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Know Your Enemy: Eagles and Cowboys

Know Your Enemy is back. The new enemy is COVID 19 possibly cancelling football but hopefully not. This year there will be four bonus Know Your Enemy articles covering the NFC East (2 parts) and NFC West (2 parts). Each NFC North team will play one team from each division so might as well talk about them. Lets start with the NFC East with Philadelphia and Dallas.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles won the NFC East last year at 9-7 as Carson Wentz actually stayed healthy Of course, he got hurt in the playoffs and the Seahawks beat the Eagles in the Wild Card round. Philly was 5-3 at home and 4-4 on the road and played the entire NFC North last season. The Eagles lost to Detroit at home but beat Chicago. Eagles won in Lambeau against Green Bay but lost at Minnesota.. Doug Pederson remains as head coach with much success there and should help call the plays. Jim Schwartz is still the defensive coordinator and should have an improved defense.

Strengths

Pass Rush

The Eagles have a really good defensive line per usual. Fletcher Cox is always a beast and was 5th best interior defender with 4.5 sacks and consistent pressure. Philadelphia added the 9th best interior defender in Javon Hargrove in free agency from Pittsburgh. Malik Jackson is the 3rd DT and is still a solid veteran. This defense will generate serious interior pressure like Schwartz 2014 days with Suh/Fairley.

On the edge, Brandon Graham (8.5 sacks) is long in the tooth but still good. Graham is good pass rusher and run defender and earned 15th out of 102 grade in 2019. Derek Barnett is a 1st round pick but only solid at best at 80th ranked with 6.5 sacks. Josh Sweat is a 2018 4th round pick that added 4 sacks and Shareef Miller disappointed as a 4th round pick from 2019. Eagles should have edge pressure but if Graham gets hurt it won’t be that strong on the edge.

QB

Carson Wentz is a good QB despite lacking some weapons in 2019. He notched 27 TDs and 7 ints and over 4,000 yards. The 93 rating was lower than usual due to WR injuries but he should continue to lead this offense well. If Wentz gets hurt again, the Eagles finally have insurance in 2nd round pick Jalen Hurts. Look for them to use Hurts like Taysom Hill in New Orleans as well.

Could be Strength or Weakness

Run Game

Eagles had 1,939 yards at 4.3 YPC in 2019. Mile Sanders had a good rookie year at 4.6 YPC despite some early fumble issues. Sanders will be asked to carry the load as the Eagles lost Jordan Howard. Boston Scott, Corey Clement and undrafted RB Michael Warren don’t’ offer much depth.

Secondary

They added Darius Slay for a 3rd and 5th round pick and gave him a big contract. Slay is close to 30 but this was a nice addition as they needed a true number 1 CB. Slay had a down year but Detroit didn’t have much pass rush. Nickel Robey Coleman was a nice nickel add and 16th ranked CB in 2019. Schwartz likes young corners Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglus as young mid-round CBs but they haven’t developed fully. All have been below average in their careers so far but only 2 should have playing time and only one should be a starter barring injury. They do provide excellent depth.

At safety, Rodney McLeod has been off-injured and they lost Malcom Jenkins. Willie Parks was added but ranked below average and Jalen Mills wasn’t a good safety either. The Eagles have some questions at safety. K’Von Wallace was drafted in Round 4 for depth.

Weapons

Alshon Jeffrey and Desean Jackson have had success in this league. They battled injuries in 2019 and the Eagles hope they stay healthy. Philadelpia swapped out the disappointing Nelson Agholor for 1st round pick Jaelen Reagor from TCU. Zach Ertz is a stud tight end and led the Eagles in yards with 916 yards and 6 TDs. Dallas Goedert is a developing good 2nd tight end and second on the team with 607 yards and 5 Tds. Miles Sanders was 3rd adding 509 yards and 3 TDs telling you just how much the injuries affected Jeffrey and Jackson. If they stay healthy, it could be a strength again for the Eagles with Wentz.

Offensive Line

The Eagles let Jason Peters walk and give the reigns to 2019 first round pick Andre Dillard at LT. Lane Johnson is a stud RT and Jason Kelce is a great center as well (1str ranked).  Guard was strong with Isaac Seamalu (19th out of 102) but RG Brandon Brooks tore his achilles again (1st ranked guard in 2019). Rookie 4th round pick Jack Driscoll will have to step in early. Brooks is a s a huge loss for the Eagles. The offensive line depth hurts now with Vaitai signing a big deal with Detroit but they added Prince Teago Wanuho at tackle in Round 6.

