Eagle Eye: Three Keys To Dallas' Defense - Fran Duffy, Philadelphiaeagles.com
After yesterday's stellar piece on the Cowboys offense, Duffy delivers another must-read article on the Cowboys defense, in which he explains the three pillars of the Cowboys defense and shores that up with some excellent film study. Go read this.
1. This is the most disciplined defense in terms of penalties in the entire NFL. Dallas has been penalized just 34 times in its first six games.
2. It's a strong tackling team. The Cowboys allow a mere average of 4.3 yards after the catch per reception, the third-best number in the league. That’s helped by the fact that it is a "rally to the ball" type of team.
3. Dallas doesn't allow many big plays. When quarterbacks go downfield, they’re just 7-of-26 this year with no touchdowns and a QB rating of 48.2, good for fourth in the NFL.
What does this all mean?
Dallas forces offenses to drive the ball. The Cowboys don’t give up anything cheap. They’re also the 10th-ranked team in the entire NFL against the run (92.2 yards per game). The front four isn’t full of dynamic pass rushers, but they play a pretty heavy rotation and all hold up fairly well in the ground game.
There's no slowing down Dak Prescott, Cowboys - Jarrett Bell, USA Today
The truth will be revealed in the trenches, Bell explains.
Dak Prescott. No quarterback in NFL history has produced a better passer rating (103.9) through his first seven games than the Dallas Cowboys phenom, who has many doubting that Tony Romo will get his job back when he returns from injury. At 5-1, Dallas is currently in the pole position in chasing the NFC’s No. 1 seed. But first things first. There’s the matter of Sunday night’s showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles, who bring their own star rookie to the party in Carson Wentz.
The key to this game could rest with whether Philadelphia’s stout defensive front, led by Fletcher Cox, can do enough to knock Prescott off his game. And to do that, the Eagles will have to get through Prescott’s bodyguards – a Cowboys offensive line that is the best in football.
Best game by Eagles required to beat Cowboys - Nick Fiero, The Morning Call
Fiero explains the Eagles will have to play their finest game of the season to win tonight.
[The Cowboys] offense is so balanced that if you throw a safety in the box, you risk Bryant beating you deep. If you play deeper to keep the ball from going over your head, you're eventually going to have to take on Elliott with 10 or more yards of steam in the open field, where he's just as capable of making people miss.
For the Eagles to have any chance in this one, they'll have to have favorable field position throughout, which means winning on special teams and being able to at least flip the field on offense when they're held without a score.
"It's not just Beasley," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "They can spread you a lot of different ways, and oh, by the way, No. 88 [Bryant] is back, too. And oh, by the way, they're leading the NFL in rushing with the NFL's leading rusher [Elliott]. So after a little while, it's hard to cover all those guys. It's hard to scheme all those guys out. We're going to have to win some individual matchups."
Twitter mailbag: No reason for Dallas Cowboys to change - Todd Archer, ESPN
With the Cowboys on a five-game winning streak, the team's coaching staff appears to have found the plays and scheme that has the offense clicking, and Archer sees no reason why that would change.
There is no need to change anything about what the Cowboys are doing. Now that doesn’t mean you remain stagnant. Each week there needs to be four or five plays designed to strike it big against that particular defense, but the rest of the plan remains the same. I don’t want to say playcalling is overrated but too often people say, ‘Why did they run it?’ when the run is stuffed or ‘Why did they throw it there?’ when a pass falls incomplete. That’s cheap second-guessing.
The Cowboys have been diverse with their plans and after the season opener, which was a poor plan because it did little to get the Giants line on the move, Scott Linehan and the offensive coaches have been marvelous. They have their staple runs, but they have added a few wrinkles. The Cowboys have their formula for success and won’t deviate from it
Ezekiel Elliott reminds Cowboys of Dallas's dynasty days - Jonathan Jones, SI.com
Elliott is at the center of the Dallas Cowboys' success in 2016, and to some former players, he's a throwback to the glory days of the Dallas Cowboys.
The leading rusher in the league and on pace to break Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record, Elliott has been the catalyst for the Cowboys’ 5–1 start as they head into an NFC East showdown against Philadelphia on Sunday night. His complete skill set as a tailback—running inside and out, catching out of the backfield and lining up as a receiver, staying in as a pass protector—harkens back to a time before the spread offenses took over the college scene. His style of play, the way he wears his jersey and even his name fit a throwback narrative. This feels like a throwback to the glory days of the Cowboys' dynasty, a team that won three titles in four years in the 1990s.
