Philadelphia Eagles Vs. Dallas Cowboys ITB Scouting Report
The Eagles (4-9-1) travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys (5-9) Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
The Cowboys enter Week 16 currently ranked third in the NFC East, but the fourth-place Eagles are nipping at their heels and still in contention for an elusive playoff spot.
While the matchup looks vastly different from the first meeting that featured Carson Wentz against Ben DiNucci in prime time merely eight weeks ago, I expect this storied rivalry to come down to the wire.
Eagles Offense vs. Cowboys Defense
Eagles TE Dallas Goedert vs. Cowboys LB/S: Goedert is the Eagles’ most dynamic pass-catching option and has the ability to work all three levels of the field. The Cowboys’ safeties, Donovan Wilson and Xavier Woods, don’t boast the range to defend Goedert down the seam, so I envision a couple deep heaves to Goedert. The third-year tight end should double last week’s output.
Eagles WR Jalen Reagor vs. Cowboys CB Anthony Brown: Brown lacks long speed and short-area quickness – areas where Reagor thrives – so look for the Eagles to stretch the field. Reagor must do a better job of finishing his routes and battling for position, but downfield opportunities will be there.
Eagles Defense vs. Cowboys Offense
Eagles DE Brandon Graham vs. Cowboys RT Terrence Steele: Graham, who was amazingly named to his first Pro Bowl, will have an inviting matchup against Steele. Much like Kelvin Beachum last week, Steele is essentially a replacement-level starter. He has a tendency of struggling against power rushers. Graham should find his way into the backfield at high frequency on Sunday by keeping Steele off balance.
Eagles CB Michael Jacquet vs. Cowboys WR Michael Gallup: Although DeAndre Hopkins largely had his way against Jacquet, Hopkins faced a tough challenge from the rookie, who refused to back down and delivered some big plays of his own. In his first career start, Jacquet logged seven tackles, a sack, two passes defended, and a forced fumble. This week, the athletic, lengthy corner draws the speedy Gallup on the perimeter. Gallup, who possesses good body control, long speed, and ball-tracking ability poses as yet another daunting challenge for the undrafted Jacquet. But, just as he did a week ago, I suspect the rookie will hold his own.
The kick-return duties have primary been handled by running back Tony Pollard throughout the season. However, with a prominent role on offense last week, Pollard gave way to rookie Rico Dowdle, who registered 88 yards on three returns.
Elliott (calf) has been a limited participant in practice this week and could be on a snap restriction on Sunday, so Dowdle could earn some more opportunities. One of my favorite Day 3 running backs who somehow slipped through the cracks, Dowdle possesses an intriguing blend of power and finesse. Though hardly an elusive runner with breakaway speed, Dowdle’s innate vision enables him to find the crease, seamlessly navigate through traffic, and accelerate to the second level.
The punt returns have been handled by rookie CeeDee Lamb and second-year pro Cedrick Wilson. Lamb has been most effective in the role, averaging 8.0 yards on 21 returns – including a long of 27 yards. The Eagles’ lackluster third phase must be diligent with their assignments and avoid miscues.
Jalen Hurts is the only QB in NFL history to amass 500+ passing yards and 150+ rushing yards in his first two career starts. In Week 15 at Arizona, Hurts became the first Eagles QB to register 300+ passing yards, 3+ passing TDs and 1+ rushing TDs in a single game since Michael Vick on 11/15/10 at Washington.
Brandon Graham has earned his first career Pro Bowl honor after leading the Eagles defense in sacks (7.0), TFLs (12) and QB pressures and hits (36) through 14 games.
Eagles S Marcus Epps: Though often slighted by the fans, the Eagles clearly value football intellect and upside of Marcus Epps. In fact, Epps was one of three players to play all 68 defensive snaps against Arizona. The second-year safety responded by accumulating seven tackles, two passes defended, and his first career interception. Epps, who out-snapped rookie K’Von Wallace 68-23 last week, should be in line for another extended look. Late throws over the middle typically plague Andy Dalton, so Epps should have an opportunity to showcase his ball skills and string together another promising performance.
Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz: Schultz isn’t exactly a high-volume pass-catcher, but he has a knack for finding the soft spots in zone and can create yards after the catch. Typically, when quarterbacks are under duress, they tend to lean on the short-to-intermediate passing game, which, against a tenacious Eagles’ pass rush, bodes well for Schultz. In recent weeks, tights ends such as Green Bay’s Robert Tonyan and Arizona’s Dan Arnold have found success exploiting the Eagles’ second level, so I suspect Schultz will have a prominent role this week.
Last week, the maligned Eagles’ offensive line surrendered six sacks. While a fraction of the total can be attributed to poor pocket awareness by their rookie signal-caller, the decimated unit appeared decidedly overmatched at times.
Tasked with slowing game wrecking edge rushers DeMarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith, tackles Jordan Mailata and Matt Pryor both face challenging assignments. Smith and Lawrence have logged 5.0 and 5.5 sacks, respectively, while combining for 20 quarterback hits and 15 tackles for loss.
An interior unit comprised of left guard Isaac Seumalo, center Jason Kelce, and right guard Nate Herbig will likely tangle with the defensive tackle tandem of Antwaun Woods and rookie Neville Gallimore. Woods was on the injury list this week with an ankle injury, while the ascending Gallimore – a third-round pick in April – continues to see his snap count rise. Gallimore recorded five tackles (one for loss), a quarterback hit, and a pass defended last week.
Though fueled by gutsy performances from a resurgent offense and depleted defense, the Eagles’ second-half rally ultimately fell short in the desert. This week, however, I expect Hurts to make the necessary adjustments and execute against a leaky Dallas defense. There’s been a noticeable revitalization with Hurts at the controls, and I expect the team to continue to ride the wave of momentum in a pivotal divisional win.
Eagles 28, Cowboys 24