There was improvement from the Dallas Cowboys in Week 8 as they closed out the first half of the 2020 season with a 23-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.
It was going to be a long shot for the Cowboys to come away with the win, but there were positive signs from the team, especially from the defense.
However, the goal isn’t to keep games competitive and find moral victories. The Cowboys want to win these games. Even though Dallas didn’t embarrass themselves as they have often done thus far this season, they still did not get a complete outing from the whole team, and that cost them a shot at reclaiming first place in the NFC East.
With that in mind, here are four things we learned from the loss that dropped Dallas to 2-6 on the year:
Ben DiNucci isn’t ready
There was some buzz about DiNucci heading into the game on Sunday night, as Cowboys players and coaches talked up the rookie 7th-round signal caller. All that confidence turned out to be false bravado. DiNucci struggled mightily against the Eagles and it was apparent that he’s not yet ready for NFL competition.
The Cowboys seem to agree with that assessment, as they will find an alternative to DiNucci moving forward. Either Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush will start this week’s game at quarterback against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s the right call. DiNucci might someday be a solid QB, but he’s not close to that point yet, and putting him out there against the stout Steelers in Week 9 would have been akin to malpractice.
Forcing the former James Madison Duke to get live action behind the banged-up Dallas offensive line before he’s ready would have had long-term ramifications on his career. It’s clear DiNucci needs more time to develop, and now he can do so on the sidelines.
Rookie CB Trevon Diggs is coming along
The Cowboys desperately needed to find a capable cornerback in the 2020 NFL Draft, and Diggs was hailed as a steal when the team selected him out of Alabama in round two.
Diggs’ play has been uneven for most of the season, but his ball skills have gotten him close to picking off a few passes. However, Diggs has also been getting burned on too many occasions as teams try to pick on the rookie.
Both of those attributes were on display again in the game against the Eagles. Diggs was beaten for a few big plays – including a touchdown – but he also came away with his first two career interceptions and became the first Cowboy with at least two interceptions in a game since the 2015 season.
It’s common for rookie corners to hit some rough patches in their first season, and Diggs is no different. Even though he gave up a score, Diggs ultimately had the best game of his young career on Sunday night.
There are signs that Diggs is turning a corner and becoming the player that Dallas was seeking in April.
Tyler Biadasz has locked down job at center
When veteran starter Joe Looney went down with an injury, the Cowboys were forced to plug Biadasz in to anchor a beaten-up offensive line. The rookie center was drafted in the fourth round this spring, but that was perhaps due to injuries that caused a dip in his play at Wisconsin in 2019.
Grading off his 2018 play, Biadaz was a first-round candidate.
Now, it’s not difficult to see why the coaches are keeping Biadasz in the lineup despite Looney’s return. The young center is looking like a great find for the Cowboys, who really needed a win for a unit that saw most of its starters go down early this season.
The rookie had a stellar performance against one of the better defensive lines in the league last Sunday in his fourth career start. Biadasz isn’t giving the job back anytime soon.
Could Jourdan Lewis’ future be at safety?
The Cowboys have had safety issues for years now. They just haven’t been successful in acquiring the right fits while devoting almost no resources to the cause. Perhaps a good fit can come in the form of a converted cornerback.
Lewis – who has played CB for the Dallas defense in parts of four seasons now – hasn’t performed well when given more snaps or more responsibility on the outside. Ultimately, he doesn’t have great size or speed for the position and is often relegated to a nickel corner role.
However, that profile for Lewis might make for a decent safety. With room to roam, he would probably be the best tackler in the Cowboys’ secondary, and he’s got good ball skills when the play is in front of him.
Lewis had five tackles – including a tackle for loss against the Eagles – which sparked the idea. It’s highly unlikely that the team is thinking along the same wavelength, but the Cowboys perpetually need help at the position, and Lewis could give them an option.
Do you agree with the decision to go with another option at quarterback instead of Ben DiNucci? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.