Eagle eye view on the enemy: Dallas Cowboys
18 November 2017 Opinion
Sunday’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys finds itself in the primetime national spotlight. It’s been a journey getting to this week 11 rivalry showdown. Both teams have played the first half of their seasons with no losses in the NFC East division. However, the Cowboys team the Eagles lost to last year is vastly different from the one they expect to face this time around.
Let’s take a look at the rosters for this SNF matchup:
Carson Wentz keeps proving he is an MVP candidate for the 2017 season. Did you SEE what he did to the no fly zone two weeks ago? Needless to say, he has been an absolute game changer in his sophomore season. The way Wentz can read coverages, change the play at the line of scrimmage and manipulate secondaries is very impressive. He took a gigantic leap from a solid rookie performance. Wentz has his weapons and with good protection up front, he will create opportunities to dominate this young Dallas defense.
Dak Prescott is a good quarterback. I know Eagles fans give him shit and that’s mostly because he is always being compared to Wentz. Prescott is a very-qualified QB, who has had a lot of success in his NFL career so far. He can make plays on the run and was even highly-praised by Eagles DC Jim Schwartz earlier this week. Prescott has had the good fortune of protection since entering the league. Sunday’s game will truly be a test to see if he can handle the pressure Schwartz will most certainly be bring against his offensive front. Although he has the ability to escape, I expect Eagles defensive line to pin their ears back and get after him on every down.
This is Big V’s first start at LT during an away game. It will be his first true test of handling a loud stadium. The good news is he is up versus what I’d consider lesser talent this time around. Holding his own against guys like Derek Wolfe and Solomon Thomas in the last few weeks was impressive and I’m looking forward to a strong effort from the Eagles OL. Johnson will be challenged by Lawrence but overall, I think Wentz will ensure proper protection and play calls are in place to keep drives alive. I believe the offensive line really wants to prove their ability to open lanes for the running game this week as well. If Wentz is able to handthe ball off, Ajayi and Blount should be in for big games and Eagles should dominate the time of possession.
As reports have suggested, it appears the Cowboys all-pro left tackle Tyron Smith is not able to play Sunday night due to back and groin injuries. The “best line in football” had already been struggling before this was a case as they lost several pieces in the offseason and the line has been influx ever since. With Free retiring and Leary leaving in free agency, Collins was moved to right tackle while Jonathan Cooper got the start at left guard. Cooper isn’t all that impressive and that is largely why losing a guy like Smith next to him looks like what Falcons did last Sunday. The entire blindside of Dak is weak without Smith there to shore things up. I’m sure the OL will try to improve this week after that embarrassing performance against the Falcons; however, going with Bell over Green is not much (if any) of an upgrade. With an already dominate Eagles run defense and no Zeke, Dak might be forced to hold the ball a bit longer than he has been used to in previous games. I expect Dak to be hit early and often in a collapsing pocket.
Players have been aware of the media attention Cowboys OL has had “being the best in the league” for years. Newly-paid DT Timmy Jernigan mentioned that during his press pass this week stating, “I’ve had this one circled on my schedule before I even knew it was a rivalry… I always knew that when we play the Cowboys, that’s gonna be a good game.. they’ve got a great offensive line, we’ve got a great defensive line.” I expect the Eagles to respect them while taking advantage of the weak links starting opposite them. Bring down the running backs on the way to Dak must be the approach on each down up front.
Cowboys has greatly improved their pass rush. I will give props to DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving mostly for that. They’ve been very disruptive this season. However, I do think Eagles are the best OL they will have faced so far this season.
With Ronald Darby officially back for the Eagles, the secondary will pose more threats to Dak Sunday night. There is not much tape on what the Eagles defense can look like with Darby’s talent out on the field. Schwartz mentioned in preseason how he felt very comfortable “leaving him (Darby) on an island” in coverage. With only 4 men rushing the passer, Darby one-on-one, the Eagles secondary is able to force Dak into some uncomfortable and problematic situations.
The Cowboys secondary is very young. They are likely going to be without their quarterback of the defense to guide them on Sunday night- Sean Lee. That has proven to create breakdowns in coverage for the Cowboys defense. Starting safety Jeff Heath is currently in the concussion protocol and did not practice this week. He will likely will not be available to play forcing another vet of their defense to be out. I think the Cowboys have a promising secondary, much like the Eagles, but without the veteran leadership in the secondary to keep them grounded, I expect Wentz to manipulate their coverage and wreak havoc in the passing game.
We’re finally going to see Jay Ajayi with full knowledge of the playbook. He looked good without it vs the 2nd best run defense two weeks ago. With Zach Ertz coming off a hamstring injury, I expect him to be productive in the middle of the field while Wentz does take some shots down the field to Hollins and Agholor. The success of Eagles offensive play calls is it’s versatility. They are keeping defenses honest and it has proven to be difficult to defend.
The Cowboys are without their most coveted skills player, Zeke Elliott. Without Elliott, that offense is losing a large part of it’s identity. Morris, Smith and McFadden are serviceable running backs but will likely struggle vs Eagles run defense. I do expect Rod Smith to get involved in the check down game from time to time but Dak will need to depend on his wide receiving corps. Dez has been dealing with an injury since the Chiefs game a few weeks ago and barely saw the ball vs the Falcons. Williams and Butler are very good WRs when they want to be and Beasley and Witten are reliable targets for Dak. But again, without Zeke, this offense is not nearly as explosive as it once was.
If the Eagles defense can continue its dominance upfront, Dak will be running for his life during another week without Zeke. The Eagles offense needs to control the time of possession and come out strong. Wentz really has a chance to show off Sunday in the national spotlight. I see him doing that on top of a great Eagles win.
FOR A VIDEO BREAKDOWN: