The Eagles stormed into the Bye week with Thunder in their stride. A stunning win over the Broncos acted as a vindicating statement for the Philadelphia outfit who sit atop the NFL on a seven game winning streak and an 8-1 record. A rivalry matchup against the Dallas Cowboys awaited the Birds on their return…a fixture that now carries even more weight.
Most importantly, the Cowboys were sent crashing back to Earth by the Atlanta Falcons, who handed them a 27-7 beating. The Cowboys limped into the matchup and hobbled out of it with even more uncertainty. All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith’s replacement Chaz Green allowed six of the Falcons seven sacks on Sunday…highlighting just how devastating the loss is going to be. It’s not like life is going to get any easier for Dallas, who now face one of the most tenacious pass rushes in the league.
Second-year running back Ezekiel Elliott needs little introduction and his suspension less so. When you add in Sean Lee’s hamstring injury, the Cowboys are now at a severe disadvantage…not because they’re missing starters, but more the lack of depth behind them.
The Eagles have been without Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Sidney Jones and even Fletcher Cox this season…but with players such as Rasul Douglas, Beau Allen and Halapoulivaati Vaitai all stepping up to the plate, the “next-man up” mentality has pushed the Eagles past adversity.
Outside of Dallas, the Giants handed Kyle Shanahan and the Niners their first win of the season, and the Redskins fell swiftly at the hands of Case Keenum and the Minnesota Vikings. All three NFC East opponents lost this weekend, strengthening the Eagles dominant grasp at the top of the division.
A win over Dallas this weekend would send the Eagles to a four game lead over Dallas in the NFC East with just six games remaining. A probable outcome…and one that the Eagles will be salivating over the prospect of.
Inside the locker room, things grew even more exciting. The Eagles penned DT Tim Jernigan to a four-year extension…solidifying the trenches for year’s to come. Jernigan has been a wrecking ball this season, amassing 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks through 9 games. A crucial cog in stopping the run, Jernigan has been instrumental in the ruthless play of the Philadelphia front four.
Knowing that Fletcher Cox is already signed through 2023 and both Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett have long futures with the team, the announcement is absolutely terrifying if you’re an offensive coordinator. Jernigan has slotted in perfectly to this wide-nine scheme and the thought of Cox and Jernigan teaming up for the next four years should send shivers down the spine of any offensive lineman.
What’s even more worrying for the Cowboys is that the one lone weak spot on this team after a flurry of injuries was somehow also strengthened. The Eagles signed veteran linebacker Daniel Ellerbe to their roster, adding some much needed leadership to the position.
Ellerbe was placed on IR due to a foot injury back in July by the New Orleans Saints. He was subsequently released and did not catch onto another team. The 31-year old spent the last two years with the team, playing in 15 games and racking up four sacks in 2016. Ellerbe worked out with the Eagles just over two weeks ago after Jordan Hicks sustained his season ending injury.
Without Hicks, the Eagles linebacker group isn’t just light, it’s young. Aside from Bradham and Kendricks, the Birds are left with a second-year player in Joe Walker who is playing in his first defensive snaps in the NFL, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Najee Goode. While they have performed valiantly so far, all three of these players are renowned special teamers. If the Birds are to cement their playoff charge, the veteran presence of yet another Super Bowl champion will only help the young group grow.
The Eagles found a way to get better….even on a week off. While the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins all took significant steps back. If that doesn’t highlight just how special this season is, then not much else will.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports