IRVING, Texas – You can read my offensive notes from the Eagles game elsewhere on the site. As promised, here's the rest of my notes – which focus on the Dallas defense.
- I didn't believe that I oversold it during the week, but I really felt good about the potential production from Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory when paired on that right side. In the preseason it was a good combination -- even against Tyron Smith and Ronald Leary -- but in two series early in this game, it really amounted to the Eagles handling it without issue. That caused Rod Marinelli to have to search in another direction to generate a pass rush. Hardy wasn't able to get enough penetration inside to allow Gregory to get around the edge without a blocker picking him up. The biggest problem was the execution was never as clean as it needed to be.
- The Eagles had two 4th-and-1 situations in this game and Rolando McClain was only on the field for one of them. You would like to believe that one of your most physical defensive starters would be in the lineup when an opponent chooses to go for it in those situations, but McClain was only in for the one in overtime. What was disappointing on that particular play was that McClain didn't step up to take on Ryan Mathews and was easily turned out of the hole, giving him the necessary space to pick up the first down. On the next play, Sam Bradford was able to complete the ball to Jordan Matthews for the game-winning score.
- If there is a defensive linemen that deserves a further look, it's David Irving. I really wasn't sure where he needs to play, but the coaches worked him as the under-tackle and end with some success. What is surprising about his game is with how long and rangy he is built, he shows some exceptional quickness -- especially that first step quickness. There were several snaps where he was playing on the Eagles' side of the line of scrimmage while his teammates were struggling to get off blocks. I am curious to see if, the more he plays the less effective he really is, or is it just the opposite? When Irving played end, they lined him up on the right side and that could be the best spot for him due to his ability to rush. What is also surprising about his game is how strong he is. There were only one or two snaps where he got washed down on the play, and overall he was right where he needed to be to finish plays.
- I counted five separate times where there was a Cowboys rusher at the arm of Sam Bradford just as he was delivering the ball. On the touchdown pass that he threw in overtime – Greg Hardy was just inches away from turning that game completely around with a strip-sack. I am not telling you this to try and make you feel better, because a loss is a loss, but to just have the thought that this pass rush is non-existent is not what the film shows.
- Not much you can say about the pick-six that Matt Cassel threw, other than it was a nice play by Jordan Hicks. The Cowboys went with an empty formation by trying to sneak Darren McFadden into the slot next to Dez Bryant. The Eagles defended the formation by playing three against two. Hicks lined up inside of McFadden, and at the snap adjusted his positioning to match the route. McFadden did nothing to drive Hicks off the ball, which would have bought himself space on the out route. To make matters worse Cassel appeared to be looking in that direction the entire time. The ball from Cassel was late and too far to the inside, giving Hicks the opportunity to drive on the route. Hicks was in much better position to snatch the ball and head up the sidelines untouched.
- Give some credit to Jordan Matthews and the route that he was able to pull off in overtime against Byron Jones. Matthews ran hard inside, getting Jones off balance, then drove hard back to the outside -- which put Jones on the ground. J.J. Wilcox was in the middle of the field, but he was in poor position to defend and his angle was such that he was in no position to make a tackle. Matthews ran right by him and into the end zone. In the pocket the Eagles drew a huge break, as tight end Brent Celek came across the formation and attempted to block Hardy -- who was flying up the field. Celek ended up tackling Hardy, but managed to keep him off Sam Bradford -- who was able to deliver the ball just before Hardy came by and took a swipe at it. You can see umpire reaching for his flag, but he decides not to throw it -- which allowed the play to stand and gave the victory to the Eagles.