5 players to watch when the Eagles battle the Cowboys on Sunday night

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) hands off to Eagles running back D’Andre Swift (0) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Eagles are preparing for a big matchup against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. While many have used the loss to the 49ers to discredit the Eagles as a valid contender, the Birds have a chance to bounce back convincingly if they can hold off the Cowboys.

All eyes will be on the two-star QBs as they take center stage in the middle of a tight MVP race, there’s plenty of other players that you will need to keep an eye on. Here are five players to watch during this big NFC East matchup.

Jalen Hurts

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, center, steps over players after scoring on a keeper against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

No question Hurts hasn’t played to his “standard” as of yet this season. We’ve seen random spurts of it but have yet to see a complete game put together by last year’s MVP runner-up. Hurts threw for 298 passing yards against one of the better defenses in the league last week while also rushing for only 20 yards. 

He threw one touchdown and rushed for another against the Niners then head a huge scare on a run play that nearly took him out of last week’s game and this week’s. Hurts has to find a way to get this offense into a rhythm. He’s holding onto the ball way too long as of late and has been playing a bit of hero ball too. 

These aren’t ingredients of a Super Bowl contender nor is it a way to stay safe and healthy for the rest of the season. Jalen and the Coaching staff have to put him in a better position to succeed. Sunday night will show if they have realized that yet.

A.J. Brown

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) making a one-handed catch to score a touchdown against Washington Commanders cornerback Benjamin St-Juste (25) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Brown has had an odd stretch of games over the last several weeks. He was on pace to break the season record for receiving yards but has since fallen off a cliff. To no fault of his own, the offensive play-calling and game planning have just been off as of late. 

Although he had 114 receiving yards against the 49ers, he only had 37 against Buffalo and 8 against Kansas City. Before that he had 66 receiving yards against Dallas. The same team that they are facing on Sunday Night. I fully expect Brown and Hurts to find a way to blow this game open. Brown needs to have a big game if this offense is expected to win this rivalry matchup. 

Shaq Leonard 

New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) pulls in a pass reception as Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) covers in the first half of an NFL football game in Frankfurt, Germany Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

It’s weird to place a new player in this idea of players to watch but he could be key to an Eagles playoff run. The former Colts LB chose to come to Philly over Dallas and may feel the need to prove his decision to be right early. The Eagles have suffered greatly from a lack of talent in their LB core and the 49ers exposed that to the league. 

I would expect Dallas to follow suit and attempt the same which means it could either be a long day for Leonard or he can make the statement that the bleeding is stopping little by little with him here now. Leonard and Cunningham together could pay off big time for this struggling defense but will it be against the Cowboys?

D’Andre Swift

Philadelphia Eagles running back D’Andre Swift (0) leaping over Washington Commanders linebacker Jamin Davis (52) and safety Percy Butler (35) as he runs with the ball during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

D’Andre Swift has only had less than 11 running attempts in three games this season. One of those games led to a victory while the other two led to the Eagles losing. Last week he only had 6 carries for 13 yards. The Eagles haven’t had an issue with drawing running plays this season, the issue has been the lack of consistency behind the run. 

You can’t expect the run game to be a factor if you don’t establish it early on. They’ve gone pass-heavy in their two losses with over 40 pass attempts and less than 20 rushing attempts. With Hurts dealing with the knee injury, the offense has become one-dimensional. It’s time for the Eagles to adjust and run their offense behind Swift to open up more opportunities for the passing game.

Nick Sirianni

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni reacts to a play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Since Sirianni has been the coach of the Eagles the culture has changed for the better. He’s done a phenomenal job with this team when it comes to navigating through tough waters. As of late, it seems like his offense has taken the bend but don’t break approach and it’s backfired greatly. The team has relied on being a pass-first offense but it’s hindered them this season. That has to change. 

If Sirianni wants this team to make another Super Bowl run then he has to adjust the game plan and rely on the run a bit more. The RPO seems to be dead due to Jalen’s knee injury but that doesn’t mean the run game should disappear altogether. Nick has to buckle down and trust in his offense to make it work from a different perspective. Establish the run, try some play action, work the underneath, and allow your playmakers to do what they are expected to do.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum