FRISCO, Texas – At long last, we've got tape to study on a Cowboys' opponent.
After a week off, we're back to preview the Cowboys' upcoming matchups. As is usually the case, I try to look at two established players, as well as one you might not be aware of.
For this upcoming rivalry game, the Eagles have plenty of both. So let's take a look:
Weapon: Fletcher Cox, DT
There are few players in this league that have the ability to play well no matter 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. It is rare that you see him knocked off balance or out of position with his body. He can easily control blockers, and when he sees the ball he sheds and finishes the play. I'm so impressed with his ability to play with lateral quickness and agility. You have to make sure 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.
His 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 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 can be disruptive in the pocket to finish.
As you might remember, Cox played as a 3-4 defensive end early in his career and now under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will line up as the under tackle in a 4-3. This is a big time, physical player. He is one of the toughest players for this Dallas offensive line to have to block each year.
Nemesis:Jason Peters, OT
Massive offensive tackle who is getting up there in years. Peters has had to battle injury the last several years. In 2015, he had ankle and back problems that sidelined him at various points of his season. That said, he still shows the ability to handle the elite pass rushers that he faces on a weekly basis.
Peters is not as quick as he once was, but he can get to the outside, use his strength and mass to make up for that. He has always had lateral range, as he didn't look out of place when he had to pull or kick to the outside to work against an edge rusher. He plays with upper and lower body power, but not as much flex. As he ages, he tends to be more upright with less knee bend – his back problems have hurt him in this area, as well.
He can stilll sit down on a rusher if going down the middle, and he has impressive power. He can keep the rusher in position with his hands, and he shows strength in them. His contact balance can be good when he doesn't become straight-legged and over-extended. This is when he has the most trouble blocking, as he doesn't recover well from this. His body control goes away.
As an experienced veteran, he shows awareness for the twists and stunts. He can pass those off without any problems. He gets movement in the running game with his mass, and he can still handle his man one-on-one.
This is still one of the better offensive tackles in the league despite his age and injury history. He is going to be a load for DeMarcus Lawrence to have to handle in this game.
Under the Radar:Jalen Mills, CB
Off the field issues put him in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but he is a much more talented player than that. This is the Eagles' version of Anthony Brown in how they stole a player late.
Mills played both as a corner and safety while at LSU. I thought he would have played as a safety in the league, but the Eagles have determined that corner is his best spot. In that regard, he has a quick-footed pedal. He can burst out of his stance to accelerate and close the gaps, and he does a nice job of playing under control. He can collect his feet and stay balanced in his transition. There are even snaps where he is in better position than the receiver – he knows how to play the route.
One of the reasons that I thought he would have been a better safety is due to his lean frame. He doesn't have ideal bulk, but it doesn't appear to have affected him in a negative way. He is also more physical than he was in college, where he wasn't always interested in tackling and was inconsistent when he was asked to do so. As a pro he has done a much better job of getting in position and getting his man on the ground when needed.
I would normally say that a rookie cornerback would be the player you would attack with Dez Bryant, but given the way Mills competes and has some success -- that might make me think about going away from him and working on Nolan Carroll on the opposite side.