IRVING, Texas – Another week, another divisional opponent – which means there'll be plenty of familiar faces to discuss.
Obviously, the name that's going to continue to come up is DeMarco Murray. We'll have plenty of other opportunities to discuss the Cowboys' old bell cow running back, but for my first preview of the week I wanted to focus on some other names.
Given the intensity of the two division clashes between these two teams last year, you should be familiar with all three of these guys. All three will give the Cowboys a unique set of challenges to overcome.
Nemesis: DE Fletcher Cox
There are few players in this league that have the ability to play well in any scheme you put them in and Fletcher Cox is one of those guys. He is a combination of physical toughness and explosive quickness.
He is tough to move due to his upper body power and strength -- which he shows in his hands when he extends them. Cox plays with nice balance when he makes contact. He can easily control blockers, and when he sees the ball, he sheds and finishes the play. I'm impressed with his ability to play with lateral quickness and agility. You have to make sure that he is completely blocked, because I have seen him make plays where he split double teams or went back door on a block and still made the tackle.
Motor, effort and pursuit is outstanding as a pass rusher. He has the ability to play as a true rush defensive end with a full tool set of moves. He will go with a quick arm-over or hit you with a powerful rip move. He shows the ability to bend when he gets the edge, and he can be disruptive in the pocket to finish.
Tyron Smith and whoever starts at left guard, be it Ron Leary or Mackenzy Bernadeau will have their hands full.
Weapon: RB Darren Sproles
In a team full of outstanding offensive weapons, the one that should make these defensive coaches the most nervous to deal with is Darren Sproles. Chip Kelly's scheme was designed with a back like Sproles in mind.
Whether it's spreading a defense out and running the ball against a light box or getting the ball to the outside on a screen or wheel route, Sproles is the perfect fit. He puts so much pressure on a defense because of his ability to be at full speed as soon as the ball is in his hands. His acceleration is rare and as a defense if you fail to get bodies on him quickly, he is likely to punish you with a big play.
He plays with body control and balance – you have to knock him off his feet to get him on the ground. Sproles doesn't get nearly enough credit for the strength that he shows on his runs -- he is a finisher.
He plays with impressive upper and lower body power for a player that is not that tall. His compact build makes it difficult to get a really good shot on him. He just is a dynamic player on so many different levels.
Under the Radar: S Malcolm Jenkins
When dealing with an offense like the one here in Dallas, the first thing you think about is how you are going to match up with their personnel. The Eagles have a safety in Malcolm Jenkins that can cover for them in several different areas and do it well.
He will not only line up deep and play out of the back end, but you will also see him line up in the slot and carry receivers. What makes Jenkins unique is that he has corner skills in a safety body.
He is not only physically tough but mentally as well -- plays with outstanding physical and mental toughness. He is a hard guy to fool in routes -- very much a reactionary athlete. Nice change of direction and lateral agility. Very good body control and balance. Good short area foot quickness but also the explosiveness to drive on the ball from deep in the middle of the field. Looks comfortable playing tight in man coverage. He likes to get his hands on the receiver and fight for control, and this is where his size and strength help him. He's a good one-on-one tackler.
It will be interesting to see if Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis puts him over the top of Cole Beasley in the slot and makes Beasley have to fight to get off the line and into routes.