FRISCO, Texas – Here’s my weekly look at the two big matchups I have my eye on in this division rivalry against Philadelphia.
Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs. Philadelphia Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins
Two old adversaries renew a battle that took a break for a year while Jason Witten did television work.
Witten has the utmost respect for Malcolm Jenkins and the same could be said from Jenkins about Witten. Both are hard-nosed players who not only have a physical edge to them, but high football intelligence, as well.
With Amari Cooper likely out for this game and Randall Cobb questionable, Dak Prescott is going to be looking for options. The Eagles have struggled with injuries in their secondary, and defending the deep ball has been tough for them. So if the Cowboys can hold up along the offensive line, then you will see some shots down the field.
Knowing this about his secondary, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is not going to allow Prescott to feel comfortable in the pocket. Schwartz will study the Jets tape and see what Gregg Williams did to Prescott and attempt to mirror that. If Schwartz comes after Prescott, look for Kellen Moore to get the ball out quickly -- and this is where Witten could be an asset. Positive plays with positive gains are what keep the chains moving and Witten provides that. It might not be huge chunks of yardage, but in these games against the Eagles its always about protecting the ball and keeping it from their offense.
Malcolm Jenkins has a feel for how to play Witten and he will use that to his advantage. He knows Witten likes to get separation with that slight little bump/push at the top of his route, so he’ll be ready for it.
Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie vs. Philadelphia Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery
Alshon Jeffery is not the fastest or quickest receiver Chidobe Awuzie will face this season, but he’s one of the strongest. Where Jeffery is at his best is when he can bully his opponent. He’s going to push and shove in order to gain separation. There will be some snaps where Awuzie will tie him up and he will draw a flag for defensive holding, because Jeffery sells it to the officials that way.
Carson Wentz is going to look his direction, especially on third down. Doug Pederson will call screens to him in order to allow him to use his big body to move the sticks. Awuzie has to be prepared to handle him out of those bunch formations where they get him the ball quickly.
Due to his lack of quickness, there are plenty of snaps where Jeffery has to come up with contested catches. Over the years this has been a calling card for him. In the games I have studied, it appears that there have been more drops in those situations. Awuzie has shown the ability to keep fighting those bigger receivers to the ground if he’s had to. We saw that in the Miami game where he was able to rip the ball loose from what appeared to be a touchdown reception.
For Awuzie to have success in this game, he’s going to need to match Jeffery’s physicality. It’s going to be an all-day fight for him, but it’s one that he’s going to need to win for his team to get some stops.