GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Cowboys traveled to Arizona on Sunday, and in what was expected to be a tune-up ahead of a tough three-game stretch going into the bye week turned into an ugly loss at the hands of one of the worst teams in the league.
There was a lot to takeaway from Dallas' effort. Here are 5 Takes, presented by Take 5 Oil Change.
1. The offensive line didn't lose the game, and that's saying something.
You would think that losing to a team such as the Cardinals with this roster that the Cowboys have would be attributed to the fact that they were missing three starting offensive linemen up front, but that wasn't the case in Glendale. The offensive gameplan was built around getting the ball out quick, and Dak Prescott did that. While the protection needed a couple of drives to settle in, they eventually did and gave the offense time to make things happen downfield, but those chances never came. Most of the offense resided in the short game which caused long, methodical drives that became difficult to maintain momentum within as they approached scoring territory. All in all, the failure resides with not putting guys like CeeDee Lamb or Brandin Cooks in positions to make plays downfield, not with the group that set things up front.
2. The run defense still struggles. It just took it a minute to get exposed.
The run defense success that we saw in the first two games came back to life in week three as the Cardinals came out of the gates swinging by getting both Joshua Dobbs and James Conner involved. When there are multiple weapons with read option looks, the Cowboys have shown some lapses – even in the first two games. Moreover, letting the quarterback escape the pocket and pick up yardage has also been prevalent. After giving up 181 yards on the ground in the first half (most in a first half since 1991), it's safe to say that the issue from 2022 still exists.
3. The redzone offense needs some major juice.
For the most part, the offense did what they could with three starting offensive linemen out in the quick game and getting multiple guys involved. However, once they entered the redzone, everything was thrown out of the window. This isn't new, as we've now seen redzone struggles in each game this season, and they're amplified following a loss where the Cowboys scored a touchdown on just one out of four trips inside the 20. The redzone game needs life (and maybe an extra starting offensive lineman or two).
4. Stephon Gilmore struggles with speed at times.
We saw Gilmore struggle at times with Garrett Wilson last week, and those issues were still apparent when lined up against Marquise Brown. On the touchdown grab that extended Arizona's lead to 28-16, Brown beat Gilmore off the line and the veteran corner just missed making it back in time to defend the pass. That along with a couple of sideline throws that saw Brown beat Gilmore make it something to watch going forward now that he has assumed the CB1 role for the rest of the season.
5. Tony Pollard found wide-open running lanes on the backs of T.J. Bass and Jake Ferguson.
If you're looking for one big positive to take away from Sunday, Tony Pollard was as successful as we expected him to be as RB1, even with a depleted offensive line in front of him. On his way to finishing with 122 yards, Pollard was able to run behind undrafted free agent T.J Bass for the bulk of his yardage, as well as Jake Ferguson when he was pulled to run in front of him. Even though the pass game was largely dumbed down to get the ball out even quicker than usual on Sunday, the running game was effective.