IRVING, Texas – It's always fun to examine the opposition for a second-straight game. You've got a concrete idea of what to expect, and what a team's personnel is capable of.
Keeping that in mind, none of these three names should be much of a surprise for anyone familiar with the Cowboys-Eagles rivalry. But all of them will factor heavily in this rematch.
Nemesis: DeMarco Murray, RB
I have never liked the fit for the Eagles with DeMarco Murray at running back, but Chip Kelly is doing a much better job of making this work since the last time these two teams met. I think Murray's struggles early were that he has never been able to run effectively when he has had to play sideways. We all know that he is a downhill runner, and when used that way he is going to have success.
What it appears the Eagles have done is that they have not asked him to take the ball next to Sam Bradford, but they have moved him back two yards where his attack angle is different. When Bradford takes the snap, Murray is now coming downhill at him and that has made a big difference in how he has been able to get a head of steam and get going. Before, he was taking the ball from a dead stop and then trying to create.
As far as Murray's running style is concerned, nothing has really changed. His balance, playing strength and consistency are still there. He is never going to be elusive or be that home run back, but he still finishes runs and when asked to play in the passing game, he still is able to make things happen. He will catch that occasional screen pass or the swing out of the backfield and punish tacklers. Rod Marinelli played him perfectly last time out and will once again need to get bodies to the ball to control him.
Weapon: Fletcher Cox, DE
There are few players in this league who 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 always so 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 are 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'll go with a quick arm-over or hit you with a powerful rip move. Cox shows the ability to bend when he gets the edge and can be disruptive in the pocket to finish. The Eagles will match him up against Tyron Smith and La'el Collins mainly on that left side, but there will be snaps where you see him in other spots. Big time, physical player.
Under the Radar: Malcolm Jenkins, S
If you are a Dallas 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. The last time that these two clubs faced off, Jenkins played out of the slot and completely shut Cole Beasley down. He was also responsible for jumping the underneath route to Jason Witten on the play that injured Tony Romo's collarbone.
When the Eagles take the field Sunday night, I know that Jenkins will have a major role in their defensive scheme. With Beasley not having the success that he had enjoyed with Tony Romo, defensive coordinator Billy Davis might be inclined to put Jenkins on Witten and take his chances elsewhere. If he were to do that, then he has to think about how he is going to handle Dez Bryant -- who he didn't face in Week 2.
Jenkins is such a flexible player, he can line up in the slot and handle that, or he can shift to Bryant's side and take away those inside routes, like the slants and crossing patterns that Bryant likes to run. The bottom line is that with Malcolm Jenkins, Billy Davis has plenty of options to work with and offensively Dallas had better be ready for all of them.