The Philadelphia Eagles are coming to town with their stout 8-1 record at a time when the Dallas Cowboys are struggling mightily with injuries and consistency. The Eagles are coming off a huge 51-23 beat down over the Denver Broncos in week nine and are playing the part of the best team in the NFL.
We've heard a lot about Carson Wentz this year, and deservedly so. He's thrown for a league leading 23 touchdowns to only five interceptions. The Eagles are the second best scoring unit in the NFL. He's been good this year.
Enough about him, let's touch on five Eagles you need to know and keep an eye on come Sunday.
1. Jay Ajayi, Running Back
One thing I'll look for on Sunday is how they get new acquisition Jay Ajayi involved in the running game. In his debut, he carried the ball eight times for 77 yards while scoring on a 46 yard run. He isn't the best running back in the league, but he has the ability to take the ball to the house on any given play.
The Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff only gave him 24.6% of the offensive snaps during the game against Denver and he only received two carries inside the red zone. How the Eagles deploy Ajayi and the rest of the running back group will be interesting to watch.
2. Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle
This guy has been an interior thorn in the side of the Dallas Cowboys ever since he came into the league in 2012. He's a terror who has averaged 5.7 sacks per season with a high of 9.5 in 2015 and is on pace for eight this season.
He isn't the team leader in sacks, but he has 4.5 from the defensive tackle position. That's pretty good. Only Geno Atkins, David Irving, and Aaron Donald have more sacks at defensive tackle than Cox.
He was given first team All-Pro honors in 2015 and 2016 and is considered one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL.
3. Jalen Mills, Cornerback
Jalen Mills was the seventh round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2016 NFL Draft. So far in the 2017 NFL season, he's tied for the team lead in interceptions with three, second on the team in passes defensed with 10, and second on the team with 34 tackles. One of Mills' interceptions has gone for a touchdown. His 10 passes defensed is three off the NFL lead of 13.
While the Eagles have allowed the most completions in the NFL and the ninth most yards, having a seventh round draft choice contributing like Mills is a huge bright spot for a Philadelphia Defense that ranks in the top-10 in scoring defense.
4. Nelson Agholor, Wide Receiver
Alshon Jeffery is the big name wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, but Nelson Agholor is the big play wide receiver for the team. Agholor is third on the team in receiving yards, receptions, and is tied for second with five touchdown receptions.
Along with Agholor, there are only four other players in the NFL who have recorded fewer than 50 targets and have five or more touchdowns.
Will Fuller has 7 touchdowns on 33 targets. That's an incredible 21.21% of his targets that have gone for touchdowns. The others are Minnesota's Stefon Diggs, Pittsburgh's Juju Smith-Schuster, and Seattle's Paul Richardson. Aside from Fuller, Agholor has the best touchdown/target percentage among that group of players.
Agholor's been far more consistent than Jeffery, catching 69% of his passes compared to Jeffery's 46.6%. Agholor is averaging 10.19 yards per target while Alshon Jeffery is only averaging 6.84 yards per target.
He's a big play threat who has been hurting teams deep. Nelson Agholor has had receptions of 72, 58, and 36 yards. He will be difficult to contain.
5. Chris Long, Defensive End
The 32-year-old veteran, Chris Long, isn't a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he's played well in a reserve roll recording three sacks and forcing two fumbles.
His three sacks tie him for third on the team while playing less than half of the snaps on defense. He's a player that could give Chaz Green or Byron Bell fits if they are forced to start.
Which Eagles are you worried about this weekend?
Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3
Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Taco Charlton might be turning things around. The former first round draft pick didn't have a great couple of seasons to start his career off, which forced him to be in a battle to earn a spot on the Cowboys 53-man roster this offseason. Three weeks into the preseason, it looks like he's a lock to make the team. In a "Dress Rehearsal" game that went great for the Cowboys, Charlton's performance was among the best players.
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how the Cowboys' younger defensive ends could force the team to move on from Taco. From Dorance Armstrong to Jalen Jelks, there's a handful of promising players that were participating in a positional battle that one way or another, included Taco Charlton.
However, the Michigan product showed up to play versus the Los Angeles Rams with two passes batted down. Despite making such plays, we still hadn't seen much from him in the pass rush department.
That changed against the Houston Texans last Saturday when he managed to get two sacks (one strip-sack), two forced fumbles and a recovery. This was undoubtedly Taco's best game in his career. He still has a lot to prove, but it was definitely good to see him have a "breakout" preseason game.
With such performance, it doesn't seem like he'll be going anywhere in 2019. Charlton won't be a starter for this team, but he could become a very important rotational piece for Rod Marinelli's defense. He has a great opportunity to find playing time during the first two weeks of the season before Robert Quinn returns from suspension.
