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Cowboys @ Eagles: “I’ll believe Philadelphia can beat Dallas when I see it happen.”

We turn to a long-time Eagles expert for some insight in the team from Philadelphia.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

As we usually do when the Cowboys and Eagles mix it up, we spoke with an expert on the Eagles in the form of Brandon Lee Gowton at Bleeding Green Nation. Here’s what he had to say about the Cowboys rival and the game on Sunday.

Blogging The Boys: What’s the general feeling about the play of Carson Wentz? How has his new contract and the many injuries played into the evaluation of his play this season?

Bleeding Green Nation: After two straight games featuring Wentz leading the Eagles on clutch, game-winning drives, well, I think most fans are feeling good about him right now.

Evaluating his 2019 season as a whole is tricky. Expectations were high heading into this year; multiple NFL analysts pegged him as a potential MVP candidate. Wentz clearly hasn’t lived up to that level of expectation but it’s hardly all his fault.

Having to deal with the league’s worst wide receiving corps for most of the season hasn’t been very helpful. I swear no other quarterback has had to deal with more high-leverage miscues than Wentz has. He’s had two game-winning touchdowns and one game-tying touchdown dropped. And it’s not like his receivers ever make plays to bail him out to compensate for the mistakes.

Drops haven’t been the only issue. With DeSean Jackson hurt, the Eagles haven’t had any kind of reliable vertical threat at receiver. As a result, they’ve been forced to regularly dink-and-dunk down the field as opposed to being able to generate big plays. There’s been a lot of pressure on Wentz to execute perfectly each week because there isn’t much margin for error.

This isn’t to suggest Wentz is blameless. Fumbling has clearly been an issue for him considering he has 13 in his last eight games. He’s also left some plays on the field due to accuracy issues.

Overall, though, there should be no question that Wentz is rightfully the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. He’s ultimately kept the team alive in the playoff picture despite not having a very strong supporting cast to work with. He hasn’t missed any significant game action due to injury, either.

Wentz’s 2020 outlook should be even better if the Eagles can upgrade their coaching staff (offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach) and give him a receiving corps that isn’t absolutely abysmal.

BTB: Give us you best guesses on the current injuries about who will play and how well they’ll be able to do. Also, talk about the injuries to the receiving corps and how that has changed the offense.

BGN: The Eagles had seven players listed on their Wednesday injury report.

Three didn’t practice: starting wide receiver Nelson Agholor, starting defensive end Derek Barnett, and starting right tackle Lane Johnson. Four were limited: starting right guard Brandon Brooks, starting defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, starting cornerback Ronald Darby, and starting running back Jordan Howard.

It seems like Agholor is on track to miss Sunday’s game. That’ll leave the Eagles with just three healthy wide receiver on the 53-man roster: Greg Ward, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and Robert Davis. That trio has accounted for 27 career NFL receptions. Ward is the only one of the three who actually had a catch in Week 15. He’s actually looked competent since being promoted from the practice squad last month. JJAW is a rookie and he looks like it; he’s been totally lost out there. From dropping touchdown catches to messing up his teammates by running wrong routes … it’s been bad. Davis was only promoted from the practice squad last week. The Eagles view third string tight end Joshua Perkins — yet another practice squad call up — as a player who has receiver versatility but he’s not scaring anybody. As a result of these uninspiring receiver options, the Eagles have been forced to operating their passing game primarily through their tight ends and running backs. They’ve been able to make it work recently but it doesn’t seem very sustainable in the long run. Having wide receivers seems kind of important in a passing league.

Doug Pederson has offered some optimism about Barnett’s playing chances, for whatever that’s worth (read: maybe nothing). The Eagles’ pass rush had zero sacks and zero quarterback hits last week so getting Barnett back would be ideal.

Johnson was described as “week-to-week” just last week and was wearing a boot as recently as this past Sunday. Johnson’s tough as hell so he might be able actually to power through it. He’d clearly be much less than 100% if he plays. If Johnson can’t suit up, the Eagles will have Halapoulivaati Vaitai starting at right tackle. Big V did a nice job against Washington but the prospect of him facing Demarcus Lawrence isn’t comforting.

I don’t think Brooks and Cox are in jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game.

Darby was in and out of the lineup this past weekend after picking up an injury in last Friday’s practice. He might be able to start against Dallas but he might also have to come out again. Rasul Douglas could see playing time in his stead.

There was a report that Howard could return this week but we’ve yet to hear he’s been cleared for contact. So, one would assume he’s out until there’s reason to believe otherwise. Talented rookie Miles Sanders and Darren Sproles-esque jitterbug Boston Scott figure to be the Eagles’ primary two running backs.

BTB: Given the Eagles high-quality defensive line and general good numbers defending the run, why do you think Ezekiel Elliott continues to have success against Philly beyond him just being talented and the Cowboys offensive line doing their job?

BGN: It’s a great question. Jim Schwartz’s system is especially focused on stopping the run.

And yet the Eagles just haven’t had an answer for Zeke. They’re 0-5 against the Cowboys when he’s played and that’s not just a coincidence. His presence allows Dallas to operate within their offensive identity.

I guess it just come down to talent and execution. The Eagles haven’t been able to dominate the Cowboys’ offensive line and limit the running room he has to work with. Poor tackling on a player who’s already tough to bring down hasn’t helped, either.

Zeke is a big concern for the Eagles in this game.

BTB: If the Eagles fail to make the playoffs, what are the major changes you would make to the roster or the coaching staff going into 2020?

BGN: Whether the Eagles make the playoffs or not (barring an NFC Championship Game appearance), they should be firing offensive coordinator Mike Groh, quarterbacks coach Press Taylor, and wide receivers coach Carson Walch. All three of those guys got their current jobs by virtue of automatic internal promotions. The Eagles need to stop acting like they always have the answers in-house and actually hold an open search to find the best available candidates. The offense has had issues for two seasons now and it’s time for Doug Pederson to surround himself with some fresh blood with new ideas.

As far as roster moves go, the wide receiver position needs a major overhaul. The Eagles desperately need to add talented youth at that spot. Fortunately, the 2020 NFL Draft seems to be loaded with speedy pass catchers.

BTB: How do you think this game will play out and what will be the final score?

BGN: The Eagles haven’t earned the right to get the benefit of the doubt. They’ve regularly disappointed this season and they’ve lost their last four games to the Cowboys. I’ll believe they can beat Dallas when I see it happen.

I do think the Eagles will make this game closer than the last time these two teams met back in October. But I just think the Cowboys’ offense will outpace what the Eagles’ short-handed offense can realistically produce.

Of course, the major caveat here is if Dak Prescott is truly hurt. If he ends up being majorly limited by injury … or if he can’t play at all … then I obviously like the Eagles’ chances a lot better in this one. But I’m assuming Prescott will be fine enough until I see reason to believe otherwise.

Cowboys win this game by a final score of 28 to 27.

Thanks for the knowledge, Bleeding Green Nation.

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