Their Nemesis: DeMarcus Ware
In 16 career games against the Philadelphia Eagles, Ware has been a one man wrecking crew. He has accounted for over 90 tackles, 16 sacks, eight tackles for loss, 32 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. There has been twice in his career where he has had 11 tackles in a game against the Eagles with the last one coming in 2011.
Ware also recorded four sacks in a game and that also came in 2011. Ware has also faced the Eagles in the playoffs, with five tackles, three quarterback pressures, a pair of sacks and a fumble recovery. Ware missed the game the first time that these two teams met earlier this year in Philadelphia, which was the first time that he missed a game.
Without Ware in the lineup that day, the Cowboys had their best defensive performance of the season in a 17-3 victory. But make no mistake about it, this Cowboys defense needs Ware this time around to attempt to slow down this Eagles offensive attack with Nick Foles at quarterback. Ware will get some opportunities to rush from both sides in this matchup.
I do feel like that he can break down Jason Peters, if the secondary can make him hold the ball a second or two longer. Where I really like Ware is on the opposite side in dealing with rookie Lane Johnson who on tape has had his share of troubles in trying to handle those power rushers.
Our Weapon: Orlando Scandrick
What Monte Kiffin and this defensive staff has shown the that they are not afraid to match their best corners on the opponents best threats. The way that DeSean Jackson has been playing this season, the Cowboys will need to match him with a corner that can play with quickness and straight line speed, Scandrick is that guy.
Where the Eagles might work their way around this is try and keep Jackson out of the slot which is where Scandrick does the majority of his work but Kiffin is in much better shape corner wise, then he was the last time these two team met. Morris Claiborne should be back and active but Sterling Moore is also in the mix and that will help. I believe that Jackson is too quick for both Brandon Carr and that presents a big problem when you match him on the outside.
With Jackson, there is that fear that he can score from anywhere on the field and that is why you need to match him with a player that has the ability to function under that pressure. He has been the best player in the secondary for Monte Kiffin and this defense despite having a couple of games against the Bears and Packers where I didn’t feel like he was at his best.
Orlando Scandrick also has faced DeSean Jackson enough in his career to understand how he needs to play him and that is very important when you are trying to match a player with this much talent, because he goes all over the field.
Under Their Radar: Jeff Heath
This will be a critical game on a couple of different fronts for these Cowboys safeties, especially Jeff Heath. Monte Kiffin with Sean Lee out of the lineup, is once again going to have to bring Barry Church down to help in the running game on LeSean McCoy.
That means that we are going to see plenty of single high safety and that is going to fall in the lap of Heath as that deep defender. Where Heath is going to need to be at his best is with all these routes that also go down the field in helping these corners. The Eagles like to get their receivers down the field on the outside and work their tight ends inside.
I expect that Kiffin is going to try and match his secondary on these receivers, so that will mean plenty of man coverage and that is the way he should play them. The more you can be physical with them, the better chance you have the chance to survive. It is going to be important that Heath is able to play with his eyes but also anticipate where the ball is going to be.
In the pocket, Foles will try and move the secondary with ball fakes, so Heath has to really be careful that he doesn’t get thrown off by this. Heath will need to make sure that he is in the proper position in routes but also in the running game because there will be plays that the Eagles break with McCoy or Jackson and a stop needs to be made right there.
Our Nemesis: DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson currently leads the Eagles in receptions with 79 and is tied with LeSean McCoy in touchdown with nine. Jackson is a perfect fit in the Chip Kelly offense because how Kelly likes to use his personnel all over the field in different formations either getting the ball on the move or vertically down the field.
There have been some times this season where Kelly lines him up in the backfield and runs him on routes from there. What makes him so difficult to deal with is the speed and quickness in which he plays with. Jackson is one of those players that if you play off coverage on him, he is going to eat up your cushion in a hurry.
He is on you right now and if he is on you, he is by you. There have been days though where Jackson has been his own worst enemy with drops. As many times as I have seen him catch the ball on the move, there have been times where he has appeared to hear footsteps and drop ball of two that he should have made a play on.
I would not say that he has the most consistent hands and there are times where they have let him down. Jackson still is an unique talent that has rare ability. I expect Monte Kiffin’s answer to dealing with him in this game will be to walk Orlando Scandrick up on him and let him carry him all over the field.
