By Connor Donald, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
The Dallas Cowboys lead the series against the Philadelphia Eagles 70-54. Including the Cowboys winning six of the last ten.
What to know about the Cowboys?:
Through the first two weeks of the season the Cowboys are looking similar to what we thought. Except that they are better on defense than people anticipated. This early defensive example against two high octane offenses in the Los Angeles Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Dak-led offense is ranking 4th in total yards, including 6th in passing. They also have the most first downs in the NFL at 55. Despite ranking 26th in average drive starting position they produce the 5th most yards per drive. Plus per PFF, their offensive line ranks 10th in pass blocking efficiency despite some early losses along the line.
The Kellen Moore offense is loaded and loves to air it out. Although Amari Cooper will be hobbled with his current injury, he proves very effective when peppered with targets. Ceedee Lamb is becoming a heavy favorite of Daks for targets. They have a solid TE Tandem in Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. Plus two home run hitting running backs. Zeke is well known in the NFC East, while Pollard a little less. After last week if you didn't know, Pollard can do a lot with a little and will need to be accounted for when on the field.
What is most surprising is the defense! The offense should not shock anyone as this is exactly the pace they were humming at before Dak fractured his ankle in 2020. The Cowboys defense has forced opposing offensive drives to end in turnover 30% of the time this season, first in the NFL. That's six total turnovers including 4 interceptions. Trevon Diggs with his two picks, Micah Parsons with five quarterback hits and Osa Odighizuwa with a 8th in the NFL, five quarterback pressures. Just to name a couple.
Cowboys Player to Watch:
The Eagles defense will have their hands full. The Eagles offense will need a clean, smart and well executed game against this defense. There are many Cowboys to watch but I'm going with Micah Parsons.
Dan Quinn uses Parsons everywhere, defensive edge, in the box at linebacker, even out at corner for a couple snaps. Parsons is doing it all along that front seven and presents mismatches with his athleticism. Parsons has forced 11 pressures including a sack, 6 total tackles including four stops. Parsons will wreak havoc in the run and pass game and will constantly need to be closely accounted for by anyone assigned to block him.
What to know about the Eagles?:
After a promising week one win against the Atlanta Falcons where both sides of the ball were clicking, the offense struggled in week two. Nick Sirianni called a weaker overall game including throwing away points on a 4th and goal play call. Despite the defense holding the 49ers to only 306 yards and 17 points. The offense put up 328 total yards but only ended up cashing in with 11 points. The Eagles also suffered two significant losses on the injury front. Brandon Brooks will miss at least four weeks with a pectoral strain. While Brandon Graham is done for the season after rupturing his achillies.
Defensively the Eagles cannot force turnovers, still. Zero turnovers forced across the first two games. This was a problem under Jim Schwartz and remains so under Jon Gannon. The Eagles do rank fifth overall in opponents drives ending in scores at 26%. Plus allowing the 5th lowest points per drive at 1.21. There are positives coming from Gannons defense including their ability to keep the play in front of them. Giving up chunk plays hasn't happened in excess during the first couple weeks like last season. They have allowed 26 yards per drive to opponents, fourth best in the NFL. It'll be the next man up on the edge with Josh Sweat getting to step into a bigger role and Ryan Kerrigan rotating in.
Offensively, the Eagles also have not turned the ball over which is a nice change. Last season the ball was turned over on 15% of plays, second most in the NFL. Their inability to put points on the board last week is almost as concerning as the defenses inability to force turnovers. There is a fairly efficient flow between the run and mixing in short quick passes and deep balls. It is just a matter of finishing drives with any sort of points possible at this point. Especially against a Cowboys offense who can put up yards and points at will. Brooks will be replaced by second round pick, Landon Dickerson who played all over the front five for Alabama in his collegiate career. Jordan Mailata will also be out after an injury at practice this past week putting Andre Dillard in at left tackle.
Eagles Player to Watch:
The Eagles will need to find a way to keep up with the Dallas Cowboys and put points on the board. One of the most effective aspects of the Eagles offense has been their rushing attack where they rank top five in attempts, yards and yards per attempt. Sure the Cowboys could push the pace offensively through the air. The Eagles can be effective in slowing the game down and utilizing their tandem of Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell plus the mobility of Jalen Hurts.
Miles Sanders is my player to watch for the Eagles. He had produced 64.5 yards per game and been surprisingly effective in the passing game catching 71.4% of targets. The Eagles are averaging 162 rushing yards per game led by Jalen Hurts. The injuries along the offensive line are concerning, but the Cowboys are struggling with their own injuries and Covid issues on the defensive side of the ball. The Eagles rushing attack will keep the Cowboys offense off the field and can put their own offense in position to score points.
Favorite Positional Matchup:
It is so hard to pick one positional matchup during Dallas week. As an Eagles fan I love the whole rivalry that exists around the Eagles and Cowboys. I am going to pick the Cowboys wide receivers versus the Eagles corners. Darius Slay and Steven Nelson will have their hands full with Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb. The pace of the Cowboys offense is based largely around Dak peppering his two favorite receivers with targets down the field. It will be the Eagles secondary's toughest matchup to date and if the secondary can hinder the receivers ability to get open for even an extra second that could be all the front four need to create their pressure.
When it comes down to which offense I trust to get in a position to score or which defense could stop the offense in a final drive, I sadly think I have to go with Dallas. I have Dallas winning the first meeting between the two teams 31-27. I believe Nick Sirianni and Jon Gannon will be taken out of their comfort zone of playing calling Monday night. The two play callers have yet to be forced to really be anything more than vanilla through two games. I expect this to change against a Dallas defense who is forcing turnovers and a Dallas offense who can push the pace of the game at will.