We are just under 24 hours away from kickoff at AT&T Stadium for the Eagles second meeting against the Dallas Cowboys. There has been so many positives on Defense and worrying signs on Offense that the spotlight has almost turned into a disco ball..not really focusing on anything in particular. We’re here to give you five things to watch out for on Sunday Night.
It became official today that Jason Peters will indeed miss the Eagles showdown with Dallas with a back injury sustained against the Panthers two weeks ago. So why should we watch the Offensive line? Peters is a seven time pro-bowler and hasn’t missed a game in two years..he’s a born leader and is the glue that keeps this line together. But without him, Lane Johnson, heir to the throne is going to move over and cover Left Tackle.
This will be intriguing purely because it could well be a sign of things to come. Peters is 33 and surely in the latter stages of his career, with a weak Offensive Line, the Eagles are looking for that next man to step up and take command and many believe it to be Johnson who will get his first start at Left Tackle tomorrow. If Johnson can bring this group of what in reality are backup players together and lead them to a good performance against a Defense ranked seventh in the league then it’s a promising sign. Johnson has been reckless so far with penalties and often found himself left open with players flanking either side..this has to change and watching his progression during the bye week will be exciting for sure.
Not only that, but it will be interesting to see how this affects the teams formation’s..but we will get to that later.
Cowboys Quarterback scenario
Matt Cassel is expected to start for the Cowboys but with Tony Romo practicing during the week, don’t be surprised to see a few in game surprises. Cassel is going to have a torrid time after a lacking Eagles pass rush comes a fresh look in the way of Kiko Alonso and a Secondary that have been able to keep Cam Newton on chains to some extent which should immobilise his versatility.
If the Cowboys are down 7 with a few minutes to go, The Eagles have to be ready for any situation and if such a move does take place or even if it’s Weeden in his place, they have to show that they’re ready to beat this TEAM and not just go charging after a shaken up and weak quarterback. Because in doing so, the birds open up holes in the running game and out wide. With Dez back, they can’t afford to not have a gameplan for if a QB change occurs to confuse the team with a change in pace and style. It will be a test and it may not even come to fruition, but if it does and the Eagles are ready then that’s a trait of an elite defense without question.
Bradford’s trust in Matthews
Sam Bradford and Jordan Matthews looked so, so good in training camp and it looks like it’s become one of those relationships where one person does all the work. Matthews has been terrible with consistency and drops this season but after a bye week to recover and reflect and a week of training where he was reportedly at the NovaCare at 5:30 AM every morning striving to improve, this could be the week he finally turns it around and has a game we all know he’s more than capable of having.
But what’s interesting is especially last game, Bradford finally began to spread the ball around more..but has that happened at the wrong time? Is the trust now damaged? Will Bradford still target Matthews over slant routes regularly or focus more so on screen plays and comebacks? When you look at targets, until last week it was clear that Matthews was a highly underperforming number one, but the trouble is he could just as easily become an over-performing number 2 or 3. Bradford has a tendency to throw on his first read, if Chip is planning around a different man whilst Jordan recovers then Matthews is going to see a lot less of the ball because Bradford loves the hot route. It’s something to keep an eye on as a significantly lower target rate here could see an inclination that his status as a number one is no more..
This is linked very closely to our first point but after Peters fell injured against Carolina, the Eagles lined up in 2 TE sets six times more than before…obviously needing the extra cover. So will they feature more formations where both Ertz and Celek are blocking? Will they use the Tight-Ends as much needed passing assistants or Offensive Line assistants? Will they still line up in the Shotgun to give the ball to DeMarco Murray against a Cowboys Defense that is doing nothing but expect such a tactic? How subtle the changes to the Offensive formations will be remains a mystery, but what we do know is that Chip is most likely going to be moving a few players around on Sunday..and this will directly affect the success of the running game, the passing game and the Offensive Line.
As one rises up, another falls. Kiko Alonso is back for the first time since week two whilst DeMeco Ryans sits out. This means that for the first real time this year, we will see Alonso, Hicks, and Kendricks all being utilised. The Eagles have plenty of talent at linebacker and it’s a great problem to have..but just how many minutes and snaps will each play? Does Hicks take a drop just because Alonso returns or will Chip swallow his pride and realise Hicks is the hot hand here and ease Alonso back in? Will we see Hicks maybe move to the outside for a few plays to allow all three to line up at once? Bill Davis has already hinted at wanting all three to play significant snaps but to achieve that, he’s going to need to shuffle regularly and perhaps see some new positions for these dominant young men..it will be a key to the game Defensively and will give us an insight as to who Davis favors out of his deep linebacker core.
photo credit: David Grunfeld: NOLA.com- The Times-Picayun