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Slowing Eagles Rookie Miles Sanders Key for Cowboys Defense

As the Dallas Cowboys (7-7) prepare to play the Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) with an opportunity to clinch the NFC East on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys have an opportunity to clinch the NFC East and the fourth seed in the playoffs. The two teams come into this game playing pretty good football, but the two teams are coming in with vastly different health issues.

The Philadelphia Eagles are down Alshon Jeffrey, who was put on injured reserve, and Nelson Agoholor, who hasn’t practiced this week and is unlikely to play week 16 against the Cowboys.

As they’ve dealt with injuries to their wide receivers on the outside, they’ve begun to lean more heavily on rookie Running Back Miles Sanders out of Penn St. Sanders, who has been sharing the workload with Jordan Howard for most of this season, got the opportunity to start the last four games as Howard’s been dealing with injuries. Sanders has rewarded the Eagles with his newfound opportunities over the last four games.

2019 Games Table
Rush Rush Rush Rush Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece
Date Week Opp Result Rush Yds Y/A TD Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD Ctch% Y/Tgt
2019-11-24 12 SEA L 9-17 12 63 5.25 0 5 3 23 7.67 0 60.0% 4.60
2019-12-01 13 @ MIA L 31-37 17 83 4.88 0 5 5 22 4.40 1 100.0% 4.40
2019-12-09 14 NYG W 23-17 15 45 3.00 0 5 4 24 6.00 0 80.0% 4.80
2019-12-15 15 @ WAS W 37-27 19 122 6.42 1 6 6 50 8.33 1 100.0% 8.33
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/20/2019.

Over the last four games, he’s averaging 78 rushing yards a game and nearly five yards a carry.  He’s scored three touchdowns and was a big reason the Eagles were able to beat the Washington Redskins last week. Sanders ran for 109 yards after contact in week 15, picked up three runs of more than 10 yards, and hit the Redskins for a 56-yard run.

Per Sharp Football Stats, the Eagles had a 57% success rate when running the football on 28 attempts.

Sanders is a dangerous dual-threat runner who is the last real game-breaking skill player the Eagles have left after all the injuries. He’s got the speed and elusiveness to take one to the house every time he touches the ball. That’s the kind of threat the Cowboys are facing on Sunday.

Outside of Zach Ertz, the Cowboys shouldn’t really be stressed in the passing game. That should allow the Dallas defense to focus on slowing down the run, putting the Eagles in longer down and distances, which benefits the Cowboys pass rush.

The Dallas Cowboys have been up and down this season against the run but were excellent last week against the Todd Gurley and the Los Angeles Rams. In the Cowboys week 15 win over the Rams, they held Todd Gurley to 20 yards on 11 carries.

If the Cowboys are going to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia, they’ll need to be good against the run again this week. If the Cowboys allow the Eagles’ running game to have a similar level of success like the Green Bay Packers or Minnesota Vikings had, then it’ll be a long day for the defense, which could end in defeat.

The Cowboys can’t go into this one expecting to roll over the Eagles like they did the Rams last week. Divisional games always present a different dynamic even when one team is the perceived favorite. However, if the Cowboys can play as well as they did in the run game last week, there’s little the Philadelphia Eagles offense is going to be able to do to keep up with the Dallas Cowboys offense.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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