One unfortunate note was that in his best game yet, Taco went out injured twice (ankle). The first time he went back to the field to get some more but had to walk off the field for a second time. Hopefully, he's able to play next Thursday but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't after having a breakout game versus the Texans.
Taco Charlton still has a very long way to justify being a first-round pick, but his play against Houston was a start. It will be very interesting to see how he plays in the 2019 regular season. He'll have to fight for playing time and he'll have to make every snap count to turn his career around.
HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't have scripted a better result in tonight's dress rehearsal game against the Houston Texans. All three phases of the game made big plays as they dominated 34 to 0.
The night belonged to the defense as they terrorized Houston's starters and reserves along the offensive line with 8 sacks. Taco Charlton, a former first-round pick turned outcast was the star of the night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. In my opinion, if there were any doubts about him making the roster he put them to bed tonight.
Kerry Hyder showed once again why he's one of the smartest free-agent signings of 2019. After being a lost man in the 3-4 defensive scheme with his former team the Lions, he's done a really good job applying pressure even though he hadn't recorded any sacks in the first two preseason games. However, tonight he recorded 2 sacks and reminded everyone of the player who had 8 sacks in 2016.
The young guys weren't to be left out in this defensive clinic. Dorance Armstrong, Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise, and Joe Jackson all had half sacks. Rookie Safety Donovan Wilson had one of the plays of the night with a beautiful interception as he tapped both feet before heading out of bounds. Cornerback C.J. Goodwin, who will probably make the roster on his special teams ability, got in on the interception party himself high pointing a contested pass.
Dak Prescott was only 2 for 5 (11 for 14 in the preseason) but managed to escape what looked like a sure sack and roll to his left and threw a rope to Michael Gallup for a touchdown. The two have shown a lot of growth and chemistry during training camp, something that was missing at times in 2018.
Wide Receiver Devin Smith had 6 receptions for 79 yards while Cedrick Wilson snagged 3 passes on 4 targets. Both receivers are fighting for the final roster spots in the receiver group which they'll have to continue to do next week against the Buccaneers.
Tight End Marcus Lucas had a very solid game with 4 catches for 50 yards. He will definitely be a player to watch in the final preseason game before final cuts are made. Cooper Rush went 15 for 25 and further solidified his position as the primary backup to Prescott. Mike White was also solid going 6 for 9 and tossing a touchdown.
Special teams got in on the action themselves when Linebacker Joe Thomas recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Now the Cowboys have only one more preseason game before the 2019 season begins. All that's left now is figuring out the last few roster spots and staying as healthy as possible. September 8th is right around the corner.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition
In the NFL, the third preseason week is often referred to as the "Dress Rehearsal." It's usually the week in which starters get the most playing time. That has changed lately, with plenty of teams deciding to take care of their key players instead of risking them on the field. However, the Dallas Cowboys have played their starters on their first two games and there's no reason to believe that will change versus the Texans today.
Here is my wishlist for the Cowboys vs Texans "Dress Rehearsal!" Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Justin Phillips Locks Up a Roster Spot
Phillips has been one of the most surprising players this offseason and preseason. The Cowboys are set at linebacker, but Phillips has made sure to be a tough guy to cut. Last week, he had a remarkable interception against the Rams. Despite making a first step toward the line, he managed to adjust and made the play. He has followed it up with more plays in practice.
If he keeps it up, the Cowboys won't be able to cut him. He has the potential to be a force on special teams and a quality backup.
Wish #2: Devin Smith Makes Things Interesting
The battle for the final wide receiver spots is at full-go. Devin Smith has shined lately, and has risen as a serious candidate to make the roster. However, it seems like other wide receivers have the upper-hand as of now. Earlier this week, I made my Cowboys WR Power Rankings and had Devin Smith at #7.
His TD catch versus the Rams last week was pretty impressive, and I wish he makes a few more plays to make the debate all the more interesting.
Wish #3: Tony Pollard Does It Again
Fifth-round rookie Tony Pollard
stole was the show last weekend as he racked up 51 total yards (five carries, one catch) and a touchdown on Dallas' first offensive drive. He looked impressive as the starting running back, giving us just what we wanted to see.
While many have advertised him as a gadget player, Pollard proved he can actually be a "standard" RB. He ran between the tackles, showed power, balance and great vision. I'm ready to watch it again, this time versus the Texans.
Wish #4: Taco Charlton Shines Rushing The Passer
Taco Charlton has made a couple of plays in preseason on his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Rams, he batted down two passes and looked good separating from opposing offensive linemen. Charlton has gotten praise from some analysts during these first two preseason weeks.
But I want to watch some quality pass rush from his part. Right now, the Cowboys' roster counts with some promising players, including rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson. While they're currently below Taco, he must prove he belongs on the roster.
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