Time for this week's edition of 5 Questions. JasonB over at Bleeding Green Nation sent me these answers to my queries.
Blogging The Boys: As Cowboys fans, we're very familiar with the Eagles as a team. What will be new to us this year? Assante Samuel is one obvious change, how has he fit it in? What else should we know about the 2008 Eagles?
Bleeding Green Nation: Samuel has fit in just fine. He had a great game against the Rams limiting Torry Holt to just one catch and having about 3 INTs bounce of his fingertips... The other big change is probably the dramatic improvement in the return game thanks to Desean Jackson. I should also mention another rookie return man Quintin Demps, which Cowboys fans from Texas might be familiar with from his time at UTEP. Both he and Jackson had TD returns in the preseason. Demps handles kickoffs and Jackson does punts. For several years now the Eagles return game has been absolutely nonexistent, so for the first time in a while Dallas will face an Eagles team with real threats to return both kicks and punts.
BTB: What's going on at WR? What's the injury update and is DeSean Jackson all that?
BGN: So far so good. Jackson kept putting up good numbers in preseason and the Eagles kept playing him more and more... against first teams, second teams, third teams... he produced against all three. The fact that he's carried that success into the season so far is very encouraging. It's too early say whether the kid is a future star, but things look pretty good so far. At the very least, it looks as if he'll be a constant return threat all year.
As for injuries, not much has changed. Kevin Curtis is out until at least around week 6. Reggie Brown has practiced this week, but only in a limited capacity. He's carrying a hamstring injury, so it's hard to say when he'll be 100%. He could wake up tomorrow and feel fine or it could nag him for another months. Who knows? He did complete a full practice in Saturday, so it's possible he'll play in a limited role.
BTB: Many Dallas fans feel that the Eagles have replaced the Redskins as our biggest rival. What's the feeling in Philly? Has the T.O./McNabb situation elevated this rivalry?
BGN: No. The rivalry is just as hot as it's ever been as far as we're concerned. The fact that Dallas is good again has done more to heighten the rivalry than anything else.
BTB: We know that the Eagles are going to blitz because...well, that's what they do and what they do very well. Who are the players the Cowboys should be looking for in the pass rush? How does Jim Johnson utilize them to get the job done?
BGN: Look for everyone. Literally everyone blitzes in the Eagles' scheme and the idea is that you never know who it will be on any given play. The Eagles will rotate probably 7 guys on the d-line most of the game to keep them fresh and they're pretty much all pass rushers. As far as guys that might surprise you, Dan Klecko as a pass rushing DT on passing downs. He's been maybe the biggest surprise of anyone on the defense with the way he's opened eyes from preseason right up through the Rams game. It's been almost uncanny how often he's able to get into the opposition backfield. Another guy to watch would be middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. He blitzed quite a bit last week and had a good bit of success doing it. He had a sack and batted down a pass at the line.
BTB: What's the #1 thing on offense and defense that the Eagles need to get done Monday to win the game?
BGN: On defense it's a pretty easy answer. Pressure Romo. The last two visits the Eagles have made to Texas Stadium, they've sacked Romo a total of seven times. It's no coincidence that those games were Eagles wins and rank as Romo's two worst single game passer ratings of his career. When the Eagles pass rush has been working, Romo has had a lot of trouble figuring them out.
On offense, the key is to convert red zone trips into TDs. That was the fatal flaw of the Eagles offense last year. A quick peek at the stats will show you that they could move the ball as well as anyone last year... but their red zone percentage was atrocious. They looked fantastic inside the 20 against the Rams, but I think all Eagles fans are waiting to see them execute in the red zone against a solid defense before we're satisfied that the problems from last year are fixed.