"There’s no question that being around those Super Bowl teams in the ’90s, that was the formula that worked for us then," Garrett said this week from his new office overlooking the practice field at The Star. "And we wanted to build and construct this team in a very similar fashion. We’re fortunate to have a lot of those pieces in place."
Elliott is at the center of it all. He’s clearly special. Some of the league’s greatest retired running backs know it, the Cowboys know it and so does Elliott.
NFL MVP and ROY rankings: Here's why Ezekiel Elliott is unlikely to win MVP - Frank Schwab, Yahoo
If you were banking on MVP honors for Elliott, you may in for a disappointment. Schwab explaisn that Elliott had two major strikes against him winning an MVP award this season before he even took one NFL snap.
1. He’s not a quarterback.
2. He’s a rookie.
And with that, Elliott was swimming upstream. Even if Elliott was in his 10th season he would be fighting history. But the hill gets steeper because he’s a rookie. Here are all the rookies who have won NFL MVP:
Jim Brown, 1957
Fantasy fallout: Buy Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant before he breaks out - Mike Triplett, ESPN
Fantasy owners should be aware that Dez Bryant is healthy, happy and "about to break out," as he returns to the Cowboys in time for tonight's Eagles game.
ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer said, "There’s a feeling from Bryant that he is about to break out" as he returns Sunday from a tibial plateau fracture in his right leg that sidelined him for three games.
"He’s healthy," Archer said. "Maybe more importantly, he’s happy."
Stephen Jones on making deals at the trade deadline - Staff, SportsDay
On 105.3 The Fan, Stephen Jones didn't completely slam the door on a possibly trade before the deadline, but the odds of a trade aren't particularly high it seems.
You know, you never know. It's not for lack of effort. We're always looking, always looking to make the team better. We certainly have guys identified that if the right situation came along, we'd certainly take a look at it. But with the salary cap that we have in place in the NFL, it makes it difficult. But at the same time, there are opportunities that do come about, and if they do we're certainly willing to look and pull the trigger if we felt like it made us a better football team.
Jerome Boger's flag-happy crew to call Eagles-Cowboys in Week 8 - Kevin Seifert, ESPN
The NFL's signature game this week will be officiated by the crew that has averaged the highest number of penalty flags per game this season with 20.3, nearly four more than the league average. Seifert expects this to be an advantage for the Cowboys in the penalty department.
What does that mean for Sunday night? The good news is that the Cowboys are averaging the NFL's fourth-fewest penalties per game this season (6.6). The bad news: The Eagles rank No. 30 at 10.2 per game. In this case, two of the three factors that go into penalty totals -- the officiating crew and one of the teams -- have histories of high activity. Look out.
Declining NFL Quality of Play Has Been a Talking Point for 25 Years - Jason Lisk, The Big Lead
Lisk with a fun exercise: Using a press clippings database, he went back and compiled somethign akin to an oral history of how people have been complaining about the NFL watering down its product since at least 1990, way before the salary, cap, free agency, expansion, and even Roger Goodell.
Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders with the perfect summary: "This is a general rule of sportswriting: the golden age was always 10 or 15 years ago."
No team is better able to teach UK fans about NFL mediocrity than the Redskins - The Washington Post
Funny stuff, except if you're a Redskins fan.
On Sunday, however, Washington will provide the truest glimpse of the NFL, at least in 2016, when it plays the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium. Daniel Snyder’s franchise is absolutely the average NFL team right now.
Washington is the Middle America of the league. It is drenched in okay: The talent is okay, the coaching is okay, the overall direction of the franchise is okay. After this game, the season will arrive at its midpoint, and it has been every bit the walkway to the future that it was designed to be. On the field, the players are the defending NFC East champions, and they hope to have enough pieces to continue the momentum into another postseason. Right now, they’re stuck in the quicksand of mediocrity.
Half the time, they’ll impress. Half the time, they’ll frustrate. Layers upon layers of mediocrity neutralize them. The NFL is a force that pulls all its teams to the middle, and Washington is the perfect example. When the players start trailing, they have the ability to catch up. When they start to get ahead, they stumble and fall back. They are exactly what their record indicates.
NFL Network analyst suggests Eagles put bounty on Ezekiel Elliott in bizarre rant - Andre Vergara, FOX Sports
Brian Baldinger said the Eagles should "put a little bounty" on Ezekiel Elliott tonight. Completely unacceptable for a guy who works for one of the NFL's properties, and this article collects some of the reactions to Baldinger's classless rant, which the doofus tried to put off as "mostly tongue in cheek."