Cowboys Projected Inactive List:
Bryant and Gregory are obvious choices with their injuries; Leary is very interesting as he could play if his groin is better before the game, his missing several days of practice makes his status a game-time decision. If he is not active, take this next part seriously.
Mackenzy Bernadeau starts over La'el Collins. During practice this week – Bernadeau took first-team snaps – Not Collins. Unfortunately, Collins is not yet ready to be an NFL starter. This may disappoint those who have become accustomed to Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin immediately being productive after being drafted, yet it should not.
Not every first round talent (which Collins was largely thought as being) can immediately start in the NFL. It does not mean Collins will never start for the Dallas Cowboys, it just means he is not there yet. Although Jason Garrett did leave the possibility open stating there was a competition between Bernadeau and Collins for the Left Guard spot if Leary is unable to go.
If Brice Butler is even close to being ready, I would take him to the 46 over Street. His drop last week was huge which may have hurt Tony Romo's confidence in the young receiver. Brice Butler has the speed to be a deep threat if he can get a clean release off the line. I favor his big play ability over that of Street. The Coaching Staff could work him into a few packages in the short week allowing him to help replace the Dez Void and provide some immediate production.
Bottom line, if he is comfortable with the playbook, I would play Butler Sunday. I just do not feel he will be.
With Cole Beasley becoming even more important on offense, I would keep Lucky Whitehead active solely for Punt Return duties. I question the reasoning as to why he was active for the game against the Giants, as he was rarely used on offense. This week is a different scenario.
His explosive return ability could be an effective weapon when facing an offense that is better than the New York Giants. Simply flipping field position could be paramount in this game. I have my concerns with his ball security, yet I would give him the opportunity for at least this week.
I do not see how they could make Christine Michael active this week when facing an up-tempo Philadelphia Eagles offense. Davon Coleman has some position flex on the Defensive Line and having an additional body for the rotation would pay dividends. There were, at times against the Giants, plays where the Defensive Line looked a little winded when the Giants played no huddle. Coleman could help keep the unit fresh going into the second half of the game.
Cowboys Offense vs Eagles Defense
The Eagles did not manage much of a Pass Rush against an Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line that is far inferior to that of the Dallas Cowboys. That does not mean one should ignore Fletcher Cox or Connor Barwin as they do have the ability to produce. Yet, it should encourage Cowboy fans that the Eagles rush was only able to produce a sack, a hit, and three hurries the entire game. Yet there is no question they will blitz.
There were also some running lanes the Eagles gave up all night as well, which gives me the impression that the Cowboys will be able to open up some holes for both Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden.
Personally, I would love for Michael to be active and grab a few carries as I feel this Eagles defense can be worn down by a bigger back. The numbers just do not add up to forfeit another position for him though; however, I feel Darren McFadden has more physicality, vision, and speed than Randle and could be the more effective runner against the 3-4 front of the Eagles.
With that stated, if the Eagles are not able to put pressure on Tony Romo, it will be a long day for their secondary. While Byron Maxwell struggled against the Falcons, their other starting Cornerback Nolan Carrol is the player the Cowboys should target. Carrol is projected to play the slot, which is where the Cowboys can exploit him.
While this footage is of him with the Dolphins, his play has not taken a leap with the Eagles, being a mostly average player that is pressed into starting duties because of injury. Him in the slot against either Beasley or Lance Dunbar is a huge mismatch in the Cowboys favor. Especially, if he plays off coverage on either. Each is a better slot option than what the Falcons featured last Sunday.
Malcolm Jenkins is a playmaker for the Eagles, he could be used to cover Jason Witten as he has shown solid coverage skills. The above highlight package also shows that he can tackle in space, which may be a key factor in this game as I feel whether run or pass the Cowboys will be able to get players in space often against this Eagles team.
If he goes into the slot to take Beasley, I do not feel that is a matchup the Eagles will stay with for long. Cole has the quickness to immediately defeat him off the line of scrimmage, but that is a matchup he will have to win if it happens.
While the loss of Dez is a big one, Chip Kelly recognizes the Cowboys offense still presents a serious challenge come Sunday. Without Dez, the Cowboys may face a defense that does not play their Safeties in a different zip code, which could open the back of the defense up for several deep throws. If they give single coverage, Terrance Williams and whoever lines up as the X receiver will have to beat their man and get up the field. Gavin Escobar should also see a significant role in the passing game as he presents a matchup problem.
One or two deep completions will force the Eagles into a more conservative defense and open up the running game even further than I feel it already will be. If for some reason they start the game playing back, we will see a lot of what the Cowboys did last week and Romo will systematically pick them apart.
I could see the Eagles attempting to disguise their defense until the final seconds of the play clock, but that could be a fruitless endeavor. If Romo picks up on that, he will begin to make his adjustments faster to counter that approach.
Key Match Up: Cowboys Offensive Line vs Eagles Front Seven
Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Connor Barwin, and Vinny Curry can disrupt the Cowboys game plan. If the Cowboys Offensive Line can consistently give Romo time, the Cowboys Receivers will have the opportunity to beat coverage and the offense will stay ahead of the chains.
As mentioned above, the Eagles' Cornerbacks are not exceptional, therefore if Romo gets the time then skill players will get open. It will be paramount for Bernadeau – if he indeed starts – to acknowledge the blitz and pick it up. Romo will need to have time.
