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Cowboys vs. Eagles mailbag: Should the Cowboys play “I Spy?”

Every week, we answer your questions about the Dallas Cowboys.

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Every week, we will be taking questions on Twitter about the upcoming Dallas Cowboys game and other questions surrounding the team. This week it’s the Philadelphia Eagles game, so let’s get right into it.

@JSGCowboy - “What’s the latest on James Washington? Will he be back to contribute?”

Brandon: When Damone Clark was scheduled to start his 21-day practice window on Oct. 5th, James Washington was still on injured reserve. From all accounts, it seems like the receiver is not ready to practice after injuring his foot back in Oxnard. I assume he won’t see any practice time until the bye week. The team hopes he can contribute at some point this season, but with Lamb, Gallup, and Brown looking good so far, there’s no need to rush.

Mike: I spoke with some people about this one. The news from them was all is quiet on James Washington right now. There’s no current timetable to return, so expect a few more weeks before better news on his return gets reported. But it seems Mike McCarthy is no rush right now to get the ex Pittsburgh Steelers receiver back out there.

@oldscout66 - “Where did the TEs go in the passing game?”

Mike: This is a fair one to ask. In the last game against the L.A. Rams, there was only one pass thrown to a tight end, that was Dalton Schultz before he aggravated his knee injury, and he failed to reel that single target in. Looking at Schultz in the last game, the Cowboys have brought him back too early. He was rounding off routes, late on his timing and generally looking sluggish.

But looking back at the game last week, both Peyton Hendershot and Jake Ferguson didn’t do a disappointing job in run blocking. The running backs for Dallas had a good day at SoFi against a decent Rams run defense, and some of that was down to both rookie tight ends in run blocking. They created creases for the backs, came in with textbook hitting at the hip to move their man, and apart from the one penalty on Hendershot, they managed to help keep the chains moving. If Hendershot can work out his pass blocking, there’s a chance he could be a significant part of this offense, as soon as this week.

Brandon: That’s a good question. I think Dalton Schultz hasn’t been the same player after he injured his PCL in the Bengals game. He was supposed to have another great season as a pass catcher, but that was supposed to be with Dak Prescott. The injury has set him back and forced guys like Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot to step up. Unless the tight end’s are schemed up for a specific play or matchup, I wouldn’t expect much production until Prescott returns. However, Zach Ertz with the Cardinals did some nice things against the Eagles secondary last week, so Kellen Moore should grab his highlighter and take some notes.

@ShaneCarterTx - “[Is] Kearse staying on Goedert & Wilson spying on Hurts for the game? Or no?”

Brandon: I think you’re right. Kearse has been known to match up well against tight ends in the past. Last season against Travis Kelce, Kearse was all over him and made it difficult for Patrick Mahomes to use him as his security blanket. I think the spy position should come down to who is the best tackler on defense. Wilson has shown that he has good instincts with mobile quarterbacks. In Week 2, when Daniel Jones started to run more, Dan Quinn adjusted and put Wilson as the spy. Look at how he handled this play, and you’ll get an idea of what to expect on Sunday. I also won’t be surprised if both players alternate roles.

Mike: I like the idea of a QB spy for this game, but I think Anthony Barr is best set up for this. He has the speed and ability to get to Jalen Hurts if he gets on the move, but can tackle running backs, and if needed get out and defend against screen passes. By doing that the two safeties can roam against A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, who can get deep and create YAC if given the chance. This keeps Micah Parsons doing his thing either off ball or on the edge. And to the first part of the question, that will enable Jayron Kearse, who is a tight end killer, to cover Dallas Goedert. This is a game all about taking weapons away from Hurts and slowing the run game. The Cowboys defense does that, then that helps the Cowboys offense establish its own run game.

@strikecris05 - “In the past meetings (with the Eagles), we have run the ball pretty well. Do you think we will pound Zeke in the middle and then, when the d-line is worn out, start handing it off to Pollard? Why don’t we use the bubble screen as much as others?

Mike: The Eagles defensive line is really good, but they do seem to have a weakness, run defense. They allow five yards per run, which is in the bottom ten in rankings, but they have one of the fewest rush attempts against them. They have just been fortunate enough to get a decent score against the opposition, forcing them to abandon the run. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard faced a good defensive line already this season, and they got 163 yards, so we know they can do it.

As for bubble screens, I think playing with a backup quarterback has a lot to do with it. For Rush to make those throws takes timing and practice, which he just hasn’t had with the starters. Maybe getting KaVontae Turpin on a jet sweep would be nice to see to pull the Eagles defense horizontally, but negative plays in the backfield could be extremely costly in this game. And the Cowboys have been winning games without the need to throw the screen, so if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Brandon: The Cowboys have had a minimum of 150 yards rushing in their last three meetings with the Eagles. Dallas can win if they use the same formula they did to beat the Rams last week. Controlling the time of possession and limiting turnovers will keep Cooper Rush from making mistakes in a game where any little error might shift momentum.

As for the screen game, it seems to be CeeDee Lamb in bubble screens. Unfortunately, Rush looks uncomfortable throwing directly to his left and right. Every time he throws a pass to the flat, the ball seems late and could be intercepted. Go back to the Bengals game before halftime, and you can see this type of throw. Once Prescott comes back, I think you’ll see the screen game more.

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