Sunday, November 08, 2015

DMN - Scouting the Eagles

Today marks the sixth meeting between Jason Garrett and Chip Kelly, with Garrett leading 3-2. What makes those five meetings curious is that the home team has never won a game. The Cowboys are desperate to break that string in their fourth division game of the year.
The first meeting in Week 2 confirmed what Eagles fans feared in the offseason -- that their offense was going to have trouble matching the 2013 form, where big plays were everywhere.
In 2013, the Eagles led the NFL in 20-yard pass plays (80) and 10-yard run plays (74). This year, they rank 25th in 20-yard passes and 13th in 10-yard runs. In other words, they appear to have gone from the best offense in the sport when Kelly burst onto the scene to a team that is below league-average in the explosive play categories.
Whether it is a question of talent deficiencies or the NFL adjusting to the scheme, the debate rages in Philadelphia. But what doesn't need to be debated is that the offense, which humiliated the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in 2014, has been missing in action.
Here are three Eagles who are going to be vital to Sunday's outcome:

QB Sam Bradford

The first pick of the 2010 draft has certainly not attained the success that was expected for him when he left Oklahoma.
There is no question that health issues that began in college in 2009 have taken a major toll on the free agent-to-be. His trademark accuracy now comes and goes, as does his poise in the pocket, which was exceptional with the Sooners.
Since then, the injuries and the issues on his offensive lines have appeared to cause him enough damage that now he almost never looks comfortable in the pocket. His eye level drops to the pass rush, and blitzes cause added stress.
In fact, this season, Bradford and the Eagles are the worst team in the league at passing against a blitz. This truth invites the Cowboys to consider bringing pressure, despite their general reluctance to do so.

OT Lane Johnson

Johnson is also a first-round pick (fourth overall) from Oklahoma, where he played as a tight end and as a defensive end before converting to offensive tackle. There, because of physical tools that were rare, his draft position vaulted.
Since joining the Eagles, he has been holding the right tackle spot, but is expected to play left Sunday night in place of the injured Jason Peters. Peters is clearly the best piece of an under-performing offensive line, and now with Johnson anchoring the group, the Cowboys will try to isolate him against Greg Hardy.
Pass protection is not Johnson's forte, as he can struggle with holding the edge. The result of this matchup with Hardy could decide the game.

NT Bennie Logan

The Eagles' defensive strength lies in their front, where they feature six impressive pieces.
Four of them -- the fantastic Fletcher Cox along with Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham -- were drafted by the previous administration.
However, Connor Barwin and Bennie Logan were acquisitions of Kelly's era, with Logan the lone draft pick up front (third round from LSU). As a nose tackle, big Logan deserves partial credit for the Cowboys' having difficulty in running the ball against the Eagles. In the five meetings since 2013, Dallas has never averaged 4 yards per carry for a full game.
Surely, with Dallas hoping to feature the ground attack, the Cowboys will try to end that trend.

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