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Cowboys vs. Eagles: “The Eagles offense is incredibly slow and plodding”

Get all the lowdown on the Eagles before they visit Dallas on Sunday night.

NFL: DEC 09 Eagles at Cowboys Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If it’s Eagles Week, that means a visit from our good friends at Bleeding Green Nation, every Cowboys fan’s second-favorite blog. All kidding aside, there is some great knowledge below for the upcoming game. Get yourself up-to-date on the Eagles.

Blogging The Boys: How do you feel about the 3-3 record? Is it a fair representation of who the Eagles are as a team, or should it be better or worse based on how they have played?

Bleeding Green Nation: I think 3-3 is about right. I have the Eagles 16th in my NFL power rankings, so right in the middle of the league.

The team’s three wins have come over Washington, the Packers, and the Jets. The Eagles needed a comeback effort to beat Washington but their offense showed just how explosive it can be with DeSean Jackson in the lineup. Of course, he hasn’t played since and that’s been an issue. The Eagles pulled off a very impressive win in Green Bay by becoming the first team to ever defeat Aaron Rodgers after trailing by 10 points or more at Lambeau. Philadelphia’s offensive line just bullied the Packers’ defense in that game by opening up holes for the rushing attack. The Eagles simply overmatched a Jets team starting Luke Falk in Week 5, sacking him a whopping 10 times along the way.

The Eagles’ three losses have come to the Falcons, the Lions, and Vikings. The Falcons game was something of an anomaly because the Eagles had three players — Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Dallas Goedert — all inexplicably get hurt in pregame warmups. Those three players combined for 15 receptions, 221 yards, and four touchdowns in Week 2 and all of a sudden they were just gone from the game plan minutes before kickoff. Incredibly bad luck. The Lions game was a classic example of Carson Wentz failing to receive adequate help from his teammates this season as they dropped seven passes that day in addition to having two drive-killing fumbles. The Eagles’ shaky secondary has been an issue all season but especially so in last week’s loss to the Vikings.

To sum it up, the Eagles have some good things going for them. They’re not a flat out bad team. But their flaws are concerning and holding them back from being an actually good team.

BTB: It seems like the secondary is real weak spot. Talk about what’s been going on there and if there is hope it will get better.

BGN: That’s an understatement! The secondary is a disaster right now and there are multiple contributing factors.

Injury has played a part. The Eagles would ideally be starting Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills — their 2017 and 2018 Week 1 starters — but both players haven’t been healthy. Darby was actually able to start the season despite suffering an ACL in last year’s first Eagles-Cowboys game but he’s since been out with a hamstring injury that he suffered in Week 3. Mills is still on PUP after originally getting hurt in October 2018.

It’s possible both Darby and Mills will be able to play against the Cowboys. Maybe that’ll help but, eh, I’m not so sure. Darby was getting picked on prior to getting hurt earlier this season. Mills has always been susceptible to giving up big plays and one must wonder about his effectiveness returning from such a long layoff.

The other primary options the Eagles have at corner at 2017 second-round pick Sidney Jones and 2017 third-round pick Rasul Douglas. Jones is sure looking like a bust to this point. He’s struggled to stay healthy and he’s struggled to play well even when he has been able to suit up. I’m sure you’ll recall Jones got torched by Amari Cooper in the second Eagles-Cowboys game last season. Douglas has been the Eagles’ best corner this year but his lack of speed (19th percentile 40-yard dash time) can end up with him getting burned deep down the field, as it happened in Minnesota.

So, I suppose the hope is that Darby and Mills can get healthy and provide more serviceable play at corner. Those two players were the starters when the Eagles won Super Bowl LII so the team can win with them. Of course, the Eagles’ pass rush was in much better shape two years ago. The drop-off in that area also helps to explain current secondary struggles.

One would think the Eagles might try to add a corner and/or pass rusher prior to the NFL trade deadline. Howie Roseman clearly missed out on Jalen Ramsey but the team did seem to have interest in him.

BTB: What has been working well on the offensive side of the ball and where has the team struggled?

BGN: Slow starts have been a big issue dating back to last season. The 2018 Eagles ranked dead last in first quarter scoring. The 2019 Eagles have shown some improvement in that regard as they currently rank tied for 18th in first quarter scoring. But that stat doesn’t tell the whole story. The Eagles have had to play from behind in every game except Week 5 against the Jets this year.

