Remember when everyone was complaining about Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby?
Turns out things can get worse. Much worse.
They absolutely did for the Eagles in their heartbreaking 27-20 loss to the hated Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football (see observations).
After Darby went down in the third quarter, the Eagles’ decimated secondary was left with just one starter from the beginning of the season: Malcolm Jenkins.
• Rodney McLeod (knee) is out for the season
• Sidney Jones (hamstring) and Jalen Mills (foot) missed this game
• And then Darby injured his right knee in the third quarter
That meant guys like Chandon Sullivan, Tre Sullivan, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and Corey Graham were shuffled in and out of the lineup on Sunday night. As you might expect, it didn’t go well.
And it all made Dak Prescott look like a much better quarterback than the average QB he has been all season.
“I don’t think that’s an excuse,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said of the secondary shuffling. “We got guys who are more than capable, that we have a lot of trust in. Guys that have played a lot of football. It’s all execution. It’s on us. We have to play better.”
It’s less of an excuse and more of a reality. At least we finally found out why Jim Schwartz has been hesitant to play Douglas. It was shocking to see Dak pick apart the Eagles’ secondary as he moved down the field.
Sunday’s game was so bad, folks were starting to miss Mills, who has been the most criticized player on the team this season.
Prescott threw for 270 yards for just the second time all season and had a passer rating of 102.8. The Cowboys converted on 8 of 16 third downs, including a 3rd-and-15 in the first half. It’s the fifth time this season the Eagles have given up a first down on a 3rd-and-15 or a 4th-and-15.
The worst thing from the Eagles’ defense on Sunday was that Carson Wentz and the offense tied up the game twice in the second half — at 13-13 and 20-20 — and both times, the defense let the Cowboys down the field to take leads again. Without Darby and Mills and McLeod and Jones, the Eagles’ secondary became porous. The whole unit looked gassed.
On those two drives, Prescott was 7 for 8 for 96 yards and a touchdown.
“Not a big impact,” Tre Sullivan said about the moving pieces. “We all practice to play. Week in and week out, we’re all shuffling in practice. We learn each other’s tendencies and how we communicate with each other. We’re all good to go.”
That’s the confidence they should have. But that doesn’t make it any easier to play with a bunch of backups on Sundays.
As he left the Eagles’ locker room on Sunday night, Darby had a long sleeve on his right leg. He walked with a limp. He said he didn’t yet know the severity of his knee injury, but insisted, “I’m straight.” The Eagles better hope so.
Because next week, they travel to New Orleans to face one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
If they couldn’t stop Dak Prescott, what chance do they have against Drew Brees?
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