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Position Breakdowns: How the Eagles stack up against the Redskins

Position Breakdowns: How the Eagles stack up against the Redskins

You will be hard-pressed to find two teams who match up more closely than the Eagles and Washington. Looking up and down the rosters, there is little to no separation in the level of talent between the two teams at multiple positions.

It should make for a tight battle between NFC East foes this Sunday at FedEx Field -- but dissect the two teams deeply enough, and we might find one side has a distinct edge in terms of quality personnel.

 

QUARTERBACK

Have to give Washington the advantage here, although that could always change. Kirk Cousins has thrown for 9,083 yards and 54 touchdowns the last two seasons, but that was with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon as two of his primary targets. How much their departures impacts Cousins remains to be seen. Carson Wentz has better physical tools, and more upside -- and much to prove after an inconsistent rookie year. Wentz is a prospect, whereas Cousins is widely considered to be established.

Edge: Washington

 

RUNNING BACK

Washington has some semblance of clarity in the backfield. The Eagles have more talent. Rob Kelley rushed for 601 yards and 6 touchdowns in 9 games after becoming Washington's starter last season, but only averaged 3.98 yards per carry. That rate of productivity was roughly in line with LeGarrette Blount in '16, except nobody was better than Blount in short yardage or at the goal line especially (18 TDs). Darren Sproles is a more dangerous third-down back than Chris Thompson as well.

Slight edge: Eagles

 

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

A trio of Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Torrey Smith for the Eagles might be relatively even compared to the combination of Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder for Washington. Jeffery's freak athleticism probably pushes the Eagles over the top, especially considering Pryor is a bit of an unknown coming from the Browns. The emergence of a credible fourth option on either side -- Nelson Agholor for the Eagles or Josh Doctson for Washington -- would swing the conversation more definitively.

Slight edge: Eagles

 

OFFENSIVE LINE

Both units are strong. Washington's Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are probably even with Jason Peters and Lane Johnson on the edges at this point. There are some question marks along the interior for both sides, but Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks is the best player there. Center Spencer Long is also dealing with a knee injury for Washington, which could be a hindrance, assuming he plays. That may or may not be a factor, but is definitely something to think about.

Slight edge: Eagles

 

DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVEN

With 58.5 sacks in six seasons, Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan might be the most impactful player in either team's front seven. However, Washington is without Trent Murphy (injury) and Chris Baker (free agency). Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Jordan Hicks are all big playmakers for the Eagles, and the hope is Tim Jernigan and rookie Derek Barnett will be, too. Even with the additions of Zach Brown and Johnthan Allen in Washington, the Eagles appear to have a lot more firepower.

Edge: Eagles

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Josh Norman is superior to anybody the Eagles have at cornerback, and a tandem with Bashaud Breeland gets the nod over Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills. That's where Washington's advantage ends. Second-year player Kendall Fuller takes over in the slot, where he is essentially an unknown, and the best safety is D.J. Swearinger after the sudden retirement of Su'a Cravens. Patrick Robinson is solid in the slot, Malcolm Jenkins will lock down Reed, and Rodney McLeod is comfortable in center field.

Slight edge: Eagles

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Eagles are better in every phase. Crowder is a quality punt returner, although even if he's right there with Sproles -- debateable -- that's one spot. Caleb Sturgis is a more consistent kicker with better range. Donnie Jones has a bigger foot and more accurate punt than Tress Way. Sturgis and Jones benefit from some of the NFL's top coverage units. And the Eagles returned two kickoffs for touchdown in '16 compared to Washington's zero.

Edge: Eagles

 

COACHING

Jay Gruden has posted back-to-back winning seasons in Washington, with a trip to the playoffs. Gruden also beat Doug Pederson head-to-head twice in 2016. Much like the quarterback position, our understanding of these head coaches could change with time, because it's not as if Gruden is viewed as some mastermind. Washington also changed both coordinators, while the Eagles assistants Jim Schwartz (defensive coordinator) and Dave Fipp (special teams) are among the best in the league. This is close.

Slight edge: Washington

 

OVERALL

Who has the ultimate edge likely depends on how large one believes the discrepencies to be at quarterback and head coach. There isn't much separating the coaching staffs as a whole, while a case could be made Wentz's stock is on the rise just as Cousins might be poised for regression. Even if we concede Washington is safely better in either area, the Eagles look slightly ahead or the same everywhere else, so it's not as if the differences at the top are insurmountable.

Slight edge: Eagles

Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

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Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

Jerry Jones, the NFL's most outspoken troll, just wants to watch the world burn.

After weeks of talk and escalation, the Cowboys' owner is ready to go to war with Roger Goodell and the league's other owners over Ezekiel Elliott's suspension.

According to an ESPN report, Jones threatened the commissioner on a conference call after Elliott's suspension was announced, saying, "I'm gonna come after you with everything I have. If you think (Patriots owner) Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p---y compared to what I'm going to do."

For weeks now, Jones has tried to disrupt talks of a contract extension for Goodell, promoted objectively bad pizza in the name of football, and landed himself in hot water with the other owners. So much so that there has reportedly been talk about removing Jones as the Cowboys' owner.

It's hard to pick a side here. Jones — the long-lost twin of Emperor Palpatine — and Goodell — a man with rulings more inconsistent than Pete Morelli. You don't really want to root for either of them, but it is fun to think about the extremely unlikely chance that Jones loses the Cowboys. 

Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

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USA Today Images

Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

It was only a few weeks ago when it appeared this first meeting between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys was shaping up to be a battle for NFC East supremacy. Now that we’re here, the Cowboys are just trying to save their season, and the Eagles just want to take care of business against an inferior opponent.

That’s not a stretch. Are the Cowboys a good team? Well, they’re not bad, at least based on their 5-4 record. They certainly would be a lot better were it not for injuries and suspensions. But as the team is currently constructed right now, Dallas is not on the Eagles’ level.

Name one thing the Cowboys do better than the Eagles in 2017? That’s going to be a struggle, because aside from maybe punting, or maybe having a marginally superior pass rush, or maybe running the football before Ezekiel Elliott was sent packing, there’s really nowhere Dallas possesses an edge at this point.

Doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t pose a threat to the Eagles or even win on Sunday night. It’s simply a difficult scenario to envision when we break down the matchup on paper.

QUARTERBACKS

We’re probably going to be having this debate for many years. One-and-a-half seasons certainly isn’t enough to settle it. That being said, there’s no question who’s playing better right now, as in ‘17. Carson Wentz might be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player through 10 weeks. Wentz has thrown for more yards (2,262 to 1,994), a higher yards per attempt (7.8 to 6.9), and found the end zone with greater frequency (23 to 21) – including rushing touchdowns – compared to Dak Prescott. The Eagles’ signal caller also has just one more turnover (7 to 6) and 26 fewer yards rushing (211 to 237). Ultimately, the stats are all pretty close, but Wentz also has the more important number over Prescott right now: Wins, eight to five.

Slight advantage: Eagles

RUNNING BACKS

It’s safe to say that any combination of Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith (not to be confused with Broncos great Rod Smith) is a massive drop-off from Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys simply can’t replace the explosive element Elliott brought to their offense, not with this collection of has-beens and one nobody, anyway. Not one of those ball carriers has the pure ability of a Jay Ajayi at this stage of their careers, and the Eagles wouldn’t swap LeGarrette Blount or Corey Clement with Dallas, either. Fun fact about the Cowboys backfield: The unit’s leading receiver is Smith with 38 yards.

Clear advantage: Eagles

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

Zach Ertz is leads both teams with 43 receptions, 528 yards receiving and six touchdowns, and he even missed the Eagles’ last game. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are second and fourth, respectively, with 500 and 428 yards receiving, and tied for second with five touchdowns each. The Cowboys’ top receivers haven’t been as effective at getting down the field or in the red zone, though it’s a deep group. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley are essentially possession receivers at this point, and even speedy Terrance Newman is averaging a career-worst 11.8 yards per catch. Dallas’ best deep threat has been Brice Butler this season with 10 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Otherwise, the vertical game has been nonexistent.

