Daily Press (Sunday)

DALLAS Cowboys think they can overcome loss of Diggs with their depth

- By Schuyler Dixon

FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys carried Super Bowl expectatio­ns into the season and had a defense playing on that lofty level when star cornerback Trevon Diggs tore the ACL in his left knee in practice this week.

Those expectatio­ns haven’t changed. The Cowboys believe they have the depth to overcome the loss of the 2021 All-Pro who is tied for the NFL lead with 18 intercepti­ons since entering the league three years ago.

Dallas (2-0) visits Arizona (0-2) today, and the FanDuel SportsBook betting line of Cowboys by 12 ½ hasn’t changed much, if at all.

“Obviously, you feel sick about him, and it’s definitely a punch in the gut for our football team,” coach Mike McCarthy said Friday, the day after the injury. “But this is an opportunit­y for our defensive depth to stand up and continue to move forward.”

The day after his 25th birthday, Diggs sustained the season-ending injury in a one-on-one drill in red-zone work. McCarthy said Diggs came down on a receiver’s foot when both players were going for the ball.

“It’s something that could happen anywhere,” McCarthy said. “This was not a drill issue at all, by no means.”

Dallas was just the fifth team in the Super Bowl era to score at least 70 points and allow 10 or fewer in the first two games, after beating both New York teams by a combined score of 70-10.

The Cowboys shut out the Giants 40-0 in the opener, and with another shutout would set the NFL record for fewest points allowed through three games. Green Bay allowed 13 in 2001.

They’ll have to do it without a two-time Pro Bowler who tied the franchise record with 11 intercepti­ons in 2021. He had his first of this season against the Jets last week. His jarring blindside hit in the opener on Giants running back Saquon Barkley led to an intercepti­on return for a touchdown by DaRon Bland.

Bland’s name comes up quickly on the conversati­on of replacing Diggs. The second-year man is likely to start opposite offseason free-agent pickup Stephon Gilmore. Bland played in the slot while Diggs and Gilmore handled the outside the first two weeks.

“It’s still a game I’ve always been playing,” said Bland, who led the Cowboys with five intercepti­ons as a rookie. “I’ve been playing on his side mostly for this past year. So moving back to the outside would

Check please?

Allen downplayed winning his 11th AFC Offensive Player of the Week award as something that typically goes to a player on a team that won. His completion percentage of 83.78 against the Raiders was the second-best of his six-year career.

It made no difference to him that his 11 weekly honors are one more than Hall of Fame Bills quarterbac­k Jim Kelly.

“It doesn’t mean all that much,” Allen said. “They don’t give those awards to guys who are losing football games.”

Allen then joked in wondering where his checks are from winning the award — though there are no cash bonuses coming from the NFL — by saying, “I don’t know if they got my address wrong or what.”

Game breakdown

Betting line:

Bills by 6 ½, according to FanDuel Sportsbook

Bills lead 10-6. Bills beat Raiders 38-10; Commanders beat Broncos 35-33.

Series record: Last week:

Bills player to watch:

RB James

Dallas (2-0) at Arizona (0-2)


be good. I’ve just to got keep my head straight.”

Jourdan Lewis, who made his season debut with 10 snaps last week after missing most of 2022 with a broken foot, could be the first option in the slot.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones, appearing on his radio show Friday, didn’t seem too keen on the idea of help from outside the organizati­on, at least not right now.

While the sample size was small, Diggs had an infinitesi­mal 1.0 passer rating against, best in the NFL, through two weeks.

“You can’t do that,” Jones said. “That’s just not real. That’s like saying, ‘I want to be Tom Cruise.’ You don’t replace these irreplacea­ble players.”

Still, Jones is confident the Cowboys can offset the loss of Diggs. Jones suggested Dallas would be at less risk of giving up big plays since Diggs has a gambling style that helps create turnovers.

“That’s what makes him such a great player,” Jones said. “But Bland and people we have come in here may not have as much of a concern about the bad play. So we could have a plus here. Not a real plus, but we could mitigate how bad this loss is.”

It’s the third time in four seasons the Cowboys have lost a cornerston­e player to a long-term injury early. Quarterbac­k Dak Prescott broke his ankle in Week 5 in 2020, when Dallas missed the playoffs.

Last season, left tackle Tyron Smith tore a hamstring during training camp and didn’t play until December. The Cowboys made the playoffs with a second consecutiv­e 12-win season, losing in the divisional round to San Francisco after a wild-card loss to the 49ers a year earlier.

“It’s part of the adversity to win a championsh­ip,” McCarthy said. “The focal point for us is really on Trevon, the person, because he needs our love and support. This is part of the NFL. It’s just unfortunat­e.”

It’s the third notable injury in practice for Dallas. Left guard Tyler Smith missed the first two games after straining a hamstring before the opener. He is expected to make his season debut against the Cardinals.

Center Tyler Biadasz injured a hamstring in the same practice in which Diggs went down. Biadasz didn’t practice Friday and is listed as questionab­le.

Cook. The second-year player had a career-best 123 yards rushing on 17 carries against Las Vegas. His output was the most by a Bills running back since LeSean McCoy had 156 in 2017. Cook’s outing provided the offense a muchneeded semblance of balance, a recipe that could be replicated at Washington.

Commanders player to watch:

DT Daron Payne. While only two NFL players have more sacks than Washington’s Montez Sweat, the pressure on the defensive line starts inside with Payne and Jonathan Allen. Payne in particular has been a play disrupter so far this season. Buffalo QB Josh Allen is a big target to bring down, but if anyone can get to him and do it, it’s Payne.

QB Sam Howell vs. Buffalo’s defense. Howell, who’s set to make his fourth NFL start, bounced back from two turnovers in the season opener to throw for a couple of touchdown passes at Denver without an intercepti­on or a fumble. The Bills’ pass rush could spell trouble for the Commanders’ remade offensive line. Since 2019, the Bills are 18-2 when facing a QB with 16 or fewer NFL starts.

Key matchup:


 ?? MATT PATTERSON/AP ?? Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, right, defends against New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson during last Sunday’s game. Diggs tore his ACL in practice this week.
MATT PATTERSON/AP Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, right, defends against New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson during last Sunday’s game. Diggs tore his ACL in practice this week.
 ?? When: ?? 4:25 p.m.;
When: 4:25 p.m.;

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