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Cowboys vs. Eagles: Respect my authority

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Dallas Cowboys versus Philadelphia Eagles. It’s big. Monday night’s game is about as big a game as you can get for Week 2 of an NFL season. It’s Monday night, so that already makes it special, but two teams every week of the season get that honor. No, this game means more than that; it’s a rivalry game, one of the more bitter feuds in the NFL recently. Naturally, it’s a division game, which usually goes right along with rivalries in the NFL. Both teams won their first games handily, thus anointing them as early candidates for NFC supremacy. And both teams play in the NFC East, home of the current Super Bowl champs and "the" division in the NFC, and "the" division in NFL history.

For a game in only the second week of the NFL season, this one, as they like to say, "has all the makings."

A prime-time pugilistic performance. Two heavyweights who are trying to land a crisp left hook putting the other on notice that they’ll be here all season; catch us if you can.

Or in simpler terms, the winner of this game gets to be Cartman.

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For Dallas, this game means a little more. They’re the home team. You have to protect your house inside the division, if you don’t you’re climbing uphill.  

Sure, either team can afford a loss on Monday night, and still go on to great things this season. But for an early season game, this one has a little extra sizzle.

I can’t wait.

Click below to keep reading, there's more stuff after the jump.

 

We all know the standard operating procedure for the Eagles defense. Blitzes from all angles and very effective ones at that. They do ‘A’ gap blitzes about as well as any team I’ve seen. So the immediate worry is plugging in Cory Procter to the line and making it work. He was effective in Cleveland, but they were rarely blitzing and he could get help from Andre Gurode. This week, he’ll have more solo responsibilities. But some of this might actually play to Procter’s strengths. The Eagles are not as big as Cleveland was up front, relying on deception and speed more so than the straight-ahead power scheme of the Browns. Procter should know how to read the defense and what protection scheme is best for the situation since he’s primarily been a center. Wade Phillips mentioned this in his press conference yesterday. Josh Ellis follows up on Procter in this article at DallasCowboys.com. Leonard Davis scouts the Eagles d-line:

"I think their down linemen . . . they're more active than the ones we played last week," right guard Leonard Davis said. "They're smaller, but quicker and faster also.

"It's just neutralizing those guys, opening up holes and protecting the quarterback."

But Romo encapsulates the Eagles defensive philosophy in one short sentence.

"They're a very disciplined chaos."

The Cowboys offensive line is a beast and they're developing a nasty side

"It’s something we wear on our sleeves," Davis said. "We pride ourselves on being nasty and physical. It’s one more thing our opponent has to think about.

"We never give up. When you put people on the ground, especially in passing plays, it starts to affect them."

Ha! And where does it all start? Why, against the Cowboys defense in practice, of course.

"Oh yeah, oh yeah," said nose tackle Jay Ratliff, when asked about the nasty demeanor of the offensive line. "They enjoy it. It’s to the point you can tell when it’s going to be one of those days in practice. They have that look in their eyes and you know it’s going to be a dog fight. Flozell is always in a nasty mood. Then Dre [Gurode] will start it and Leonard will follow."

The offensive line gets a Cartman.

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Tashard Choice is quickly becoming a fan-favorite, a coaches-favorite and a media-favorite. That’s no surprise to me after watching him at Georgia Tech, he was all of those things back then, too. The guy has a very engaging personality and works hard, and plays hard. He’s the kind of football player every team likes to have. I admit that on draft weekend I was surprised when we took him in the fourth but that wasn’t because of ability, but because we had drafted Felix Jones and I didn’t expect us to go back to that position. I knew he had talent, whenever I was asked about him I gave good reviews except for the nagging injuries. Jerry says this:

"He was the best back in the ACC," Cowboys owner-general manager Jerry Jones recalled after Wednesday's practice. "He'd had issues in both knees. That was why he went in the fourth round."

Those issues, by the way, cost him all of a game and a half.

Well, that game and a half isn’t exactly accurate. He played a lot of games injured and sometimes he could fight through it, sometimes they had to rest him and go with someone else in-game. He’s a warrior, nobody ever accused him of not playing while hurt, but he just seemed to pick up these nagging injuries frequently. So that was the caveat.

But when he was fully healthy, he was all you could ask of a player on your team. Now, he’s adjusting to a new role, something he never had to do at Tech – special teams player. When you read quotes from him like the one below about playing special teams, you can understand why he’s making a mark already.

"You have to," he says. "You have to go in there to show the coaches what you can do, and then you have to go make plays for the other ten guys on that field. On special teams, if one player messes up, it can be a big run. If you don't make that block, it can be the difference between a 20-yard kickoff return and a touchdown. You've got to pride yourself on that, because what you show on special teams will carry over on offense. If you show you've got the discipline to work hard on special teams, then you get a chance to run the football."

Some of Tony Romo’s worst games in the NFL have come against Philly. Here’s what I wrote about Romo’s performance in the last Eagles game, in Dec. of 2007.

I couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong with Tony Romo. I counted eight passes before his injury that were off-target, some wildly off. He had receivers open but just couldn’t hit them. After he got hurt with 10 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter, he really looked about the same as before. He had a few pass that sailed wildly that probably were influenced by the thumb, but he also made some solid completions after that, too. He really whacked his hand on Leonard Davis’ helmet, in slow-motion you could really see that was the injury moment. One thing I did notice is that he got impatient in the redzone. He had T.O. open on a crossing pattern but he threw it too soon. He needed to wait another half-second for Owens to clear the linebacker and the referee. Another time he threw to Sam Hurd in the corner of the endzone but if had waited a bit longer Jason Witten was one-on-one with a linebacker and was just beating him to the inside.

If the offensive line gives him time, I’m sure on this Tuesday, I’ll be writing nothing but glowing reviews for Romo.