Big thanks to Mike Burke from Birdsfan.com, a Phildelphia Eagles blog for this Behind Enemy Lines special. For the second year in a row, I have swapped interviews with Burke the week before the Cowboys’ games against the Eagles. Below are my questions for Mike (in bold) and his answers. You can see my answers to his questions by clicking here.
With the Cowboys playing so poorly under Wade Phillips last season and then better under Jason Garrett, what was your opinion of the team heading into this season?
It was interesting to see how much better the Cowboys performed after making the switch to Garrett. I look at Garrett’s 2010 season as an extended interview for the head coaching position. He took the team in a positive direction, but he had a lot to prove coming into 2011.
Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect out of Garrett in 2011. However, I didn’t think the Cowboys had a very positive offseason, so I think it made things a little bit harder for Garrett.
I saw the Cowboys being a mid-level to just missing the playoffs type team entering the season and it seems like they’re pretty much on par for that. They have some nice talent, but they’re missing a few players that would really put them over the top.
Despite all the offseason acquisitions, the Eagles got off to a slow start this season. What is the primary cause of this?
I’ll put a large part of it on coaching but another part of it on execution as well. For Eagles fans, we’ve heard Andy Reid say he needs to do a better job of putting players in position to make plays about a million times. In the past, this may or may not have been the reason the team lost. This year, it’s really ringing true, but the coaches seem to fail to make any adjustments.
When you bring in a guy like Nnamdi Asomugha, one of if not the best shutdown corners in the league, you’d expect him to be assigned to a team’s best receiver and shut him down. That hasn’t been the case. Juan Castillo has his defense running all kinds of different zone looks, which apparently he views as a simple defense. Is having one player shut down an opposing receiver not simple?
Failure to address the linebacker position is also a big one, especially with the wide-nine formation that allows offensive lineman to get up field and make blocks on linebackers.
Offensively, the most concerning thing has been turnovers. Key players have made very costly mistakes turning the ball over in important situations.
Do you think signing Michael Vick to that $100 million contract was a good idea?
I have mixed feelings on this one. The details actually make it an $80 million contract, but that’s still a lot of money. The Eagles needed to decide on their long-term option and they selected Vick to be their guy. One thing that I don’t like is that they made Vick their guy based on less than a year of work in an Eagles jersey. They could have kept the franchise tag on him and made a more informed decision after this season.
However, we have seen how high of a ceiling Vick has. If he can play consistently at the top of the game, he’s an absolutely dominant quarterback. At the same time, we’ve seen him struggle with consistency, especially when it comes to decision-making and turnovers.
I don’t hate the deal, but I think the Eagles could have gone about it in a better way.
Where would the Eagles be without LeSean McCoy this season? He seems to be the MVP of a team that has never been known for running the football.
I guess the simple answer would be lost. He truly is an amazing running back and I think he’s finally starting to get some of the exposure around the league that he deserves.
He’s definitely the Eagles best player on offense, and it blows my mind in certain games when Andy Reid neglects to get the ball in his hands enough. McCoy is the ultimate package. He can run with both speed and power. He has great hands out of the backfield and has amazing vision.
For the remainder of the year, I can only hope that McCoy gets his fair share of touches each game.
Tony Romo has committed some critical turnovers this season, a big reason why Dallas is 3-3. Will the Eagles use an aggressive approach on defense against him this Sunday because of this?
I don’t think you’ll seem them be overaggressive in terms of blitzes if that’s what you mean. They’ve been able to get pretty good pressure out of their front four with the wide-nine formation geared towards the lineman getting up field quickly.
In the past, I know the Eagles have had success when they can continually get in Romo’s face. He seems to crawl into a shell when an opposing defense is in his grill all game.
Out of the gate, I’d expect the Eagles to see what type of pressure they can get with their front four alone. If Romo starts to pick them apart because he’s getting a lot of time, I’d expect the Eagles to put some trust in their talented corners and start throwing some added pressure at him.
DeSean Jackson has tortured the Cowboys’ defense the past few years. Do you see him having another big game against Dallas?
I’m going to have to say yes because of the “he’s due” factor. Jackson has decent numbers so far this year, but he hasn’t had the game where he’s just taken over like we’ve seen in the past.
Like you mentioned, Jackson has stepped it up against Dallas in the past. I don’t have any type of logic behind my reasoning, but I’m going to say that Jackson steps up to the plate and has a big game for the Birds.
Give me one good reason why the Eagles should win this game.
Desperation. It’s incredible how many “must win” games the Eagles have had already this year, but here’s another one. This was not the start they expected, but the division has played poor as a whole, so they still have a chance to make the playoffs.
Give me one good reason why the Cowboys should win this game.
Jason Witten. The Eagles have had troubles covering the tight end, and Witten has not been an exception. He’s having another solid year for Dallas and I can see him being dominant in Sunday nights game.
Who do you think will actually win this game?
I’m going to go with the Eagles. Andy Reid has never lost after the bye week, they’re playing at home, and I still think that level of desperation exists to salvage the season.
I do think it will be high scoring and I think a lot of points will be scored. I’ll go with 34-31 Eagles.