5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Cowboys in Week 7

5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Cowboys in Week 7

The Eagles (3-3) are heading to North Texas this weekend to face the Cowboys (3-3) in a game that will give us the leader in the NFC East. 

This is the first of two meetings between these two teams this year. As it has been in recent years, this game in Dallas is on Sunday Night Football. 

The Eagles lost by 18 points to the Vikings last week, but the Cowboys lost to the Jets and have dropped three in a row. Both teams really need this win. 

To the matchups: 

Ezekiel Elliott vs. Eagles' LBs

Zeke is still Zeke. Through six games, he has 491 rushing yards and five touchdowns to go along with 140 receiving yards. Just four players in the league have more touches than Elliott this season and since he entered the league in 2016, Elliott has more than anyone. The Cowboys have always, and still do, feed him the rock. 

While the Eagles were gashed through the air, they actually held up pretty well against the Vikings’ rushing attack last week. The Vikings finished with 122 yards, but Dalvin Cook had just 41. Elliott is obviously a much different runner. Through six weeks, the Eagles have the NFL’s second-best rushing defense, giving up 68.0 yards per game. But they just cut Zach Brown and now Nigel Bradham (ankle) is banged up. That means a very different-looking linebacker corps against Elliott. That’s a lot of pressure on Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry and T.J. Edwards. 

And as you probably already know, Elliott is 4-0 against the Eagles in his career. In those four games, he has averaged 115.8 yards per game on the ground and 51.3 yards per game as a receiver. In the two games against the Eagles last year, Elliott had 379 yards from scrimmage. The Eagles need to stop him — or at least slow him down — on Sunday. 

Cowboys' OTs vs. Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham 

Against the Jets, the Cowboys were without left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) and right tackle La’el Collins (knee) and it definitely showed. Veteran Cameron Fleming played left tackle and undrafted rookie Brandon Knight (from Indiana) played at right tackle. Barnett on Wednesday mentioned that he’s preparing for Smith and Fleming right now. 

Even if one or both Dallas starters are back (both practiced Thursday), they likely won’t be at 100 percent, so this should be a week where the Eagles’ edge rushers can get home. I listed Barnett and Graham, but even Josh Sweat and Vinny Curry should be able to make an impact on this game. 

If the Eagles are able to control Elliott (and that’s a big if), then they can try to put the game on Dak Prescott. If that happens and then the Eagles get pressure, it could really help. That should be the game plan. 

Andre Dillard vs. Robert Quinn

Since Jason Peters (knee) is out this weekend, rookie Andre Dillard will make his first-career start. He was thrust into a really tough spot against Minnesota and had his ups and downs. Overall, though, there were plenty of encouraging signs. With a full week of preparation and practice reps, and with Jason Peters coaching him up from the sideline, I suspect Dillard will be fine. 

This week, he’ll face Robert Quinn, who actually leads the Cowboys with five sacks, and he’s done it in four games. But make no mistake, Lane Johnson will still have the tougher task on DeMarcus Lawrence on the other side. Johnson has handled him very well in the past. 

Eagles' run game vs. Cowboys' LBs 

The Cowboys have two of the best young linebackers in the NFL in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Both players have around 50 tackles each this season and are everywhere on the field. Most teams have devalued the linebacker position in recent years, but the Cowboys are proof that good ‘backers can still make a difference. 

“Well, they're big, they really run well, they tackle really well, they're strong,” Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “Both are capable pass rushers. They do a good job in their scheme and utilize them in that way.”

Meanwhile, the Eagles have found some success running the football this season. They got behind early in the Vikings game, so they didn’t run a ton. But Jordan Howard has been pretty good and has taken over lead back duties. Miles Sanders has been a factor in the pass game, but we’re still waiting to see him be better in the run game. 

Eagles' receivers vs. Cowboys’ injured secondary 

It doesn’t sound like the Eagles will have DeSean Jackson this week, and that’s a shame because two Cowboys corners (Byron Jones and Anthony Brown) tweaked their hamstrings last week. The Eagles might get to see some more of Jourdan Lewis. 

Any help these Eagles receivers can get might go a long way. While Alshon Jeffery has at least provided some production, the Eagles haven’t gotten enough from Nelson Agholor and they haven’t gotten much of anything from Mack Hollins in recent weeks. 

On the flip side, it sounds like Amari Cooper (quad) probably won’t play this week. That’s a good thing for the Eagles. In December last year, Cooper had 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns against the Birds. 

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NFL mock draft 2020: What if Eagles don’t go with a WR in Round 1?

NFL mock draft 2020: What if Eagles don’t go with a WR in Round 1?

