IRVING, Texas – The short turnaround between games wasn't exaggerated. It's been about 48 hours since we began prepping for this game against Philadelphia, and here we are – the game is less than 24 hours away and we've hit all the big talking points.
Below, I've got my four biggest points from my film prep this week. Here are some things I think you'll want to watch for while you settle in for football with your families. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
- The challenge for this Cowboys offensive line pass protecting against the Eagles front is not so much about the down guys -- Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton -- but their linebackers Connor Barwin and Trent Cole.
Under defensive coordinator Billy Davis, they like to move the front to occupy blockers and bring Barwin and Cole inside off the movement. I have studied some games where Barwin has been left unblocked in these types of rushes and gotten home with no problems. What has been impressive about both Barwin and Cole is that they both do a really nice job of finishing their rushes. It is rare to see them overrun the quarterback or flat miss on the play.
Where the Cowboys also have to be careful is the occasional blitz that they will also see from the secondary -- namely safety Malcolm Jenkins off the edge. Davis will sneak him up in hopes that the protection will not account for him and he can get home before the offense adjusts. These are blitzes that this offensive line and DeMarco Murray have not seen before, so it will come down to execution and getting them out of those looks.
- When playing against an offense that operates at the fast tempo the Eagles play with, there are situations during the game that you must prepare for. It's about how you not only manage the game with the current personnel on the field, but the ones on the sideline as well.
Getting bodies on and off the field at critical times is a must, especially when a team is on a roll with a no-huddle offense. The last thing that Jason Garrett and his defensive staff want to do is have too many men on the field or not enough men or have to burn a time out to get things straight.
Jason Garrett told us Wednesday morning that communication will be the key on the sideline, but also keep an eye on how quickly Matt Eberflus gets the call in and Leon Lett works with the personnel groups to make sure there are no issues.
[embeddedad0] * The offensive identity of this Cowboys offense all season long has been to run the ball. It has not mattered how many men have been in the box, they have saddled up and gone to work.
This week against the Eagles, they might want to take a page out of the playbooks from the 90's and throw the ball in an attempt to build a lead – then, hammer the ball at this Eagles defense with the run.
I really do like the matchups with these receivers against this secondary, especially Dez Bryant working against Bradley Fletcher. In watching Fletcher play this week, I just did not come away with the feeling that he wants to be a physical corner. I have seen him run with guys up the field and stay in position, but he has struggled to finish plays. Receivers catch the ball on him.
If Billy Davis wants to continue to play single-high safety and put his cornerbacks in one-on-one situations I do expect this Cowboys offense to take some shots down the sideline, especially with Jason Witten holding that safety in the middle of the field. This is a bad matchup for the Eagles.
- If there was ever a group that you have to tackle well against, it is the Philadelphia Eagles. Their offense is based on quick passes and the run after the catch. It is explosive players making explosive plays.
Two of the most consistent tacklers in this Cowboys defense have been Rolando McClain and Barry Church, but if this defense is going to have success getting off the field, they are going to need more in the mix. It will be especially important for these cornerbacks to make tackles on the outside. If they miss tackles on LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles in space, then they are in for a very long day, because these are two of the best home run hitters in the league.