Know your enemy: Dallas Cowboys All-22

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The Eagles are preparing for their second divisional showdown of the season, but it’s arguably the most important. As two rookie quarterbacks prepare to square off, an  explosive Defense looks to overthrow one of the toughest O-Lines in the league..but do the Eagles have an advantage?

Stopping Zeke:
Elliott was very almost an Eagle, until Howie Roseman cemented his team’s future by trading up for quarterback Carson Wentz. But it’s safe to say that the former Ohio State running back has done nothing but impress since he stepped out onto the field. Averaging over 5 yards per carry and scoring 5 touchdowns already this season, Elliott has been terrorizing Defenses.

His instincts have simply made life incredibly difficult for any Defense he’s faced so far. Elliott’s ability to bounce outside is very similar to that of LeSean McCoy, as we can see here. A run intended to be plunged up the middle ends up turning into a huge gain after the hole closed up at the line. The quickness of Zeke means he can get outside with ease..meaning it could come down to the Eagles linebackers to bring him down..a slight concern given their tackling struggles as of late.

The exact same can be seen here on a counter run. The acceleration of Elliott makes him tough to catch once he’s in open space..which means the aggressive Eagles Defense could be caught off guard more than a few times if they’re not cautious, just as they were against Washington.

 

Pressure Dak:
What Wentz and Prescott have done in such a short space of time is remarkable. Both quarterbacks have played exceptionally well and even better considering how they came to be starters. Prescott felt constant pressure for the first time in his NFL career against Green Bay..and it showed.

Dak drops back and attempts to find Witten over the middle and despite having a clean pocket, completely misfires. Witten probably wasn’t his best option..but his bad throws were punished in this game..just as Wentz’s were a week ago.

Dak also threw his first interception of the season against the Packers. Throwing from his own endzone, Prescott evades pressure, aware of what a hit would mean and gets the ball out quickly. The only problem is that the throw was wide of the mark and it gifted the Packers possession inside the red zone. If the Eagles can consistently find ways to pressure Dak, not necessarily hit him but just force him into high-pressure scenarios..they will certainly smell blood. Prescott is completing just 54% of his passes against the Blitz..and after a sudden increase in extra rushers from Philly last week, they could look to capitalize on that come Sunday.

That’s not to say Prescott had a bad game in the week 5 win. He also showed a lot of strengths. For instance, he was deadly inside the redzone, throwing for two touchdowns. One of which came on a beautiful roll out to Cole Beasley. It looks like a play the Eagles could just as easily run, but the Cowboys executed the play action perfectly..and the accuracy of Prescott was made crystal clear.

The Eagles corners could also be put on notice come Sunday night. The unit has struggled with consistency at the line of scrimmage and have often been burned on deep routes. The touch Prescott is able to put on his deep passes rivals that of Carson Wentz..and when you mix in the size and physicality of the Dallas receivers, there could well be a few problems for the Secondary. Prescott makes a fantastic throw to Butler, leading him into the endzone as he beats his corner in man-coverage. Just like Wentz, there’s much more to this quarterback and this Offense than a simple dink and dunk.

Then, there’s his pocket awareness. Prescott moves so fluently inside the pocket and almost senses pressure naturally. This pass is a prime example of that. Dak keeps his head up, stays light on his feet and places the pass perfectly 15-yards down the field into the hands of Jason Witten. The Eagles will HAVE to collapse the pocket from the outside in if they’re to stop Prescott from moving the chains..which means a heavy workload for Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Connor Barwin.

Beasley is rapidly emerging as a favorite target of the rookie..and on this motion at the goalline, Prescott is able to take advantage of his acceleration, with the play leaving a one-on-one sprint to the sideline for Beasley and a short dart that leads him to the edge of the endzone. Just because the Cowboys have one of the most explosive backs in the league, don’t expect him to be overly prominent at the goalline. The Eagles have to be prepared for a multitude of situations inside the red-zone.

Talking of a variety, the Cowboys aren’t afraid to add unpredictability into the mix either..something that was lacking when Romo was at the helm. Here, they line up with just one wide receiver on the outside before completely blowing up the middle of the field on a play acton. The look of the play would suggest a run and it completely fooled the Packers, who blitzed the former Mississippi state quarterback. Prescott rolls out on the play action and slings it to the Cowboys Tight End for a nice gain..but perhaps more impressive was Geoff Swaim’s openness over the top. The Cowboys have a now distinct ability to spread the field and keep plenty of options open. Gone are the days of Dez being the lone threat..which could prove problematic for the Eagles corners.

 

 

Don’t fall into the trap:
The interception thrown by Aaron Rodgers against the Cowboys was very reminiscent to the mistake made by Wentz against the Vikings. Some great coverage by Dallas fooled Rodgers into thinking the one-on-one matchup was viable, before Church retreated in zone coverage to pick off the easy pass. The play design was perfect and the execution even better. If the Cowboys are looking to outwit Carson Wentz on Sunday, he’s going to have to learn and ensure he doesn’t fall into the same traps against Dallas.

 

Receivers need to emerge:
The Dallas secondary may not be the most glamorous in the league, but that doesn’t mean its inefficient. 24 passes Defensed and 4 interceptions paint a stern picture for what is an under-the-radar Secondary..but plays like this incredible pass Defense from Jones will give an Eagles receiving corps who struggle to gain separation (along with holding onto the ball at times) huge problems.

 

The birds simply have to find a way to stagnate the Cowboys Offense. Be it through setting the edge, blitzing more often or ensuring that Elliott doesn’t get through untouched as often as he has through his opening games. For the Offense however, it becomes a case of refinement. We all know what they’re capable of putting up huge amounts of points and that they can dominate if they win the time of possession war. But they’re almost meeting a mirror image of themselves in some regards..and it’s going to come down to who simply executes better on the night.

 

Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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