We just a few weeks before the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s pretty clear the Eagles’ biggest need is at wide receiver. 

While Howie Roseman might not think the cupboard is as bare as the rest of us, it would be a pretty wise bet to think the Eagles will use their first-round pick on a wide receiver. In fact, sports books agree with that notion. 

But we’ve spent so much time thinking about the Eagles’ taking a receiver that we haven’t really explored other options. There’s no guarantee they will. In fact, Howie Roseman has been GM for nine drafts and they’ve never used a first-round pick on a receiver in those nine. In 2015, Chip Kelly took Nelson Agholor in the first. 

So what if they don’t take a receiver? If they don’t, I think it would be because one of two things (or both) happen: 

1. The top receivers are off the board and the value wouldn’t be there to take the next-best receiver at No. 21. 

2. A player they really like slips to them, a value they didn’t expect to get. Sort of like last year when Andre Dillard began to slip and they pounced, trading up a few spots to get him. Sometimes good players fall for various reasons. 

With a scenario like this in mind, here’s my latest Eagles-only mock draft: 

Round 1-21: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida 

While Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah is the consensus top cornerback in this year’s class, many think Henderson is CB2 and I agree. Most mock drafts have Henderson going in the teens but if there are a bunch of offensive linemen and a bunch of quarterbacks that go in the top half of the first round, it could theoretically push Henderson down. And if one team that needs a corner likes Kristian Fulton or Jeff Gladney a little more, all of a sudden, Henderson is available. 

Then the Eagles would have a decision: Either take the next best receiver or take a player with more value at a position where there’s still need. 

At 6-1, 204, Henderson has the potential to be an elite outside corner. And in an off-season where the Eagles have been focused on getting faster, the idea of adding a 200-pound corner who ran a 4.39 at the combine should be pretty exciting. And Henderson’s speed shows up on the field too — he can close a gap quickly. 

In his three years as a Gator, Henderson had 6 INTs, 20 PBUs and 4 sacks. While he’s not known as a great tackler — Jim Schwartz does value that — his skills as a cover corner more than make up for it. 

Sure, the Eagles have what I think is a pretty desperate need at receiver heading into this draft but cornerback is a need too. Darius Slay is on the team, but the Eagles are committed to the 29-year-old through just the next two seasons. And if the season started today, they’d likely have 5-foot-9 Avonte Maddox starting opposite him. 

Round 2-53: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State 

If the Eagles do go with a different position in the first round, it would likely be because there’s a group of receivers they feel have a similar-enough value that one of them will be there in the second round. Aiyuk is one of those players who has been talked about as a first-round pick but every year there are about 50ish guys who are so-called “first-round picks” and all 50 won’t go in the first round. 

Aiyuk (6-0, 205) had a breakout season for the Sun Devils in 2019, replacing last year’s first-round pick N’Keal Harry. Last season, Aiyuk caught 65 passes for 1,192 yards (18.3) and 10 eight touchdowns. Aiyuk spent just two seasons at ASU after transferring from Sierra College. Because of that, he still has a ton of room for growth. 

He ran a 4.5 at the combine but Aiyuk is definitely a burner, showing off his YAC ability at ASU. His play speed seems faster than 4.5. 

In addition to his speed, Aiyuk’s jumps were impressive. He had a 40-inch vert and a 128-inch broad. And Aiyuk’s 33 1/2-inch arms (89th percentile among WRs!) give him a giant catch radius even at 6-foot. 

The Eagles are in desperate need all types of receivers right now. I think Aiyuk has the versatility to play inside and outside for the Eagles, who would likely use him in both roles and as an option on screens and quick passes. 

Round 3-103: Jabari Zuniga, DE, Florida 

It’s purely coincidence that this mock draft has the Eagles taking two Gators in the top three rounds but Howie Roseman, a Gator himself, probably wouldn’t mind. 

The Eagles bring back Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett for 2020 and it’s likely that Malik Jackson will have a role on the edge this season too. But after that, the Eagles have Josh Sweat, Genard Avery, Shareef Miller and Joe Ostman. They could use some more depth immediately and some real options long-term. 

Zuniga (6-3, 264) had 18 1/2 sacks in four college seasons, so the production isn’t as eye-opening as the physical makeup. It seems possible the Eagles might have overvalued college production in recent years. Here’s a guy with decent college production, but the potential to do a lot more at the next level with good coaching. 

An ankle injury in 2019 hurt his final college season. Without it, his production might have been greater and he could have been an earlier Day 2 pick. 

Round 4-127: K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State 

You probably don’t need much of an introduction to Hill, who caught 201 passes for 2,332 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Buckeyes over the last four seasons. He became the all-time reception leader at Ohio State. 

But Hill’s production far outweighs his athleticism, which could be a problem. With 4.6 speed, he’s not a fast enough player to excel outside. Unlike the first few guys we’ve looked at, Hill’s athletic profile leaves a lot to be desired. 

But after adding a guy with a ton of potential in Aiyuk earlier in the draft, I like the idea of double-dipping with a player who has a low ceiling but a sturdy base. Hill might never be a superstar but he was as reliable as they come for one of the top programs in the country for four years; that doesn’t happen by accident. 

In 2020, if the Eagles have DeSean Jackson and an early-round receiver stretching the field, Hill would be a dependable short and intermediate target. 

Round 4-145: Justin Herron, OT, Wake Forest 

With Halapoulivaati Vaitai gone, the Eagles might have to rely on Jordan Mailata as their swing tackle in 2020. That’s exciting but also a little scary based on his lack of football experience. Drafting another tackle in a mid or late round would help replenish the line. 

Herron (6-4, 308) definitely has the size to play tackle in the NFL. During his time at Wake Forrest, Herron started 51 games, playing left and right tackle. He tore his ACL in 2018 but returned to as a captain in 2019 and started all 13 games. 

There are also those who think Herron best projects as a guard at the next level. Think about him like Matt Pryor, who played tackle in college but can play guard in the NFL. Some real versatility with a guy like Herron. 

In Indy, Herron had a pretty good showing, aside from his really bad 3-cone drill (8.41 seconds). He did have a 33-inch vertical jump, a 105-inch broad and put up 27 reps on the bench. 

Round 4-146: Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State 

The Eagles probably won’t use a Day 1 or Day 2 pick on a linebacker but the second of two fourth-round compensatory picks seems like a plan for them. If the 2020 season started right now, the Eagles would have some combination of Nathan Gerry,  Jatavis Brown, T.J. Edwards and Duke Riley. 

At 6-1, 224 pounds, Davis-Gaither is definitely undersized and would probably need to add some weight to play linebacker at the next level, even in today’s NFL. But he’s athletic enough and fast enough to play in sub packages for the Eagles and would be a nice fit at the weakside LB spot in their 4-3 defense. And he’d also be able to contribute on special teams from Day 1. 

Round 5-168: Shyheim Carter, S, Alabama 

The Eagles will have a new-look safety group this year. Rodney McLeod returns but will be joined by Jalen Mills and Will Parks. They don’t really have any long-term solutions. While taking a safety in the fifth round wouldn’t solve that, it would give them some other options. 

Carter (5-10, 194) was a versatile defender for the Crimson Tide and played their STAR position (basically the extra DB in nickel). 

Unfortunately for Carter, he had a minor hamstring injury before the combine and wasn’t able to perform. He was hoping to show off speed at his pro day but the NFL basically canceled pro days. There’s concern about Carter’s speed, but he’s pretty confident in it.

Round 6-190: Michael Warren II, RB, Cincinnati 

Warren is a 5-foot-9, 226-pound running back nicknamed “Truck.” I’m all in. 

In three years with the Bearcats, Warren had 559 carries for 2,918 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also caught 51 passes. That’s a positive and a negative. It’s great to see that production but that’s a big workload and a lot of miles on an undersized running back. 

The Eagles could probably use another running back for the 2020 season. They have Miles Sanders and Boston Scott but they really don’t have a third right now. Elijah Holyfield is on the roster, but we’ll need to see what he can really offer. Adding a late-round draft pick or an undrafted player could be an option.

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Terrell Owens launches 'COVID-19 Driveway Challenge' complete with situp video

Terrell Owens launches 'COVID-19 Driveway Challenge' complete with situp video

Never one to be left out, Terrell Owens has chimed in with his own social distancing home workout challenge, and it will take Eagles fans back.

Owens, aiming for people spending extra time at home during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, launched the "COVID-19 Driveway Challenge" on Monday evening, piggybacking off recent home exercise social media trends like the "See 10, Do 10" pushup videos.

Owens attempted to start his own movement with a video, filmed in a driveway, eerily similar to the classic 2005 situps he did while holding out as a member of the Eagles:

"All y'all stayin' at home, stayin' safe, let's get this workout in," Owens says in the video. "I need 19 situps, just like I did back in '04, '05, when I did my situps in the driveway." 

Say what you will about Owens: he's nothing if not on brand, even during a global health crisis.

Owens didn't detail whether he's looking to raise money for COVID-19 research, or simply awareness about responsible social distancing.

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