Look alive, Dallas Cowboys fans. Things are getting interesting in the desert.
Playing without Trevon Diggs and multiple starting offensive linemen, including standouts Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, the Cowboys trail the 0-2 Arizona Cardinals 15-3 early in the second quarter.
It's the first sign of adveristy the Cowboys have faced this season. So far they haven't responded, largely because no one has made a big play. The defense in particular is getting carved up by Josh Dobbs, James Conner and Rondale Moore.
While Diggs' big-play ability is missed, it's his prowess in coverage that is severely hurting the Cowboys in the first half.
Diggs' replacement DaRon Bland in particular has had a rough go of it. The second-year corner was called for a 22-yard pass interference penalty on the Cardinals (first) touchdown drive, and came back to allow a 12-yard catch on third down.
Cowboys' Trevon Diggs-less defense struggling in first half vs Cardinals
Could Diggs have made a difference on these plays? Perhaps, but ultimately Diggs' absence has nothing to do with Dallas' run defense getting gashed against the run. The run D hasn't looked this bad since early last season.
The front seven needs to be better, obviously.
But there's no excuse for allowing Moore to gallop 45-yards untouched into the end zone on a halfback draw. DaRon Bland needs to clean it up, too, but allow him a minute to adjust. Switching from the slot to the boundary isn't supposed to be seamless for a second-year corner.
The defensive front is the backbone of this defense -- and team -- and they're getting bullied in the first half. James Conner has 71 rushing yards on 7 carries and Josh Dobbs has 51 yards on just two rush attempts. As a team, Arizona has 180 rushing yards and two rushing TDs already, and they're doing it on nearly 13.0 YPC.
Having Diggs would always help (how's that for analysis?), but his injury isn't to blame for the Cowboys' slow start in the desert.
To the defense's credit, they've held firm for a field goal on two laborious drives, but a change of gear against the run is needed immediately. The offensive line is too banged up to ask the offense to win a shootout.
Multiple Cowboys vowed to step up their game in the wake of Diggs' injury. So far, Stephon Gilmore is alone on that island.