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Can Eagles Contain Cowboys Prolific Rookies?

By Paul Macrie, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

Through six games this season, the Cowboys biggest key to their success hasn't been due to the play of Dez Bryant. The high-profile receiver has only played in three games, and has missed the last three thanks to another injury.

Though Bryant will be back this week as Dallas gets set to play the Eagles, his return isn't occupying the headlines. The sensational performances of rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are front and center, in the Dallas media and nationally as well.

Will the Eagles defense contain the Cowboys prolific rookies on Sunday night? Other defenses have largely failed to so far this season, but this unit should be up for the task, and they will have to be, as preventing big runs from Elliott and Prescott's tremendous play-making ability will be crucial in order to win this pivotal NFC East game. 

Prescott has played at a very high level through his first six starts of his NFL career. His performance has led to the prevailing thought that he shouldn't lose his job once Tony Romo is ready to return from another major injury. The Cowboys' brass is slow-playing Romo's return to the active roster now because of their early-season success. 

The Cowboys organization drafted Prescott in the fourth round after failing to move up to draft Paxton Lynch, and there was indications they were very interested in Carson Wentz until the Eagles moved up to the number-two overall pick. Despite Dallas' current starting quarterback being their fourth or fifth preference in the draft, the moved paid off and he has now become the likely franchise quarterback even if Romo ends up playing some games this season. 

The numbers don't lie about Prescott. He is fifth in the league in passer rating (102.4), second in completion percentage (68.7) and he has only committed three turnovers through six games. Most, if not all, of Dak's success can be credited to the offensive line and Elliott out of the backfield. 

Pro Football Focus ranked the Cowboys offensive line as the top unit in the preseason, and their play through six weeks hasn't changed that evaluation.

Elliott started his pro career on the sluggish side, but in his last four games played, he has showed why he was selected fourth overall. He leads the league in rushing entering this week with 703 yards, plus he leads all eligible running backs with seven carries of 20-plus yards. He hasn't run for less than 134 yards in that aforementioned four-game span.

Philadelphia's defense is coming off its second dominating performance of the season, this time against the previously-undefeated Minnesota Vikings. Sunday night's battle with the Cowboys presents new challenges. With a far better offensive line and run game compared to the Vikings, getting pressure on Prescott won't be an easy task. 

Other than the shaky performance against the Redskins, the Eagles run defense has been solid this season. This upcoming matchup will be their biggest challenge to date when it comes to stopping the run. Setting the edge and staying in the proper lanes is ultra important and it can't be stressed enough. If the unit can hold Dallas rushing attack to less than 100 yards, it easily elevates their chances of winning the game. 

Despite Prescott's play this season, the Eagles need to force him to throw the ball more by containing Elliott. After losing the season opener to the Giants where Dak threw the ball 45 times, the rookie has not thrown the ball more than 32 times during the five-game winning streak. 

The Cowboys offense is built similarly to their 2014 version where they used a prolific running game led by DeMarco Murray to a 12-win season,  a division title and a playoff win. This year, the plan is back in business with a talented rookie back and an offensive line that remains in tact.

If the Eagles are going to come out victorious on Sunday night, the defense must take the opposing offense out of its comfort zone. Led by two sensational rookies, Dallas has been in a buzz for weeks. It is time for the Eagles to kill that buzz with another solid defensive effort. 


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