Eyes on the Enemy: The Dallas Cowboys
The Eagles not only have their first NFC East game of the season, but they also face their fierce rival, the Dallas Cowboys, for the first time on Monday Night Football. Nick Sirianni's team fell to 1-1 against the San Francisco 49ers last time out, whilst the Cowboys got back to 1-1 after controversially beating the LA Chargers. The winner of Monday night's clash will own sole first place of the NFC East as Jalen Hurts and Dak Prescott play against each other for the first time.
What changed for Dallas?
After their shambolic defensive display throughout the 2020 season, Jerry Jones and co decided it was best to renovate that area of the team. They hired former Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn to become their defensive coordinator, and they also used free agency and the draft to add talent to what was an ageing and struggling defense. They signed: Tarell Basham, Malik Hooker, Damontae Kazee, Jayron Kearse and Keanu Neal in free agency. Dallas then used the draft to continue restocking their historically dreadful defense as they picked: Micah Parsons, Kelvin Joseph, Osa Odighizuwa, Chauncey Golston, Nahshon Wright, Jabril Cox and Israel Mukuamu. Although Neal and Joseph won't be out there Monday, there will still be enough for the Eagles to focus upon.
Dak Prescott also got his massive payday as he signed a four-year, $160 million deal with the Cowboys. It instantly made him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league and put some security around the direction they intend to go in with the franchise.
The Biggest Threat- Dallas' Passing game
It is no secret that the Dallas passing attack has caused the Eagles defense problems, especially in Jerry World. The last time they faced Dak Prescott was in 2019, and a horrid offensive showing was matched with the defense struggling to contain the Cowboys offense. The score ended 37-10 as Dak threw for over 200 yards, and Amari Cooper once again dominated with 106 yards receiving. The more memorable defeat was the overtime loss the year beforehand as Prescott threw for 455 yards, and Cooper had 217 yards receiving with three touchdowns. That game still gives Eagles fans nightmares as Jim Schwartz's secondary got embarrassed and then some that Sunday night. With the receiving options they possess in Ceedee Lamb and Cooper, and having Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard out the backfield, Prescott is always going to have options when throwing the ball. The Eagles defense will need to limit the big play abilities and keep Prescott and co in check. It will be a huge test for Jonathan Gannon.
What to Target- The Dallas Secondary
Despite the new-look defense, the Cowboys are still giving up plenty of passing yards in tight games. They have allowed both quarterbacks they have faced this season to throw for over 300 yards, but the Dallas defense has also had four interceptions in their first two weeks. The Eagles will need to be careful when throwing the ball, but there is obviously room for them to air it out. Devonta Smith has done well in his first two games and will likely be playing across from Trevon Diggs. The Cowboys secondary is also heavily depleted. Without Neal, Joseph and Donovan Wilson, there will be areas for the Eagles to exploit with the pace of Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins. DeMarcus Lawrence's absence will also play a huge part because it will hopefully give Hurts more time to find his throws in the pocket.
Who else to watch out for:
Tony Pollard- Perhaps one of the unsung heroes in that offense, Pollard has been the more explosive and efficient running back in this Cowboys offense the first two weeks of the season. He was a massive factor in their win against the Chargers with 109 yards off 13 carries. He averaged 8.4 yards per touch as opposed to Zeke's 4.4, and Pollard also ran one in for a touchdown. He will certainly be a threat that the Eagles linebackers will have to watch closely.
Micah Parsons- The former Penn State linebacker played as an edge rusher against the Chargers and had a mixed game. He had success attacking the right-side of the LA offensive line but struggled against Rashawn Slater. Expect Dallas to have Parsons test Andre Dillard early on Monday night. Dillard, a left tackle taken in the first round of the 2019 draft, has not started in a game since his horror show at right tackle against the Seahawks. Since then, he has lost what appeared to be his guarantee to be the future starting left tackle, he will be hungry to show the Eagles why they were wrong to extend Jordan Mailata, but his rustiness could work in favour of Parsons.