The Travis Frederick matchup against Logan will be key for the running game. Frederick needs to put Logan on rollerskates and not get defeated by Logan's quickness on the first move. This is the key matchup to watch as the running game will set up everything else for the Cowboys and will keep the Eagles honest.
Keep your eye on the trenches here. If the Cowboys are to win this game, the Offensive Line will need to be effective and prove they are the best unit in the league.
Slight Advantage Cowboys
Cowboys Defense vs Eagles Offense
Do not expect the Eagles to throw the ball fifty-two times again.
The only way that will happen is if they are far behind on the scoreboard. The Eagles spent a lot of money on DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews; it is in their best interest to use those players.
Their Wide Receivers are not overly dangerous, yet they have a number of weapons they can distribute the ball to, let's take a quick look at them:
- Jordan Matthews
- Nelson Agholor
- Josh Huff
- Riley Cooper
- Miles Austin
Not one of them presents a huge problem, yet when adding Zach Ertz and especially Darren Sproles to the equation, their sheer numbers make them hard to defend.
This says all you need to know about Sproles. With the way the Eagles run their offense, he should receive 10-12 carries and another 5 receptions per game. The Eagles run east-west quite a bit, which favors Sproles' speed over Murray and Matthews who are nowhere near as quick. He is the biggest matchup issue for the Cowboys defense. You have to hope that the Cowboys can stay accountable for where he is and make sure to swarm around him whenever he touches the ball.
Sproles is by far the Eagles most dangerous weapon, yet his snaps may get limited because of the focus on Murray and Matthews. Which I feel the Cowboys defense is active, tough, and disciplined enough to hold up against either.
Jack Crawford and Jeremy Mincey will have to play a solid game along the front for the Cowboys Defense to have continued success in this game. Also, Nick Hayden's ability to eat up blocks on early running plays will be key.
Key Match Up: Cowboys Defensive Line vs Eagles Offensive Line
Get to the Quarterback. Sam Bradford is not very efficient when he is under pressure; while he does not typically throw the ball down the field, the pass rush is vital. We may not see a number of sacks on Bradford as he does get rid of the ball quickly, but if this Defensive Line is able to get pressure on him, the Cowboys are at a major advantage.
I question the quality of the Guards the Eagles will display; they are far inferior to Evan Mathis whom the team released after a contract dispute. Tyrone Crawford needs to have a big day and consistently get quick pressure on Bradford when he drops back. With Gregory sitting out at least this week, DeMarcus Lawrence will have to step up as well.
Eagles Left Tackle Jason Peters presents a challenge. If the Defensive Ends can get pressure off of Peters, it will bring quite a few headaches for Bradford, especially if Cowboys are getting pressure up the middle as well. Whatever this team can get out of Ryan Russell will be welcomed, as every player on this unit has to play effectively and disrupt the Eagles.
Slight Advantage Eagles
Special Teams Matchup
In a game that could be extremely close, Special Teams could really play a huge role. The Cowboys have an advantage with Dan Bailey being far more consistent than Cody Parkey. Yet, the Punt Return unit will again need to be stout when dealing with Darren Sproles. Chris Jones is a solid directional Punter, so he should be able to help limit Sproles by placing the ball close to the sidelines.
If Lucky does return Punts this week, he will need to make something positive happen.
He has big play ability and several nice returns could be vital. The unit can also ill-afford the same mishap which happened last week when Beasley was kept from fielding a Punt. That cost the Cowboys around twenty yards of field position, that cannot happen this game.
Slight Advantage Cowboys
My prediction was spot on last week, the Cowboys needed to have a -3 turnover ratio to keep the New York Giants competitive. This Eagles team is far more talented on paper than the Giants. If the Cowboys have a ratio close to -3, they will not win this game and it will not be close.
As you read above I feel the Cowboys have a slight advantage on Offense and Special Teams while the Sproles factor gives the Eagles offense a slight advantage over the Cowboys defense. Therefore, this game will come down to coaching. Jason Garrett will have to make sure the team is mentally prepared while Scott Linehan will have to dictate to Eagles Defensive Coordinator Bill Davis.
Rod Marinelli will need to get his defense off the field on third downs. If he is able to do that, the Eagles tempo will make it impossible for their defense to hold through four quarters. Third down defense will be the most critical stat for the Cowboys.
I honestly feel the Cowboys will win this game, the Eagles will have several costly turnovers that Romo will capitalize on. However, I expect this to be a battle as the Eagles are in a vulnerable situation. If the Cowboys are able to move to 2-0 within the division, it really puts them in a great early season position.
The Way Of Smooth
I personally cannot stand when players trash talk to the media.
I have been a fan of Jason Garrett from the beginning due to his constant preachings of worrying about the team, improving each day, and being above useless media squabbling. This mindset led to a mentally tough and disciplined team last year, that allowed their play to do the talking.
The Cowboys do not care about the rumblings outside of Valley Ranch. That is why I have an issue with one Bennie Logan. Jason Garrett uses the mantra; nameless faceless opponent, yet it is hard to forget Logan's comments made last year about the Cowboys Offensive Line. He also made a comment challenging the Cowboys manhood during Training Camp.
Logan is a player that does far too much chirping; I hope Frederick is able to dominate him all game and the Cowboys run game finds holes all night up the middle.
Players like Logan really should worry about their play and not getting their banter spread across social media. Landon Collins found out last week that it is better to keep quiet and hopefully, Logan learns that lesson as well.