5 Philadelphia Eagles’ Defensive Difference Makers vs Dallas Cowboys
5 Philadelphia Eagles’ Needed Defensive Difference Makers vs. Dallas Cowboys
In the NFC East showdown on Sunday afternoon, the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are projected to have an offensive shootout. It’s simple to see with the lackluster defenses that each team possesses, that the offenses will be the main focus of the first place clash.
However, the Philadelphia defense has shown small improvements over time and their performance could mean the difference between a closely contested contest and a possible blowout.
With DeMarco Murray ruled out for the game, the Dallas run attack is severely undermanned. It will come as less of a concern to the Philadelphia defense, although if you take any aspect of the game lightly in the NFL, you can get burned. The Eagles will need to find a way to focus on other aspects of the game, yet still contain any run game the Cowboys plan on pairing with their experienced aerial attack.
The aerial attack will be the main attraction of the Dallas offense and they have plenty of depth and firepower at the receiver position to threaten any defense. Dez Bryant poses matchup problems each week with his size and speed combination and if the Eagles plan on stopping the Cowboys from making big plays, there’s no better place to start. His opposite, Miles Austin, although still not fully back from injury, always creates a speed matchup and has the ability to get open in different parts of the field. Coverage will need to be solid all day to prevent consistency from becoming part of the problem for the below average Philadelphia defense. Another favorite target of Tony Romo is veteran tight end Jason Witten. Witten has been a long standing All Pro in the league and continues to be a go to when the Cowboys are looking for reliability. He can easily take advantage of linebackers in coverage and should demand the coverage of another corner for most of the day, to keep him under control. Romo has always been prone to bad turnovers when forced, and beginning with coverage on these weapons will be a big start to controlling the damage Dallas can do.
The Philadelphia defense has a large challenge in front of them, but stepping up and producing an unexpected performance could have them sitting atop the NFC East by days end. It will be a group effort, but if these players can step up, it will go a long way to making the difference on the defensive side of the ball.
#5 Brandon Boykin
Playing the role of third corner, Brandon Boykin sees less time on the field than the two starters. However, his role in this week’s matchup with the Dallas Cowboys is as important as any player on the field. He’ll be given the assignment at times of matching up with Jason Witten, who should be treated as a slot receiver because of his abilities downfield and the poor matchup it creates with linebackers. Look for Boykin to shine in coverage, but if Witten can catch the ball, it could spell trouble for Philadelphia as he’ll have difficulty bringing him down. The pressure will be on, because without taking Witten out of the game, it leaves Tony Romo with his most reliable option and a go to on third and short situations.
#4 Fletcher Cox
Tony Romo has proven that when put under pressure, he will crack. Most of his turnovers come when the spotlight is on and he feels as though his protection is breaking down. Fletcher Cox will carry much of the burden up front of getting to Romo and causing the havoc that will force turnovers. Granted, coverage downfield will assist in giving Cox the time he needs to get the job done, but hurrying Romo along will often times be enough to open the lanes for coverage to take advantage of mistakes. If the Philadelphia Eagles are to win the turnover battle and slow down the Dallas Cowboys offense, Cox will need to be in the backfield for much of the day making Romo feel uncomfortable.
#3 Connor Barwin
Pressuring the quarterback had been a staple of his game until last season when his stats fell off a bit. Connor Barwin has begun looking more comfortable in the Philadelphia defense as the weeks fly by. However, for the Eagles to find success and become the division leader, they’ll need his best performance of the season. Feeling collapse from just one side won’t be enough, as Romo is mobile and can still get the ball out when needed. Therefore, the job of Barwin to find a way to the quarterback while still taking care of the run will be extremely important to the overall success of the Philly defense on Sunday. The Eagles faithful are still looking for the breakout performance they’ve been hoping for from Barwin, and there won’t be a better time to step up than this week against Dallas.
#2 Bradley Fletcher
Beginning the season as still unproven in the minds of many, Bradley Fletcher has really stepped up and come into his own in coverage over the past few weeks. The question still remains as to whether that’s due to his matchup or if he’s actually developing the greater understanding necessary to make the secondary viable. Fletcher will have his hands full in the first place matchup seeing the majority of his time against Miles Austin. Although Austin returned last week, he wasn’t really himself. He’ll be looking to find stride again against the lowly Eagles defense, but if Fletcher can keep him under wraps it will improve Philadelphia’s chance of winning and really be an upgrade for the defense overall.
#1 Cary Williams
For yet another week, Cary Williams will draw the most important assignment on the defensive side of the ball. Dez Bryant is without a doubt the most dangerous player on the Dallas roster and can change a game easily if given the opportunity. It will be up to Williams to keep tight coverage and make sure he doesn’t give up the big play either through the air or after the catch. Taking away what may be Tony Romo’s favorite target, will do wonders for setting up the other parts of the defense to take advantage of the Cowboys. All eyes will be focused on Williams and whether he can produce what he was brought to Philadelphia to master, taking the No. 1 option out of the game.