Eagles

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Cowboys

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5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Cowboys

The Eagles didn't play last weekend but they still gained ground in the NFC East as all three teams lost. 

The Cowboys were one of them, falling to the Falcons 27-7 in Atlanta. 

But the Cowboys (5-4) will still be a tough test for the Eagles (8-1). This is a nationally televised Sunday night game down in Jerry's World. 

The Eagles are favored, but winning these matchups would go a long way in helping them get a win:

Cole Beasley vs. Patrick Robinson 
Beasley's numbers are way down this season. He has just 24 catches for 188 yards. The little shifty slot receiver is a tough matchup for Malcolm Jenkins, but Robinson seems much better equipped to shut him down in the slot. 

Remember, Beasley had a nine-catch 112-yard, two touchdown game against the Eagles in 2015. 

"[Beasley] looks exactly the same," Eagles DC Jim Schwartz said. "He's tough. He's a tough out. He's quick. He runs great routes. He's got speed to get down the field. I think that's one thing that's underestimated with him. He's a little bit sneaky, but he can get down the field too. " 

While it's easy to forget about Beasley on a team with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and Ezekiel Elliott (when he's not suspended), Beasley has the ability to hurt teams. He's done it to the Eagles in the past. 

Jason Witten vs. Malcolm Jenkins 
Witten is 35 years old and he's not the Pro Bowl player he once was. But he still has 42 catches for 378 yards and three touchdowns this season, so the Eagles can't sleep on him. 

This season, the Eagles have given up some yards to tight ends — 47 catches for 500 yards and four touchdowns. Just nine teams have given up more yards to opposing tight ends. 

But this is a much more manageable matchup for Jenkins than covering the shifty Beasley. Jenkins means so much to the Eagles and this weekend will prove another reason why. 

Lane Johnson vs. Demarcus Lawrence 
Two weeks ago, Johnson did a great job against Von Miller when the Broncos were in town. Things don't get any easier for him this week. Now, he'll go against Lawrence, who leads in the NFL with 11 1/2 sacks in nine games. Lawrence has just one game this season without a sack — it came against Kansas City a couple weeks ago. 

When the Eagles elected to keep Johnson on the right side after Jason Peters' injury, this matchup against Lawrence was one of the reasons why. Miller, Lawrence and Khalil Mack were the names thrown out because they all typically line up on the right tackle. For most games, that's an advantage. Against the Eagles, it's a pretty clear disadvantage because Johnson has been playing at a Pro Bowl level. 

Zeke-less 'Boys vs. top run D
The Cowboys are without Elliott this week and that's an absolutely huge loss for them. Elliott will be back by the time the regular season finale comes around, but he won't play Sunday thanks to his six-game suspension that finally kicked in last weekend. 

Alfred Morris was once a two-time Pro Bowler in Washington but he's just simply not Elliott. He's actually averaging 6.8 yards per attempt after just 25 carries this season, but we'll see what his numbers look like after a few more weeks. 

This week, he'll have a really tough test against the Eagles, who have the best run defense in the NFL. They've given up just 66.4 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles are the first team to give up fewer than 600 yards on the ground through nine games since the 2010 Steelers. They're just the 11th team in NFL history to do it. 

And teams just aren't running against them anymore (see story). But if the Cowboys can't run, it would put a lot of pressure on Dak Prescott to carry the team, something he hasn't really been asked to do so far in his career. 

Zack Martin vs. Fletcher Cox 
Martin is one of the best offensive guards in football, but he actually gave up a sack last week. It was the first sack of the season he gave up after he gave up just two all last season and one in each of the two previous years. Martin has given up just five sacks in his four-year career, according to ProFootballFocus. 

It doesn't happen very often, but Cox is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. It's obviously not all about sacks, Cox can change a game by simply getting pressure. The problem is that Martin doesn't give up much pressure either — just five QB hurries and one QB hit all season. 

The interesting part of this matchup is that teams elect to double Cox so often, but with an All-Pro guard against him, the Cowboys are much more likely to leave him 1-on-1. This is a heavyweight bout. 

Bonus matchup
It looks like Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith won't be able to play on Sunday night. That's a big deal because Chaz Green and Byron Bell were worked over against the Falcons — Bell will reportedly get the start on Sunday. Keep any eye on Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett in this game. They might have a chance to do some damage.

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Weakside linebacker

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Weakside linebacker

As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer.

Today we’ll look at weakside linebacker.

Names to know

Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, Corey Nelson

What to watch

After years of trade speculation, the Eagles finally just released Mychal Kendricks this offseason. It saved them $6 million in cap room and let Kendricks out of a situation he had been ready to leave for some time. It also left the Eagles with a void. No, Kendricks didn’t play at an All-Pro level last season, but he stepped into a larger role after Jordan Hicks went down and helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl. Now, he’s gone and his old starting gig is up for grabs.

When Nelson was signed this offseason and said he was told he’d compete at the weakside linebacker spot, it raised some eyebrows. That was Kendricks’ job and as long as he was on the team, he wasn’t going to give it up. Now, it all makes more sense.

The WILL linebacker in the Eagles’ system doesn’t play a ton. The Eagles are in their nickel package for around 75 percent of their defensive snaps, which means two linebackers instead of three as the team brings an extra DB on the field. So Hicks and Nigel Bradham will stay on the field for most of the game and the third linebacker will play about a quarter of the snaps. And it’ll be one of these three guys.

What all three guys seem to have in common is the ability to cover. Grugier-Hill and Gerry are both converted safeties and Nelson is much smoother in coverage than Kendricks ever was. All three are good athletes and have shined as special teams players, but are hungry for more responsibility.

It’ll be interesting to see if this competition goes into the season. Bradham is suspended for the season opener, so it seems like two of these guys will start next to Hicks. So read into it how you will … because the guy who plays the WILL in that game might not be the guy who plays it in the next game because the player at the SAM will be on the field more and could possibly be ahead on the depth chart.

Prediction

Grugier-Hill appeared to be in the lead for this job and I think he hangs on, although this one really is up in the air. I just think his two years in the defense will mean something to Jim Schwartz and it’ll be enough to give him an edge on a second-year player and a veteran special teams player. 

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