There are plenty of available talking points when breaking down this matchup, but let’s focus on three players in particular:
C Jason Kelce
Kelce is one of the key blockers who anchor what the Eagles try to do with their run-first mentality. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Kelce suffered a sports hernia and missed four starts a month ago, and combined with the extended absence of left guard Evan Mathis, the Eagles have really not been close to the running threat they were in 2013.
In fact, not only has LeSean McCoy’s performance dropped off per carry, but the Eagles are 31st in first-half runs in the NFL after being eighth in 2013. Kelce is undersized, but generally excellent in the zone scheme with athleticism that includes uncommon speed for a center (4.89 in the 40 in the 2011 NFL combine).
The return of Mathis and Kelce inside for the late season should assist nicely in jump-starting the misdirection threats that the Eagles generally present.
WR Jordan Matthews
Another week leads us to another standout rookie wide receiver as times have changed in the NFL. There was a time where this position required a year to get acclimated, but in 2014, each week it seems we cross paths with a player who has quickly figured things out. Matthews, the all time SEC leading receiver had a reputation of being as talented and as smart as they come in the buildup to the 2014 draft. He runs all of the routes and has versatility and size (6-3, 212) to do whatever is asked. He seems to excel at deep crossing routes. With 300 yards in the last three weeks, Matthews has certainly become Mark Sanchez’s favorite target. His hands are exceptional, and the Eagles look like they have found a keeper from the second round.
LB Connor Barwin
There is only one player — Kansas City’s Justin Houston with 13 —in the NFL who has more sacks than Barwin’s 121/2.
Barwin arrived in 2013 from Houston as an unrestricted free agent and has helped the Eagles transition into the 3-4 scheme where he excelled for the Texans in his first four seasons in the league. A college roommate of Kelce at Cincinnati, Barwin’s pass rush gift is a combination of edge ability and an energy level that never stops. He lines up mostly over the right tackle as the left edge man opposite Trent Cole and as an outside linebacker he is a very good defensive end. You can attack him in coverage with tight ends, as his hips are tight and best suited going forward as a DE. Given how 3-4 defenses have caused the Cowboys issues — Washington and Arizona, in particular — this season, the Eagles’ pressure pass rushes will present quite a test.