Their Weapon: LeSean McCoy
Nervous as this Cowboys defense is about playing against DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy presents an even more difficult problem. This Chip Kelly offense is perfectly tailored to his running style. McCoy is one of those backs that can take simple plays and make them into huge gains. Did doesn’t matter if it is a hand off out of the read option or a screen pass in the flat, he is going to be hard to handle. He has the unique ability to make the first man miss, then get in the open field and make others miss.
He is an explosive runner that when he can turn his shoulders and go downhill, he can be tough to bring down. The best way to slow him down, is get him going sideways and not allow him to turned up the field.
Makes some violent cuts in the way he runs the ball. Can plant his foot in the ground and explode off it. Will take the ball off the read option, allowing the line to get into their blocks, then hitting it to the back side as the defense over runs the play.
Unique talent that has that ability to make you miss. Plays with outstanding hands, rare to see him drop a pass. Has a feel for how to work himself open, secure the catch and head up the field. Hard player to completely shut down.
Cowboys did a really nice job of getting off blocks the last time these two teams played and were able to get to McCoy before he was able to get going.
Under The Radar: Mychal Kendricks
The Eagles have several good, young players on their defensive roster, but one guy that really caught my eye was linebacker Mychal Kendricks. He was a 2nd round selection by the Eagles in 2012 and right now, he looks like a quality pick. The first thing you notice about him is how quick he plays. He is very active and is a difficult guy to block when he is on the move.
Looks like a nice scheme fit for this 3 – 4 defense because he can get away from blocks. Is physical short, but does play with some pop at the point of attack. Will be used on blitzes to attack the pocket. Can be a relentless guy when it comes to rushing the passer.
Does a really nice job of chasing the ball. Strong enough to play off blocks. Can be physical when he needs to be. Is a very good tackler in space. Hard guy to get away from when he has the ball carrier wrapped up. Can really close when he sees the ball, has a burst and some explosive traits.
Showed the ability to carry the back out of the backfield. Moves with ease and it able to stay in position while playing the route. Is one of those defensive players you have to be aware of and make sure you get a hat on him at all times.
KEY GAMEDAY MATCHUPS: Cowboys have to pressure Foles | Rookies in trenches
Cowboys C Travis Frederick vs. Eagles NT Bennie Logan
This will be an interesting matchup between two rookies that are both helping their teams with a high level of play.
Travis Frederick has been rock solid in the middle for the Cowboys since he was put in the lineup as a Day 1 starter. He has not always been perfect, but for a young guy to handle all the things that have been thrown his way speaks volumes for the type of player that he is.
He will be battling one of my favorite players from the 2013 NFL Draft in Bennie Logan. There have been plenty of questions about the lack of drafting defensive linemen on this team, and I have to admit I was surprised that Logan didn’t get more consideration from this scouting and coaching staff. LSU has put several defensive linemen in this league with some with mixed success, but in my view, Logan was different.
Where Frederick has improved over the season has been against the 3-4 nose men that play with power. Logan will be a strong test in this area for Frederick because he does play with power and can be difficult to handle on the move. Where Frederick is going to have to be at his best is when the ball is stretched to the edge, that he maintains his position throughout the block and not allow Logan to penetrate and be disruptive to the play.
Frederick must find ways to finish his blocks both run and pass.
Cowboys Defensive Line vs. Eagles Offensive Line
The last time these two clubs met in Philadelphia, I thought the game was won up front for the Cowboys with the amount of pressure that they were able to apply — not only in the passing game but how they were able to handle things in the running game.
For this squad to get a victory Sunday night, they are going to need that same kind of effort, and they’ll need to find ways to play on the Eagles’ side of the line of scrimmage. As bad as Nick Foles was in that game last time, it was the defensive line that caused him the issues.
Monte Kiffin and this defense need to attack this Eagles offensive line and make them have to scramble to sustain their blocks. To this point in time this season, that was the best game that they’ve played as a group when it came to getting off blocks and being where they needed to be with their responsibilities.
They are going to need that same kind of effort again on Sunday night. For the Eagles, it is real simple: they have to do a better job of not allowing this Cowboys defensive front control the game like they did last time out. The Eagles have some talented players on their offensive line and it is going to be a battle up front.
Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, Jason Peters are quality players, with rookie Lane Johnson improving. Keep an eye on how this matchup progresses throughout the night because I believe this is where the game is going to be won or lost once again.