As the Dallas Cowboys get ready to square off against the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football, Rod Marinelli's defense will se quite a bit of changes. With star linebacker Sean Lee expected to miss three games, it won't be an easy stretch for a Cowboys defensive squad that was looking surprisingly good before last week.
But the linebacker corp won't be the only part of the defense that'll see changes. The secondary will have to switch things up with Jeff Heath unlikely to play this Sunday.
Cowboys S Jeff Heath (concussion) is officially listed as questionable for Sunday, but he won't play. He hasn't even been cleared to practice. That means rookie Xavier Woods will make his first start at safety against the Eagles.
No fan should be happy about any injury, no matter who the player is. However, it's fair to point out that this might be one of those injuries in which the injured guy never gets his job back, and someone else takes his place by stepping up and performing.
Rookie safety Xavier Woods has been playing very well all season long, and will be starting for the first time in the biggest game of the season for Dallas.
Since the moment he was drafted, it was a common belief that Woods was a complete steal and that he'd be starting at some point in the season. Well, that time is now, and he better take advantage of the opportunity.
Looking at the tape, Woods has made the most out of every snap he's played and has flashed a lot as a play-maker. I'd be surprised if Heath still has his job once he's cleared to return.
But 25 isn't the only rookie defensive back that we'll see more tomorrow night.
After practicing for two weeks in a row, second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie is expected to make his return to action in the NFL. We've all been waiting for this moment for a long time now, and what better time to return but against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Awuzie is a guy who we expected to make an instant impact on this defense but his availability's been a big issue. Basically, he's played only in the season opener. In case you're wondering, here are his snaps on defense, per Pro Football Reference.
- 39 vs NY Giants.
- 5 @ DEN Broncos.
- 9 vs GB Packers.
Now in week 11, all members of Cowboys Nation are intrigued by how the rookie will perform. He's fully practiced for two weeks in a row, so there's enough reason to be optimistic about it.
Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli said today that if S Jeff Heath (concussion) isn't cleared to play Sunday that rookie Xavier Woods would start in his place. Also, 2nd-round pick Chidobe Awuzie will also see some time at safety Sunday vs. the Eagles.
One thing to keep an eye on is how the Cowboys use Chidobe Awuzie as they try to get him back into action. We all know that Chido is a versatile player and he'll more than likely see playing time as a cornerback and as a safety.
With a season that's been anything but easy, and with lots of adversity surrounding the team, an impressive performance by these two rookies could be a difference maker in the Cowboys' biggest game of the season.
Cowboys K Brett Maher’s 63-Yard Field Goal Sets New NFL Record
After hitting a 63-yard field goal last night in the Dallas Cowboys' win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Kicker Brett Maher now owns the NFL record for most field goal made at 60 yards or longer. It was the third 60-plus FG of his career and second so far this season.
Maher hit a 62-yarder last week in Dallas' loss to the New York Jets. That kick tied him with Sebastian Janikowski and Greg Zuerlein for having two career field goals of 60 or more.
Now Brett stands alone in that category. Last night's kick also was just one yard shy of Matt Prater's record for the NFL's longest field goal; Maher hit from 64 yards in 2013.
If Brett Maher ever gets a chance to kick in Denver, he may have a great shot at breaking Prater's record as well. According to NBC's data from last night, Maher's kick would have been good from 66 yards out.
It was a good night overall for the Cowboys kicker. Maher had two other makes from 26 and 29 yards.
Despite his heroics at times, Brett Maher has been one of the least accurate kickers in the NFL the last two years. Even after last night Brett is hitting just 71.4% of his field goals so far in 2019; that ties him for 25th in the league.
The most puzzling aspect of all with Maher is how much he struggles with shorter range kicks. You almost have more confidence in him kicking from 60 yards out than attempting an extra point.
Few kickers could survive that kind of performance and uncertainty, but few can do what Maher can with his long range ability. It's a risk/reward situation that the Cowboys are continuing to work with.
For today, at least, Maher and his team are basking in the glory of a great game. Let's hope both can keep up the positive momentum.
Cowboys Get Good News on Vander Esch, Quinn Injuries After Eagles Game
The Dallas Cowboys got a big win last night over the Philadelphia Eagles, but there was concern that they also suffered some big injuries. But good news; despite their leaving the game and not returning, both LB Leighton Vander Esch and DE Robert Quinn appear to have avoided any significant issues.
Vander Esch suffered a neck stinger in the second quarter and did not come back. It appears he was held out as a precautionary measure, and the Cowboys' 21-7 lead at that point may have contributed to the decision.
Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch just told me he's good. First neck stinger. Disputes "history" of neck issues reports. Told me he would have continued playing but "wasn't up to me
Quinn's rib injury also occurred before halftime and ended his night. The veteran picked up his obligatory sack before going out, and it sounds like he should be fine for Dallas' next game.
From @GMFB: The #Cowboys got a few injury scares, but LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and LB Robert Quinn (rib) are expected to be OK. https://t.co/ld1mncRkNw
These defensive standouts join a host of Cowboys starters who are going to benefit greatly from the team's bye week.
Dallas went into the game with injury concerns to WRs Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, OTs Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, and CBs Byron Jones and Anthony Brown. Of those, Brown was the only one who did not play last night.
Still, all of these players need a week to rest and be ready for the long haul of the regular season.
The Cowboys will get back to work in Week 9 with a road trip to New York, facing the Giants on Monday Night Football.
Thankfully, it looks like Leighton Vander Esch and Robert Quinn will both be ready to play in two weeks.
Dallas Cowboys Optimistic that Amari Cooper Returns Sunday
It doesn't take a deep look at the Dallas Cowboys offense over the last year and not see the significant impact that Amari Cooper has had. He's been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL over the last calendar year and has opened up so much for the Cowboys offense both with his impact as a pass catcher and for the attention he draws from opposing defenses. In Cooper's last 15 regular-season games with the Dallas Cowboys, he's caught 86 passes on 121 targets for 1,240, and 11 touchdowns. He's been everything the Cowboys front office could have hoped for when they made the trade with the Oakland Raiders after week seven of the 2018 season.
Amari Cooper has been dealing with foot issues since training camp and then went out on the first offensive series against the New York Jets with a thigh contusion. His absence was definitely felt as the offense struggled to find any rhythm in the first half of their week six loss.
Though he hasn't practiced this week there is some optimism that Cooper could potentially practice on Friday and play in this pivotal week seven matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. A contusion is basically a bone bruise, which is painful and can inhibit movement and flexibility. The most important thing to judge when determining if Cooper will be able to play or not is the level of inflammation that still persists in this leg. If the inflammation is better and he has better movement and flexibility in the leg, then he should be able to go.
Amari Cooper had a field day against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 14 of the 2018 season when he caught 10 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Even in the week 10 contest, Cooper caught six passes for 75 yards. He's had a ton of success against the Eagles and with them still having injury issues in the secondary, there's a possibility for him to have another big game this week if he's able to play.
It's an encouraging sign that he's going to try practice today given the concern during the game in the days just after the week six contest. We'll have to keep an eye on how Friday goes and the pregame reports, but if all goes well, the Cowboys offense will be in much better shape with Cooper back on the field.
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