Eagles

Weak spot in Cowboys OL and more in Week 3 matchups to watch

Eagles

The Eagles (1-1) are traveling to North Texas to face the Cowboys (1-1) on Monday Night Football.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Terence Steele vs. Eagles left defensive end

The Cowboys are coming into this game missing a few key pieces including right tackle La’el Collins, who was suspended for five games. That means Steele is going to start against the Eagles, who had a big game against Steele last season.

In Week 8 in Philly last season, Steele started at right tackle and gave up 7 pressures, 4 hurries and 3 sacks. So there’s an opportunity to beat him in this game, although Steele had a solid Week 2 performance against Joey Bosa and the Chargers.

The problem for the Eagles is that normally it would be Brandon Graham feasting on Steele in this game. But Graham’s season ended against the 49ers when he tore his Achilles. The Eagles are going to have to figure out how to fill the void, which might mean more Ryan Kerrigan, or it might mean moving Josh Sweat or Derek Barnett to the other side of the line. In any case, whoever lines up over Steele might have an advantage, whereas the other side will face Tyron Smith, who has been solid in two games after having neck surgery last year.

Cowboys’ running backs vs. Eagles’ run defense

For most of the last several years, this section would be all about former first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott, but Zeke doesn’t look like the Pro Bowler he once did. Through two games, Elliott has 27 carries for 104 yards (3.9) and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Tony Pollard has 16 carries for 123 yards (7.7) and a touchdown. Against the Chargers, Pollard was clearly the more effective player. He had 13 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown, while Elliott had 16 for 71 and a touchdown.

 

It’s clear that Elliott is no longer the Cowboys’ workhorse back; this is a committee approach from Dallas these days. And it’s very easy to argue that Pollard is the better back of the two right now.

Through two weeks of the season, the Eagles’ defense has been pretty good against the run. They are technically the 18th-ranked run defense in the league but have seen 64 rushing attempts in two games. Just three teams have had more rushing attempts against them. And the Eagles’ defense is allowing just 3.77 yards per rushing attempt. Has it been perfect? No. But the Eagles look to have a pretty good run defense and stopping Elliott and Pollard in this game would help.

Cowboys’ receivers vs. Eagles’ cornerbacks

The Cowboys boast an impressive trio of receivers but they’re without one of them this week and another might be severely hindered. Michael Gallup is on IR and Amari Cooper has a ribs injury that has put his playing status in question. That leaves CeeDee Lamb as the only member of that trio completely healthy heading into that game.

No surprise here, but the Cowboys are the No. 6 ranked passing offense in the league after two weeks of the season. Dak Prescott is back this season and he’s going to be looking for his talented receivers in this game.

The Eagles have really improved at the corner position this season with the addition of Steven Nelson. If Cooper plays in this game, it's possible Darius Slay would travel with him. Slay has had success against Cooper in the past.

Lane Johnson vs. Micah Parsons

Johnson and DeMarcus Lawrence have had their fair share of battles over the years but Lawrence won’t be playing in this game. He’s out 6-8 weeks with a broken foot. Because of some injuries, the Cowboys have moved first-round linebacker Parsons to defensive end. And in his first game there, Parsons performed pretty well, even picking up a huge sack late in the win over the Chargers.

Parsons looked good against the Chargers’ tackles — he had eight pressures! — but facing Jordan Mailata and Johnson is bigger challenge for the rookie from Penn State.

“He's a heck of a player,” Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “He had a lot of pressures last week against the Chargers. He comes off the ball. He's got a lot of speed, you can see it on film. Good on the edge, he's good inside, too, as well.

“So, he's going to be a heck of a challenge for us. We got to know where he's at on the field, be ready for these guys. We're ready.”

Randy Gregory will likely be back this week, but with how well Parsons played at end, the Cowboys are probably thinking twice about moving him back to linebacker full time. He might split time between the two positions. Because of that, the Eagles’ offense will need to know where No. 11 is lining up.

 

DeVonta Smith vs. Trevon Diggs

The Cowboys through two games have the NFL’s second-worst pass defense, having already given up 692 yards through the air.

This matchup will be one between former Alabama teammates. Diggs was a second-round pick last year and Smith was a first-rounder this year. But they were teammates for three years in Tuscaloosa so there’s some familiarity there.

Diggs has had an up-and-down second season through two games. In Week 1 against Tampa Bay, Diggs gave up just 1 catch on 5 targets for 10 yards. Pretty good start against the reigning Super Bowl champions and the greatest quarterback of all time.

But in Week 2 against the Chargers, Keenan Allen really gave Diggs fits. Overall, Diggs gave up 6 catches on 9 targets for 121 yards. But he did have an interception and already has two this season.

Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast:

Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube