Dallas Cowboys’ Defense, Down and Out
In Week 7, the Dallas Cowboys traveled to play the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field with a team that was healthy as it has been at any point in the season. With most of its defensive components producing at full capacity, the Cowboys held the Eagles to three total points in route to a 17-3 victory and NFC East Division lead. It was the Eagles’ lowest offensive output of the season and the only game this season in which the Eagles were held under 16 points. The game has also remained the lone blemish on Nick Foles’ sterling 2013 resume.
Heading into Sunday night’s win-and-you’re-in rematch with the Eagles, Cowboys fans may harken back to that dominant October performance in hopes that the team has retained some of those advantages. However, Dallas’s defense is now a shell of the unit that held Chip Kelly’s groundbreaking offense to a mere three points. Ten weeks later, injuries have depleted the Cowboys’ defensive personnel to the point that it was recently been regarded as one of the worst in league history.
Here are some key defenders from that Week 7 game that either will not be playing or operating at less than 100 percent health this Sunday:
Sean Lee – after showing well in Week 7 with 11 tackles, one pass breakup, and one interception, he strained his hamstring in Week 10 and sustained ligament damage in his neck in Week 14. The neck injury is major, and he will not play this Sunday.
DeMarcus Ware suffered a quadriceps strain in Week 6 and has been playing hurt ever since. Game commentators have noticed him favoring his good leg at times since returning. Though he has only registered two sacks since September, his five tackles in the Cowboys’ Week 16 win over the Washington Redskins may have marked a turning point in his slow recovery.
Jason Hatcher, though undersized at 302 lbs, heading into Week 7, Hatcher was the Cowboys’ best defensive lineman and graded out as profootballfocus.com’s No. 2 overall defensive tackle. At full strength, he racked up four tackles including one tackle for a loss, one sack, three QB hits, and an awesome five QB hurries in their first meeting with the Eagles. He then injured his neck in Week 10, and his play has suffered. Since an outstanding Week 7, he has slid to the No. 8 defensive tackle with a negative grade against the run. Despite being banged up, he suited up against the Redskins in Week 16, escaped without a setback, and is practicing in full this week.
With key defensive players hurt or injured, the Cowboys are more likely to surrender 30 points than three points to the Eagles this Sunday.
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