After an impressive victory in Week 2, the Cowboys move forward to face their first division rival of the season, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Before the Eagles and Cowboys square off on Monday Night Football, here are three questions that will be answered this week.
1) Which defensive strategy will win out?
Two games in, turnovers have been the name of the game for the Dallas Cowboys defense. Last season, it took the Cowboys till Week 8 to force their sixth turnover. This year, they’ve done it in two weeks. For just the seventh time since 2015, the Dallas defense has forced six or more turnovers in a two-game span.
The Cowboys currently lead the NFL with six takeaways. Who would have thought we would be saying that after two weeks?
Two games, two takeaways for Cowboys safety Damontae Kazee. He had a forced fumble in Week 1. This interception late in the third quarter on Sunday increased the Cowboys’ win probability from 33% to 46%, according to @NextGenStats pic.twitter.com/ge3ZrHSlU7— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 21, 2021
For the Eagles, they’ve done just about everything you could ask from your defense except what the Cowboys have been great at, taking the football away. Philly and Jacksonville are the only two teams still searching for their first takeaway as a defense this season. Despite this, the Eagles have allowed the second-fewest points and fourth-fewest total yards in the NFL, and have surrendered only two defensive touchdowns.
It’s fair to question if the Eagles’ success on defense without taking the football away has been due to playing two games against sub-par offenses, but that question will be answered on Monday night. We’ll see if the Eagles can continue to play well on defense without taking the football away, or if the Cowboys will make it three games in a row with multiple takeaways.
2) What should we make of Jalen Hurts’ start to the season?
Entering this season there wasn’t much clarity on what version of Jalen Hurts the Eagles would be getting. Last year, Hurts played very well in his first two starts, recording four passing touchdowns and throwing no interceptions with an average quarterback rating of 92.95. However, his final two starts of the season were a much different story. The former second-round pick turned the ball over three times, two interceptions and a fumble, and completed just 44% of his passes.
Two weeks into the 2021 season, Hurts has looked a lot more like the guy we saw in his first two career starts. The signal-caller got off to a fantastic start in Week 1, throwing for 264 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 62 yards in a blowout victory over the Falcons. Hurts’ PFF offensive grade of 89.5 in Week 1 was far and beyond the highest of his short career.
Last week against San Francisco, Hurts regressed a little bit, completing just 52% of his passes for 190 yards. Even though he didn’t throw the ball as well, Hurts did run the ball 10 times for 82 yards and scored a rushing touchdown.
If you dive a little deeper into Hurts’ performance so far this season, it certainly seems like he’s been protected quite a bit by the Eagles’ offensive play-calling. Our very own David Howman pointed out that Hurts rarely has thrown the ball more than 15 yards down the field.
So this is all of Jalen Hurts' throws this year. To summarize, he rarely throws more than 15 yards down the field and hates throwing across the middle. pic.twitter.com/vbQKBphsO4— David Howman (@_DH44_) September 22, 2021
Even though he isn’t throwing the ball down the field a ton, when he’s been protected Hurts has been very productive. When he’s had a clean pocket, Hurts has completed 74% of his passes for 277 yards and a touchdown, and has posted an 81.3 PFF passing grade.
This week facing the Cowboys for the second time in his career, we’ll see if Hurts can continue to build off of his early-season success.
3) Can Amari Cooper continue to dominate the Eagles at home?
If Amari Cooper’s ribs are healed enough for him to go on Monday, the Eagles better watch out. Since joining the Cowboys in the middle of the 2018 season, Cooper has absolutely dominated Philadelphia at home. Here are his stats from three games at AT&T Stadium against the Eagles.
12/9/18 - 10 receptions, 217 yards, 21.70 Y/R, 3 TDs
10/20/19 - 5 receptions, 106 yards, 21.20 Y/R
12/27/20 - 4 receptions, 121 yards, 30.25 Y/R
Amari Cooper is playing a different game than everyone else.— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) October 21, 2019
Cowboys — 30
Eagles — 10pic.twitter.com/JIct91OyLk
Cooper has more receptions (33) against Philadelphia than any other team he has played against in his career.
With not much talent in the secondary outside of Darius Slay, the Eagles seem at risk of once again being dominated by the Cowboys’ Pro-Bowl wideout.