Week 1 — Down 17 to 0
Week 2 — Down 17 to 6
Week 3 — Down 20 to 10
Week 4 — Down 10 to 0
Week 6 — Down 24 to 3

The Eagles are especially unfit to play from behind, too, since their offense is incredibly slow and plodding. Week 1 was a different story when they had Jackson’s big play ability to get them back into the game. But with Jackson injured the Eagles just don’t have a real deep threat. This offense has to rely on methodically moving the ball down the field on long drives. They making scoring look far from effortless.

It’s not all bad for the offense. Again, the Eagles were able to beat the Packers in part because their offensive line just bullied Green Bay’s defense. Eagles running backs Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders have the potential to do some damage, with Sanders really coming on as a pass catcher. Carson Wentz’s box score numbers don’t look amazing but he’s done a great job taking care of the ball. His stats would look much better if he wasn’t dealing with a league-leading 17 drops. And we’re not just talking about dropped check downs, by the way. We’re talking about dropped game-winning touchdown passes and other high leverage plays. He’s been incredibly unlucky in that regard. Pro Football Focus actually has Wentz as the second best graded quarterback though six games.

BTB: What’s the current injury situation and who do you expect to play and not play? How will that affect the team on Sunday?

BGN: The following six players are likely to miss Sunday’s game: DeSean Jackson, Jason Peters, Nigel Bradham, Avonte Maddox, Timmy Jernigan, and Darren Sproles.

Some reports indicate Jackson has a chance to play this week but other reports are less optimistic. Even if Jackson does suit up, he’ll be less than 100% as he plays through an abdomen injury. Still, having his big play presence could do wonders for this Eagles offense.

Peters is out this week so it’ll be 2019 first-round Andre Dillard starting at left tackle. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles going up against Robert Quinn. Dillard’s talented but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have some rookie struggles.

Bradham being out is a concern with the Eagles about to face Ezekiel Elliott. The Eagles’ run defense has been strong this year; they’ve allowed the second fewest opponent yards per rushing attempt. That’ll be tested this week, though, with Nathan Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill likely replacing Bradham and the recently released Zach Brown in the starting lineup.

Maddox is still in the concussion protocol after taking a scary hit from teammate Andrew Sendejo. It could be some guy named Orlando Scandrick filling in as the Eagles’ nickel cornerback. Ever heard of him?

Jernigan’s absence means the Eagles will once again be down to just three defensive tackles: Fletcher Cox, Hassan Ridgeway, and Akeem Spence. The Eagles really need Cox to take over a game for them at some point.

Sproles is out and that means Howard, Sanders, and Boston Scott will be the Eagles’ three active running backs. Howard figures to receive the bulk of carries while Sanders could get involved as a pass catcher. Scott will mostly handle punt return duty.

Darby was limited in Wednesday’s practice so he might able to start at corner this week. We’ll see how he holds up coming off his hamstring injury.

Mills said he’s aiming to come off PUP this week so we’ll see if that comes to fruition. Doug Pederson cautioned that Mills will likely be on a pitch count even if he does play. The Eagles could be rotating some combination of Darby, Mills, Douglas, and maybe Jones at cornerback.

BTB: So, did Doug Pederson really guarantee victory on Sunday or not? How do you see the game going on Sunday and what will be the final score?

BGN: Well, Pederson would tell you he didn’t guarantee anything, even though he did quite plainly say the Eagles are going to go down to Dallas beat the Cowboys.

Given the context of the comment, I think Pederson may have been throwing out a hypothetical. I think he was trying to say the sky isn’t falling because the Eagles can go down to Dallas and win and be in first place in the NFC East. Of course, the way he said it came out more definitive than that.

So, maybe it wasn’t him misspeaking, as he’s won’t to do. Perhaps he was actually trying to set a tone for this week’s game by being bold. Maybe he feels like he needs to project that confidence to the locker room. In any case, he better hope his team backs it up.

I think Pederson is right. I think the Eagles win this game. They should want this game pretty badly after going 0-2 against Dallas last year. I think Cooper potentially being out is a big deal for the Eagles’ struggling secondary. I also think the Eagles’ pass rush should be able to come alive if both Cowboys starting offensive tackles are missing this game.

Aside from the Eagles blowing out the Cowboys in 2017, the meetings between Wentz and Dak Prescott are always close. I think that’ll be no different this year as the Eagles win this one, 27 to 23.

Thanks for the knowledge, Bleeding Green Nation.

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