(At long last, the NFL season is in sight. After a long offseason, the Cowboys are set to depart for training camp on July 24. During this final month before they begin practice in Oxnard, Calif., the staff of DallasCowboys.com is going to preview the 20 biggest questions facing the Cowboys heading into 2018.)
FRISCO, Texas – What's worse than not making the playoffs? Probably watching a division rival hoist the Lombardi Trophy, especially for the first time.
The Eagles were able to win the Super Bowl last year, obviously making them one of the favorites again here in 2018.
But just how far away are these Cowboys from the Eagles right now? Last year, the two teams split the regular season series, however Dallas' 6-0 win in Week 17 wasn't exactly against an Eagles team at full strength, considering they rested a lot of their starters with the division and first-round bye already locked up.
Actually, it was Philly that was out of the playoff picture to end the 2016 season but defeated the Cowboys in the final game of the regular season when Dallas was resting most of its key players. Maybe the Eagles used that momentum to enter the following season. The Cowboys can only hope the same magic works this year for them.
6 – What's the Gap Between Dallas and Philly?
Bryan Broaddus: This is a question that Will McClay and the scouting staff ask themselves every day. If you went player for player offensively this would be a pretty even matchup. Where the Eagles do have the advantage is on the defensive side of the ball. As a unit, they're well coached with Jim Schwartz. His style and scheme is a perfect fit for the personnel they currently have on the roster. Their front seven does an outstanding job of choking the run and then when they get you in long yardage situations they cover on the back end and unleash their pass rush on you. They give up few big plays and force their opponents into mistakes. In my opinion, the only defensive starters from the Cowboys that could crack the Eagles starting lineup would be Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving.
Rob Phillips: I honestly don't believe it's as large as some think. And as we've seen over and over again in this league, things change year to year. There are similarities between the franchises over the last two years. The Cowboys did a nice job of overcoming injuries in 2016 – let's not forget Dak Prescott began that camp as the third-team QB – and the Eagles did the same last year, though they deserve credit for finishing the job in the playoffs. Both have young quarterbacks who benefit from strong running games. Philly has more experience on defense, and the trade for Michael Bennett should help its pass rush remain effective. But I always say this: When the Cowboys' offensive line is rolling, they're hard to beat. I expect them to be more consistent this year, and that means Dallas can challenge for the division.
Lindsay Draper: The Eagles are coming off a Super Bowl season, and the Cowboys have a roster full of new names. The Eagles won a Super Bowl with a backup QB, and Dak is entering his third season. Before winning the Super Bowl, the Eagles finished 13-3. The year before, the Cowboys went 13-3. When it comes to division games in the NFC East, every team can play 'up' to their opponent no matter what the talent level is. I'd say the gap is small. The difference between the teams last year, is that the Eagles were able to withstand injuries and win a Super Bowl. The Cowboys had a different story with depth. But their starters? They can run with anyone. So with both teams and their starting lineups between the hashes, I'd say the gap could be smaller than we think.
David Helman: I don't think it's that big between the 22 starters, but it looks pretty daunting when you consider the overall depth of the team. After all, the Eagles ran through the playoffs last year without their starting quarterback, their starting left tackle, their dynamic "web back," their best linebacker and their preferred kicker. When the Cowboys tried to weather those kinds of losses, they collapsed. If we're just comparing starting squads, though, I don't think the Cowboys are that far off. They have a running game that can grind against that Philly front, and a quarterback who is better than he gets credit for. I give the edge to the Eagles offense over the Dallas defense, but we'll see how quickly the Cowboys' youngsters can catch up. Philadelphia is a better team right now, but the gap is never as big as it looks in the NFL.