Cowboys @ Eagles: First Look At Philadelphia Personnel

You didn't expect a player, did you? - Rich Schultz

With both New York and Washington in the rear-view mirror, the Dallas Cowboys now turn their attention to the final division foe, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Everyone here knows what day it is; it's the day our attention turns to the Cowboys upcoming opponent for this weekend. This week that will be the feathered flock from the City of Brotherly Love; the Philadelphia Eagles. The new look Eagles under former Oregon coach Chip Kelly are currently 3-3 and tied with the Cowboys for the lead in the NFC East, so Sunday's match up at Lincoln Financial Field will be a contest for outright possession of the division lead. Without further ado, let's take a closer look at the folks who inhabit the bird's nest.

Offense

Quarterback

With starting quarterback Michael Vick still dealing with the effects of a hamstring injury suffered against the New York Giants, the Eagles will turn to reserve quarterback Nick Foles for the second week in a row. In his second season, Foles has limited experience as the starter but he has sufficient ability, which allowed him to contend with Vick for the starting slot during training camp. Foles is not as mobile as Vick, so his presence will take away one running option that the Cowboys will have to worry about. That does not mean that the Dallas task will be any easier, it will just be somewhat different. Foles has show good accuracy in the passing game and the ability to put touchdowns on the board. .

Offensive Line

To protect Foles blindside, the Eagles have Jason Peters as their left tackle. In full health, he is as good as any left tackle in the league, but Peters is now dealing with a shoulder injury that has caused him to miss practice recently. Beside him at the left guard is Evan Mathis, who is consistently one of the better offensive guards in the game. Over on the right side, the Eagles used the fourth-overall selection on tackle Lane Johnson. The rookie is an athletic talent who is expected to eventually be the successor to Peters at left tackle, after spending a season or two on the right side. The right guard is Todd Herremans who was able to move inside to his natural position thanks to the acquisition of Johnson. Triggering the action in the middle will be center Jason Kelse. Although, as a unit, the Eagles offensive line has suffered some disappointing performances to start the season, in their last outing against Tampa Bay they displayed some signs of coming together.

Skill Positions

The Eagles possess some talent to blend in with Chip Kelly's offensive philosophy. Running back LeSean McCoy is the type of ball carrier who should thrive in the system, provided that he can get some help up front from his blockers. Due to the previously stated improving offensive line performance, McCoy had a better performance against the Buccaneers than he had against either the Giants or Broncos. The biggest threat in the passing game is DeSean Jackson, who last week won his one-on-one battle with Darrelle Revis. Other principle targets for Foles will be Jason Avant and Riley Cooper, who turned in a good, "un-Riley-like" performance against the Bucs. Kelly is a coach who likes to use his tight ends, so Brent Celek and rookie Zach Ertz will play a significant role as well.

Defense

Defensive Line

In the middle of the line is 32-year-old nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. His best days are behind him; rather than being a space eater who can plug up the middle, he has a recent tendency to be a liability in run support. The defensive ends will be Fletcher Cox who is the best defensive lineman on the Eagles roster and Cedric Thornton. The other key guys in the rotation will be Bennie Logan, Vinny Curry, and Clifton Geathers.

Linebackers

Connor Barwin, formerly of the Houston Texans, and Trent Cole will man the outside slots in the linebacking corps for Philadelphia. The strong suit to Barwin's game is his ability to cover, although he did have a double-digit sack season while with the Texans. Moving from defensive end to OLB, Trent Cole is asked to be the linebacker who gets after the passer, something he did well as a defensive end but has struggled with so far this year. Moving inside, we find DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks at the inside linebacker positions. Both faced difficulties on the field last season. Ryans in particular would likely be a better fit in a 4-3 defense, but he has the flexibility to play decently in either scheme.

Secondary

Gone are DRC and Nnamdi Asomugha, replaced by Cary Williams, late of the Ravens, and Bradley Fletcher, a former Ram. Neither is a shut down type of corner, but as a duo they have some potential to be a serviceable unit. Brandon Boykin and Roc Carmichael could also see some situational use. At safety the Eagles have former New England Patriot Patrick Chung and Nate Allen. Kurt Coleman is the primary reserve at safety. The porous secondary that the Eagles present should have Tony Romo and the Dallas receivers licking their chops in anticipation.

Special Teams

Alex Henery will handle the kicking duties, he was 27 for 31 in 2012. In an effort to upgrade at punter, the Philadelphia front office lured former Texans punter Donnie Jones northward. Last season, Jones ranked near the middle of the pack in both net yardage and in punts inside the 20 yard line. Damaris Johnson will handle the kick return duties for Philadelphia.

Conclusion

This game has the potential to turn into another shoot out, the Eagles have proven that when they get their offense clicking, they can put a serious point total on the scoreboard. With the Dallas defense struggling to find their own game, the burden will be on Tony Romo and the offense to once again turn in an impressive performance. They will be assisted in this by the fact that the Eagles have shown that they cannot slow down many teams on defense. This one should be a barn burner.

One interesting thing to watch this weekend will be the battle in the trenches when Philly has the ball. Will the "no-name" Cowboys defensive line be able to turn in another performance like the one they displayed against the Redskins, or will the Eagles offensive line unit that has struggled for most of the season be able to repeat their showing against Tampa Bay. The outcome of the game could very well be decided by the unit that wins this war in the trenches.

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