Another week down, and another great performance by the Dallas Cowboys defense as the unit played a big role in the 22-10 defeat of the reigning Super Bowl Champions, the Los Angeles Rams. Week 5 played out very similarly to every other game thus far in 2022, manage the game from an offensive perspective and play great team defense. This formula has resulted in a 4-1 record through five weeks and the Cowboys are currently sporting a four-game winning streak as well. Will this style of play from both sides of the ball be sustainable? Only time will tell.
Both units will have a tough task in front of them as they play the only undefeated team left in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles. This game is much more winnable than some pundits may believe. That situation as of this writing is still very much unclear, but the safe guess is Cooper Rush will be starting this week. Regardless of who ends up starting at quarterback in Week 6, they’ll need to play sound fundamental football and continue to limit the mistakes.
The Philadelphia Eagles offense is good, really good
The Eagles offense has been very good in certain areas all season thus far, and only ranks behind the Buffalo Bills in total yards through five weeks. Taking it a step further, the Eagles not only possess the seventh best passing attack in the league, but they also have the fourth best rushing attack in the league as well, led by quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Hurts, is averaging nearly 272 passing yards a game and is second on the team in rushing yards. He is very much a dual-threat quarterback and is a playmaker with the ball in his hands. The knock on him coming into the NFL was, could he be good enough as a passer at this level? Early returns through five weeks in 2022 suggest that is trending towards a yes. With a completion percentage of nearly 68%, he currently resides in the top five in that department.
The running back room features a group led by Miles Sanders, who was in danger of being an afterthought coming into the 2022 season. His numbers will not blow anyone away, but he has been very solid through five weeks. Also, don’t sleep on Kenneth Gainwell or Boston Scott as both players have enough juice to break off a big one. As talented as the quarterback and running backs have been in five games in 2022, the best group on this offense are the pass catchers. The Eagles possess three of the top-20 pass catchers in the entire league and that trio of A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert are very dangerous. Combine this trio with the running ability and the much improved passing game of Jalen Hurts, and you currently have one of the most better offenses in the game.
The Cowboys offense has been lackluster, but good enough
As good as the Eagles offense has been, the Cowboys, on the other hand, have been a below average offensive unit for five weeks. The rushing offense currently ranks 15th and passing attack currently ranks 27th. Those rankings typically add up to a below average record at best, but in the Cowboys case, they have arguably one of the best defensive units in the entire NFL led by the unicorn himself, Micah Parsons.
Parsons is currently tied for the league lead in sacks with six, and two of his teammates, Dorance Armstrong and DeMarcus Lawrence, rank in the top-25 in that department as well. Having that type of production and depth at a very important position has been key for the Cowboys in 2022. It also doesn’t hurt to have a quality secondary players that features Trevon Diggs and Donovan Wilson, just to name a few. Although the Dallas secondary features some quality talent, this unit has a propensity to give up the big play from time to time. Against an elite trio of receiving weapons, this potentially could be a game-breaker.
Containing the Eagles offense starts up front
To alleviate the possibility of giving up the big play on defense, the Cowboys will need to consistently apply pressure at a rapid pace on Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts so that it doesn’t allow those Eagles weapons a chance to get open deep down field. Dallas will also need to be very judicious in how they blitz Hurts because he is also a game-breaker with his running ability. Look for defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to be creative with his pass rushing unit and also, look for someone on the defensive side, like Jayron Kearse or Micah Parsons, to sit back and act as a quarterback spy to prevent Hurts from making a big play with his legs. In order for the Cowboys to work this plan to maximum effectiveness, they will need to be fresh or as close to fresh as possible while on defense. When the fatigue kicks in, big plays have happened and will continue to happen against this defense or any defense for that matter.
Keeping the defense fresh throughout the game will help prevent the big play
The best way to prevent fatigue from playing a role on the defensive side of the ball is to have the offense lend a much bigger hand by controlling the clock. So far though five games, the Cowboys offense is ranked 27th in time of possession. At an average time of possession per game of 28:31, this leaves the defense out there for the majority of the game. The Eagles, on the other hand, are second in this category by having possession on average at 33:52 per game. That is a total of almost five minutes of game action which may not seem like a huge difference, but it certainly is and with having the majority of the game in the hands of your offense, this keeps the defense much fresher as the game gets closer to the finish line. A good way to control possession is by slowing the pace down and pounding the ball on the ground.
Thankfully, the Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to carry the mail and if they gain even a modest four to five yards a touch, Dallas will be in good shape to win a tough game vs a tough opponent in a tough venue. It certainly can be done.