Advantage: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINE

In retrospect, the Cowboys’ issues this season were easy to see coming. The retirement of right tackle Doug Free started a game of musical chairs up front, while the departure of guard Ronald Leary in free agency hurt the unit’s depth. Going from guard to tackle has been an adjustment for La’el Collins, and whether at left guard or left tackle, Chaz Green has been an abject failure. Dallas needs Tyron Smith healthy and covering Prescott’s blind side for this to even have a prayer of working. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ O-line keeps on ticking despite losing Jason Peters, which is a credit to Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s development. Peters or no, this continues to look like the best unit in the league.

Advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE LINE AND LINEBACKERS

The Eagles may have the best front four in the NFL, or one of them at least, but don’t discount the Cowboys here. Dallas is tied for fifth with 29 sacks, and Demarcus Lawrence leads the league with 11.5. The defense isn’t great against the run – 4.3 yards per carry allowed is tied for 23rd – but Lawrence, David Irving and Tyrone Crawford can all get after the quarterback. Of course, it’s not as if the Eagles aren’t scary rushing the passer, with just four fewer sacks, plus Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and company boast the No. 1 run defense as well. Even if the lines are considered even, there’s going to be some separation at linebacker, as the Cowboys are without the heart soul of their defense, Sean Lee (hamstring).

Slight advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Despite a solid pass rush, teams have thrown on the Cowboys’ secondary. In terms of opponents’ quarterback rating, Dallas ranks 23rd (96.4). It’s a young backfield, with rookies Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie – the latter returning from a hamstring injury – in outsized roles. The Eagles are young at corner themselves, with Ronald Darby finally back from an ankle and rejoining Jalen Mills, but have seasoned safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod over the top. The unit will give up some ground, coming in at 26th in terms of yards per game (249.4), yet is ninth in quarterback efficiency (81.2). Teams throw against this group because they have to, not because they want to.

Advantage: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS

At one point, Dan Bailey may have been the best kicker in the league, but he’s coming off his worst season as a pro and is now sidelined by a groin injury. That was the Cowboys’ primary strength on special teams. Now unreliable Mike Nugent is handling the kicking duties. Dallas punter Chris Jones has been pretty good at pinning opponents deep, which is nice, because he’s getting a lot more opportunities this year. The Eagles routinely grade among the top units in all phases, and will get the nod over most opponents, even if there is a Pro Bowl kicker.

Advantage: Eagles

COACHING

Jason Garrett is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year. He doesn’t call the plays. He doesn’t run the defense. Heck, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones probably decides when to call a timeout or throw the challenge flag. Yet, Garrett has hardware saying he’s the best. To his credit, there is a good staff in place around him, particularly defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. But as of now, Doug Pederson is well on his way to winning Coach of the Year in ’17, and will do it while actually running a team, nor are there any weak links on his staff. With an unconvincing 62-49 record, including playoffs, we’ll go ahead and chalk up Garrett’s 2016 campaign as an anomaly.

Advantage: Eagles

OVERALL

The Cowboys went 13-3 in the regular season in ‘16 on the strength of a dominant offensive line, punishing ground attack and well-coached defense. While the latter is still in place, even that aspect of the equation benefitted from ball-control offense. But Dallas’ line is an injury away from being in shambles, and the NFL’s reigning rushing champion is suspended. That leaves a young quarterback with aging weapons and adequate protection at best, and a defense that can rush the quarterback but does little else. Meanwhile, the Eagles have the best record in the league right now at 8-1, and they were firing on all cylinders heading into their bye. This is a week-to-week sport, so everything can change in the blink of an eye on Sunday night. Going in, however, there’s no denying which side is superior.

Distinct advantage: Eagles