FRISCO, Texas – There might not be much at stake in this game, but the Cowboys are still going to have their hands full with a roster full of talented Eagles players.
The Eagles have lost five of their last six games, but this is still a professional football team and a divisional rival. These are the three guys I've got my eye on as the Cowboys get ready to round out the regular season.
Weapon: S Malcolm Jenkins
If you are a Cowboys fan, you should hope that one day Byron Jones turns into Malcolm Jenkins. Jones has similar traits to Jenkins in the areas of physical and mental toughness, but he is also starting to develop in his football intelligence. Like Jenkins, Jones has shown the ability to walk inside and play in the slot when needed.
This is a savvy veteran who shows the ability to close suddenly or make up speed. He plays much faster than his timed speed, which gives him good recoverability. He can stick his foot in the ground and drive on the ball. He has loose hips, smooth and fluid in transition. He can run a back down from behind.
If you watched Philadelphia beat New York last week, you know Jenkins is quick to read and react. He thinks on his feet, and he has quick reactions to play off blocks and make a play. He can turn and run with speed vertical receivers or carry tight ends underneath. Like all great safeties, he's also willing to support the run. He plays off blocks without getting bounced around.
Jenkins is a productive playmaker when tested. This is a big safety with long arms. He's a hard guy to fool, which means he can cover for the mistakes his teammates make. During his time in Philly, he has been a turnover machine – always around the ball trying to rip it loose. He demonstrated this with a pick-six against the Giants where he just read Eli Manning's eyes and undercut the route.
He puts himself in position to make plays. One of the best finishers in the game when it comes to tackling. Will see him around the line in the running game or carrying Jason Witten and Cole Beasley in coverage.
Nemesis:C Jason Kelce
It's amazing that this division has two of the best centers in the league with Travis Frederick and Jason Kelce.
Kelce is an undersized guy that plays on his feet. He's very competitive. He also fights to sustain his blocks each and every snap. He doesn't ever give up on a play. While he might lack the power to drive his man off the ball, he still maintains contact and plays with leverage. I would not call him a rough player – very technique-sound with his angles.
He has outstanding football intelligence and quickness, as he is very light on his feet. Because of this, he can recover if the defender adjusts on him. Given his experience, he is aware to help on the games inside. Rare to see him out of position on twist stunts -- not fooled. He also understands how to play with leverage, and he can reach a one or three-technique with ease.
Like Frederick, Kelce's hands and feet work very well together. He has a great deal of range as a blocker, but there are snaps where his lack of strength shows as a blocker. He has a hard time sitting down on his man, and he plays with stiffness in his lower body. He has to be careful not to let his head get down when he blocks, because he has a hard time with power right on his nose. He has to play with a wide base to hold rusher off, but he shows the ability to block two defenders at once.
If you play him right, this is a guy that can be driven back in the pocket. The bull rush gives him problems. This is not a nasty or mean player – very consistent in his effort and approach. Best in a scheme where he can play on the edge. Can cut a defense in half with his ability to get to the second level.
Under the Radar: DT Beau Allen
Allen is an interesting player to study due to his ability to show up on tape. There is nothing pretty or perfect about his game, but he makes it all work. He is not going to get much recognition because of his teammates, Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan, but you notice him.
It's obvious he loves to compete. Very good short area quickness and burst. Plays with lateral speed. Allen gives everything he has to chase the ball. Nice one gap penetrator -- when he sees it, he goes. He has nice body control and balance. I would not call him a great athlete, but he is not on the ground much. There is very good playing strength in his upper and lower body, which helps him in the way he attacks blockers.
He shows the ability to strike with his hands and disengage from the blockers. He can anchor down at the point of attack to play the run. Because of this, he can be a hard guy to move when he sits down on the play.
Allen has outstanding motor and effort to make plays. There is no quit in the way he plays. He had to make the start the last time these two teams met while Bennie Logan was injured and was a handful to deal with. Used as a rotational player in this scheme but could be a starter on most clubs.