For Eagles fans, this is the jewel in the crown of the NFL Season. A showdown with bitter rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. But if the Eagles are to dominate and invoke revenge for their week two embarrassment they will need some big performances..and these three players are perhaps more needed than ever.
Coincidentally the team Kiko faces this weekend will be the same team that kept him sidelined since week 2. We haven’t really had a chance to judge Alonso’s season so far or even decide if this was a good investment bearing in mind that Chip knew the risk and his injury history. A huge performance against Atlanta and the makings of a dominant force in the opening stages against Dallas have set the tone for Alonso but now he’s needed more than ever.
With DeMeco Ryans most likely sidelined, Alonso will be thrust straight into action and will need to fill the very large void that Ryans will leave behind…especially in run blocking. With Jordan Hicks, Connor Barwin and company around him, he certainly has the support..but without Ryans, the linebackers faltered a little against the Panthers despite still proving to be a strong unit. It’s time for Alonso to step up and have a huge game. Not only to get revenge on the Cowboys but to replace the leadership and sheer force that Ryans notoriously had and ensure that the unit does not slip a little as it did against Carolina.
When Byron Maxwell last lined up against the Cowboys, he was coming off of an embarrassing performance against one of the leagues best. He faced Dallas who were without their best yet still managed to put in a sub standard performance. Thankfully though, Maxwell has been able to turn his season around pretty fast. As we predicted in our bold predictions article (these are scarily accurate expect another for this weekend), he picked up his first interception against Carolina and has since began to play much more intimidating man-to-man coverage. That will be crucial in this matchup…as this time, the Cowboys do have their best.
Dez is back, but how much he will be targeted after some abysmal stats by Cassel remains unknown. Maxwell seems adamant that he doesn’t need to shadow the elite wideout but at the same time, he can’t afford to take his eyes off him. Maxwell had certainly improved during his time in Philadelphia..but now comes arguably his toughest challenge since week one..covering Dez Bryant.
Not only do we need to see a big performance because of who he’s lining up against, but it will give us an idea of just how good or indeed bad he really is. A shutdown performance against a receiver who terrorised the Secondary last year would definitely restore faith that he is worth the $63million and can show elite capabilities. We have seen flashes of brilliance recently in what has otherwise been a worryingly slow season…it’s time to put up or shut up.
The last time Murray played his former team, he ended on two yards on thirteen carries. Why? Because the Cowboys knew what was coming. To put it simply, Murray was still running as DeMarco Murray, the North/South runner. The Eagles do not have the strength on the line to play that kind of running game and be successful with it so the Cowboys often packed eight into the box and made life miserable for Murray.
Since then, Murray has improved vastly and not only increased his yards per game average significantly but he has been a success in the redzone which judging off of Bradford’s INT record from within 20 yards is a bit of saving grace.
Murray has very much adapted his game to Ryan Mathews’ style and the offensive scheme. The same screen plays that terrorised the Cowboys in the last few years are back and Murray is beginning to look much more comfortable running the outside sweeps..but the question is, can he become the back that the Eagles need?
The Eagles need a running back who will run the scheme as intended..not dive for the first hole up the middle or run out of the pistol/shotgun. We saw the change early on and since, Murray has been much better. The Cowboys can handle DeMarco Murray..but can they handle a trio of running backs who are running a much more refined style of what LeSean McCoy used to inflict. Less flash, more yards is the thought process..but can Murray finally kick it up a gear?
This is DeMarco Murray’s homecoming. He played with vengeance last time out and you could see it in the way he was leaping over players and challenging head on. That has to change if he is to be successful this week and the Eagles need him to be. With the current receiver woes and a Cowboys Defense that admittedly looks stronger than when the teams last played, the running game will be more important than ever. Last time, Bradford relied too heavily on an ineffective running game that cost the team possession, conversions and most importantly a win. Murray HAS to be effective this game if this Offense is to pick up any steam at all and re-establish itself as one of the most intimidating in the NFL.