Eagles vs. Cowboys: ITB Scouting Report
The Eagles (2-4-1) will host the Cowboys (2-5) in a prime-time divisional tilt at Lincoln Financial Field.
Although both teams have weathered a similar rash of injuries, their seasons appear headed in very different directions.
The Cowboys are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Washington Football Team, a loss in which they lost No. 2 quarterback Andy Dalton to an inexcusable, illegal blow to the head. As concerning as the egregious penalty was, perhaps equally alarming was the team’s apparent lack of fight for their quarterback.
With Dalton on the mend, it is expected that rookie Ben DiNucci will make his first NFL start.
On the flip side, the Eagles are trending in the other direction. While last week’s win over the Giants was largely flawed and came down to the wire, those are the type of victories that galvanize teams.
The Eagles are also getting healthier in key areas, as Sunday marks the return of wide receiver Jalen Reagor, left tackle Jason Peters, and linebacker TJ Edwards.
Eagles Offense vs. Dallas Cowboys Defense
WR Travis Fulgham vs. CB Trevon Diggs: Diggs struggled last week against Terry McLaurin, as McLaurin’s nuanced route-running and change of direction often put the rookie on skates. As talented as Diggs is, he is still an incredibly raw player who lacks refinement. Diggs doesn’t appear to trust his technique and frequently falls into bad habits. The rookie draws another tough assignment this week in Fulgham, who has emerged as the Eagles’ primary pass-target.
WR Greg Ward vs. NCB Jourdan Lewis: Fulgham’s emergence and Reagor’s return should draw most of the defense’s attention, so Ward should have plenty of room to maneuver on short-to-intermediate routes. Ward’s pivotal role as a reliable chain-mover and safety valve for Wentz cannot be understated. Lewis has tremendous short-area quickness and should match up well with Ward, but the receiver’s spatial awareness and a knack for finding the soft spots in zone should lead to a half-dozen receptions on Sunday.
Eagles Defense vs. Dallas Cowboys Offense
CB Darius Slay vs. WR Amari Cooper: Sunday marks Cooper’s fifth game playing in this heated rivalry. Over the previous four, Cooper has compiled 25 receptions for 422 yards and three touchdowns. Slay has had success guarding the Dallas wide receiver in the past, but Cooper’s route running and run after the catch ability has victimized some of the game’s best. DiNucci could look to Cooper early on some short throws, so Slay must be alert.
DT Javon Hargrave: Hargrave has yet to have the impact many expected when he was signed a lucrative free-agent deal in March. In six games (two starts), Hargrave has just seven tackles, a sack, and two quarterback hits. He hasn’t been overly impressive against the run or as an upfield penetrator. With Hassan Ridgeway now out for the season and Malik Jackson coming off a quad injury, Hargrave must make his presence felt and rattle the rookie passer on Sunday.
The Cowboys’ return unit consists of running back Tony Pollard and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb as the kick and punt returners, respectively.
The shifty Pollard has amassed 394 yards on 17 returns while the rookie Lamb has yielded 85 yards on 12 opportunities. Both players are electric in the open field and can make an undisciplined unit pay if they fail to stay in their lanes.
In seven games against the Cowboys, Carson Wentz has completed 174-of-255 pass attempts (68.2%) for 1,713 yards, 12 touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 99.4 rating. He has recorded a 100+ rating in three of the last four games vs. Dallas.
Eagles TE Richard Rodgers: Rodgers turned in his best performance in five years against the Giants, reeling in six receptions for 85 yards on eight targets. Even if Dallas Goedert returns to the lineup this week, he will likely be on a snap count, leaving most of the snaps for Rodgers. The veteran should have plenty of opportunities to thrive on middle-seam routes against a vulnerable Cowboys pass defense.
Cowboys WR Michael Gallup: Many, myself included, tabbed Gallup as a 2020 breakout candidate. However, aside from a standout showing against the Seahawks in Week 3, Gallup has been largely a non-factor. The third-year receiver was held without a catch last week and has totaled just six catches for 96 yards on 12 targets the past three weeks. His catch radius, ability to work all three levels of the field, and downfield separation should widen throwing windows for DiNucci. Avonte Maddox returns to the starting lineup without restrictions this week and will likely be matched up with Gallup. If DiNucci has time to uncork a few deep shots, he’d be wise to test Maddox’s ankle.
In one of the rare instances this season, the Eagles will have a decided advantage on both sides of the line. While the offensive line is beginning to round into form, this is a game where the defensive line should control the line of scrimmage.
Left tackle Cameron Erving and right tackle Terrence Steele are reserve linemen who have struggled mightily. While the interior of Dallas’ offensive line is equally porous, there will be opportunities to bear down off the edge. I anticipate at least one strip-sack and monster showing from Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and Derek Barnett.
The Cowboys seem to be wasting good gasoline driving nowhere, as injuries, dissent in the ranks, and lack of team leadership have emerged and seemingly have their season on the brink of implosion.
Despite their blemishes, the perpetually battle-tested Eagles are a resilient group who tend to elevate their play when the chips are down.
Eagles 31, Cowboys 17
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.