Previously we broke down the offense for this week’s upcoming game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. Now we dive back into the position battleground, this time looking at how the defensive positions and special teams stack up against each other
Let’s start this one of by talking about Micah Parsons. He really is that good and last week’s game-ending play is the best example of his hustle, energy and desire to win on every play. He currently leads the NFL in total pressures and has 13 tackles for loss, which is fourth-most in the league. He also has 11.5 total sacks, which is fifth-most, and his 24.4% pass rush win rate is second-highest in the league. He is doing it all plus more this season, and against this Philadelphia Eagles offensive line we can hope that Parsons feasts again this week. The Eagles pass blocking efficiency is down this year and in the last three games has allowed 10 sacks, seventh-most in that time. Dante Fowler, Dorance Armstrong and DeMarcus Lawrence all deserve praise for how they’re playing. Lawrence currently ranks second among defensive ends in run stopping grade and has the highest run stop rate in the NFL. Tank will be important in slowing both D’Andre Swift and Jalen Hurts on the ground.
Haason Reddick leads the Eagles in sacks with nine. Keeping him in check this week is important to keep Dak on schedule. Josh Sweat and rookie defensive lineman Jalen Carter have combined for ten sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Both players can takeover if given the chance so it’s critical the Cowboys offensive linemen play consistent this week.
The Cowboys defensive line has more sacks this year than the Eagles, but it’s the rate of sacks between these two teams during the last three games that’s interesting. The Cowboys have been accelerating and totaled the third-most sacks in that time. The Eagles, however, have been slowing down, creating the third-fewest sacks in their last three contests.
Damone Clark/Markquese Bell
Nicholas Morrow/Shaquille Leonard
Last week the Dallas defense took some hits during the game, but eventually came through in the end. One player that made his presence known was Markquese Bell. He led the team last week in tackles and he’s taken the role in sweeping the box for any running back breaking through the line like a duck to water. His ability to come in and take over from Leighton Vander Esch has been key in maintaining the stability to defend the run this season. Damone Clark still leads the team in tackles this year, but what’s been interesting to see is Dan Quinn using Clark a lot more recently on blitzes. Let’s see if the trend continues.
The big news of the week was Shaquille Leonard chose to play in Philadelphia over Dallas. So be it, time to move on and play football. One major issue for the Eagles was how light they were at linebacker already, then Zach Cunningham pulled a hamstring a couple weeks ago meaning the team needed an option. That option comes in Leonard, and he has to rush to get accustomed to the team for this Sunday, so you have to wonder how effective he’ll be. Morrow is third on the team in tackles but the last few weeks he’s struggled to stay consistent and has been missing a lot of tackles.
Damone Clark and Markquese Bell both have more tackles and a lower missed tackle rate than the Eagles linebackers. Leonard coming in will help the Eagles as the season draws to a close and moves into the playoffs. But how much production he gets this week is up for debate.
The Cowboys secondary had their work cut out last week and the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver unit is not one to be taken lightly. Safety efficiency played a part in the struggles last week for Dallas, mostly in miscommunication. DaRon Bland got another interception last week, but the complaint from fans was how much production he gave up to the Seattle pass catchers. Stephon Gilmore also had a tough day in last week’s game and allowed a touchdown. The Cowboys cornerback duo will be heavily tested this week facing an Eagles wide receiver tandem than even on a down week last week accounted for 210 yards and a touchdown.
The heart of Philly’s defense lays in its defensive line and the pressure they can create. But the defensive back position for Philadelphia is extremely vulnerable. The Eagles are giving up the fourth-most passing yards and the most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. To add to the defensive back issues for the Eagles, they have also generated the second-fewest interceptions this year. Safety, Reed Blankenship leads the safeties in touchdowns allowed and Darius Slay has allowed over 500 receiving yards this season, in fact he’s given up the tenth-most yards among cornerbacks this season. So that leaves James Bradberry on the opposite side. No cornerback has given up more touchdowns this year than Bradberry and he’s about to face a Cowboys offense that ranks first in passing touchdowns. Among all the position battles between these two teams, the defensive back position is by far the furthest apart in terms of production.
The Cowboys offense ranks first in scoring and is statistically in the top-three in all the major passing categories. The Eagles secondary is the place to target this week, which just so happens to be where the Cowboys offense is excelling at the moment.
This section is turning into a copy-and-paste segment when we talk about Brandon Aubrey. He went another week hitting every field goal, and without his boots against Seattle, the outcome would have looked very different. Jake Elliott has missed two field goals this year and one extra point. His last miss came in Week 6, but he’s only made three field goal attempts in the last four weeks.
Bryan Anger never came on the field to punt last week. That’s a solid sign the offense is doing its job. But Anger’s 51 yard-per-punt is second-highest in the league and the hang time he can put on the ball really helps his gunners quell any chance of a return. Braden Mann hasn’t done bad in his first year at the Eagles. His 49.2 yards-per-punt ranks ninth. But he’s had 60% of his punts get returned by the opposition, third-most in the league.
KaVontae Turpin remains one of the best kickoff return specialists in the league. But his punt return yards ranks 32nd out of a possible 40 players that have returned punts this year. The Eagles have Britain Covey, who ranks second in punt return yards, and his average yards per return ranks fifth-most among punt returners.
Which team has the better defense?
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