasz on Friday. “But when you have these type of things show up late like they do, the next morning is obviously an important evaluation. But they were not of high concern last night.”

Both are expected to play.

The question is for how long.

Dak Prescott celebrates 100 starts

When the Cowboys take the field Sunday against the Cardinals, it will be the 100th start for quarterback Dak Prescott, who is also the oldest tenured quarterback with his same team in the NFL.

Prescott is already first and “the only player” in NFL history with at least 150 touchdown passes and 25 rushing touchdowns in his first 100 games.

Time has flown by since his first start in 2016 in the season opener against the Giants.

“Yeah, it is (special). It’s a blessing. It really is,” Prescott said. “Grew up wanting to play this game, wanting to play this game at its highest level and that’s simply what this league is. And to think back that this will be, to say I’ve had 99 at bats at it and this will be 100 is pretty cool. Being the physical game it is, knowing how hard it is to play in this league, stay in this league, yeah, it’s something special. To be on 100, to be on the road, hopefully 100 more to go I guess.

As I’ve said, knock on wood, I’m feeling healthy, being healthy, thankful for that. Put a lot of work into that. Just being where I am, let’s hope it can be another 100.”

With only two playoff wins on his resume and the dark cloud of the team’s 28-year Super Bowl drought hanging over his head, Prescott also understands that the journey is not complete.

“I haven’t achieved what I want,” he said. “The ultimate goal [is] the Super Bowl. Any personal goal is not anything I’ve really set out to go and get. Those things just come when you take care of what you’re supposed to take care of and be the player you’re supposed to be. I’m not quite to where I want to be, at all. Hopefully, it doesn’t take 100 more starts.

“I’ve got some more at-bats this year and we’re going at it full steam.”

2-0 Cowboys not looking past the 0-2 Cardinals

The Cowboys are 2-0 and playing as well as anyone in the league with 70-10 combined score in the first two wins against the Giants and Jets.

The plus-60 point differential is the second-highest through the first two games in franchise history.

The Cardinals are 0-2 with losses to the Giants and the Washington Commanders.

It would be easy for the Cowboys to feel good about themselves heading to the Cardinals game.

“It’s the NFL,” Prescott said. “You never really should look at records, as writers, as players or anybody associated with the NFL. I think you learn that quick, that you can’t look at the records. For us, it’s about being confident in who we are, simple as that. And understanding that we’ve got to grow and we’ve got to build on these first two games and ultimately just get to 3-0.”

Said receiver CeeDee Lamb: “It’s 2-0 man. We ain’t really do anything yet and a lot of guys are 2-0 separation kind of starts happening come week five and so just staying foot on the gas and head down. Still turning. We’re still trying to reach the end goal.”

Lamb said the Cowboys have already had a team meeting addressing their focus and reminding each other that the Cardinals are a desperate team looking for their first win.

“Each group, we’ve come together as a team,” Lamb said. “Not necessarily made a promise but have a come together meeting. We can’t come in this game playing around. They’re going to come with all they have. This is technically their Super Bowl, if you will. They haven’t won a game yet. They’re searching for that first win and they’re willing to do anything, scratch, claw, fight, for that first win. For us, we’re trying to maintain our 3-0. Going in there battling, treating it as another opponent, regardless of the record, and going and playing hard.”

Defense has QBs running for their lives

The Cowboys’ defense continues to fluster and frustrate opponents. The defense has given up just 10 points and forced seven turnovers in the first two games. The Cowboys make the opposing quarterbacks scrambles from the pocket.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson had moderate success running for first downs or as Cowboys edge rusher Micah Parsons calls it “running for their lives.”

It’s partly a product of the Cowboys fierce pass rush and relentless pursuit, forcing quarterbacks to high tail it out of their.

But it’s something the Cowboys must stop. And it will be a big focal point on Sunday against Cardinals quarterback Josh, who is a dual threat with his arm and his legs.

“Quarterback runs are a big part of taking advantage of an active pass rush,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s something from an offensive perspective that we’ve always studied, where as far as where you think the rush lanes are going to be based off a pattern or a tendency that are typical of the individuals. I think when you’re as active as we are, that’s always going to be part of the challenge is the rush lane discipline.

“It’s definitely a focus. I think that’s probably something next to run defense we’ll be talking about every week. Because we definitely have the ability to get there with our people.”