Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne vs. Eagles WR Riley Cooper
There will be plenty of focus on how Orlando Scandrick will battle DeSean Jackson in this contest but how Morris Claiborne plays against Riley Cooper could also have a large impact on this game. When these two met in Philadelphia last season, Cooper was able to get the best of Claiborne down in the red zone with a touchdown grab.
When the two made the return trip to Dallas, Claiborne did a much better job of handling the talented receiver. That has been the case for Claiborne in his young career, that when he sees an opponent the second time, he tends to do a better overall job in his coverage. It is not so much about having to deal with Cooper's speed but his size. Claiborne had a similar battle two weeks ago with Eric Decker and he was able to pull things together after his 3rd quarter interception.
Since then, Claiborne has done a much better job of putting himself in position to make plays. Where the Eagles will try and attack this Cowboys secondary is with the crossing routes, trying to rub the defensive backs off crossing the field. Claiborne will also have to be careful of ball in the air. Nick Foles is not afraid of throwing the ball up and allowing Cooper to go get it. If Claiborne is going to win this matchup, he is going to have to play his most physical game to date.
Cowboys OG Brian Waters and Ronald Leary vs. Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks
The Eagles play a 3 – 4 front which is a big change from what we had seen from them in the past. It's a front that likes to move its line and fill with very active inside linebackers. DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks really do a nice job of getting to the ball and making plays. [embedded_ad]
Both run very well and play with nice instincts. For linebackers that are so aggressive, they don't appear to play out of position. Both are very good tacklers and when in space, can wrap up to get their man on the ground. Will present an interesting challenge for Brian Waters and Ronald Leary who cannot allow these linebackers to run unblocked to the ball. It will be important on a couple of different levels because not only do these guys play the run well but they are also used in their blitz package.
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis will use one or both to help provide pressure on the pocket, so there will be situations where these guards and Travis Frederick will need to be on the same page to handle that but also on the same page with Joseph Randle or Phillip Tanner as well. Where the Cowboys can take advantage of these linebackers is if Waters and Leary do get hats on them, to make them fight blocks. Neither are that big and if they get caught on blocks, there will be an opportunity to take them out of the play.