Weaknesses

LB

Nathan Gerry is a solid SAM LB but new WILL Duke Riley is average at best and coming off an injured season. TJ Edwards only had about 100 ps at MLB but graded well. Eagles always seem to lack at LB.

Overall

The Eagles travel to Lambeau again to face the Packers in Week 13. The Eagles beat Green Bay in 2019(one of 4 losses) so this should be a tough game for the Packers despite hosting it. Eagles should battle Dallas again for the NFC East crown and should be a playoff team with 7 teams now allowed in the field.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys finished 8-8 for the millionth time and Jerry Jones finally fired Jason Garrett. Enter former Packers coach Mike McCarthy back into the coaching fold.  The Cowboys beat the Lions without Stafford in a close game but lost to the Bears, Vikings and Packers in 2019. McCarthy will call the plays and Mike Nolan replaces Marinelli as DC.

Strength

Front 7

The Cowboys still have DeMarcus Lawrence to wreak havoc and completely revamped the DT spot adding Gerald McCoy (31st out of 118), Dontarie Poe (33rds out of 118), 3rd round pick Neville Gallimore and hope to develop 2019 2nd round pick Trysten Hill. Lawrence should have double digit sacks and be a monster again.Tyrone Crawford is a solid other end the normal depth lacks with Joe Jackson, rookie rookie 5th round pick Bradlae Annae and Dorance Armstrong (2018 4th round pick).  However, Dallas have Randy Gregory suspended and added Aldon Smith after years out of football. If Smith/Gregory can play, it could be a deeper DE unit and very dangerous.

LB is very good with Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee but lacks any depth. Jaylon Smith was good but KVE and Lee were surprisingly average in 2019. They both must step it up.

Offensive Line

Tyron Smith and RG Zach Martin are the stalwarts. La’el Collins is a good RT (5th ranked) and Connor Williams is developing at LG after a 2nd round rookie season in 2019. Connor McGovern is solid depth but Joe Looney is a downgrade at center after Travis Frederick retired. Dallas did draft Tyler Biadasz in Round 4 and added versatile Cameron Irving (former 1st round pick) for depth. The offensive line should continue to be a strength.

Run Game

Ezekiel Elliot is a beast. 1,357 yards and 12 TDs in 2019. Tony Pollard isn’t much depth though.

Weapons

Mike McCarthy will have plenty of weapons. Amari Cooper signed a big deal after 1,189 yards and 8 TDS. Michael Gallup in year 2 had 1,107 yards and 6 TDs. Cee Dee Lamb is dynamic with speed and added in Round 1 to replace Randall Cobb in the slot. Blake Jarwin is an average tight end and Witten moved on to the Raiders without his boy Jason Garrett at HC.

QB

Dak Prescott is on the franchise tag and will be playing hard for a contract. Dak had a 99 QB rating 4,907 yards with 30 TDs and 11 interceptions in 2019. He is a good QB. Andy Dalton is a good backup QB to have too. The Cowboys are set with Prescott for one more year. We’ll see how quicly he picks up Mike McCarthy’s offense.

Could be Strength or Weakness

Secondary

Dallas lost Byron Jones in free agency but Chido Auwie (21st ranked) had a good season. Anthony Brown is solid and veteran but troubled Daryl Worley was added with an average grade. Jourdan Lewis is also a mid-round pick with potential and Dallas drafted Treyvon Diggs from Alabama in the 2nd round. Cowboys have some young corners but they have talent. Maurice Canday was 25th ranked in 397 snaps so could fight for playing time as well. Dallas is young and deep at corner.

Ha Ha Clinton Dix had a good season with the Bears but joins the Cowboys. He keeps moving around. Xavier Woods was 23rd ranked out of 84 safeties so offers hope at safety too. These safeties are underrated and could excel if the corners do their jobs. Darian Thompson is decent depth.

Overall

Dallas at Minnesota will be a great game in Week 11. It was close last year and the Cowboys have the firepower to win in Minnesota if they can stop the run. The Cowboys will battle the Eagles for the NFC East Crown and could be a playoff team. We will see if McCarthy can improved the offense and if Mike Nolan can make use of all that talent on defense. Dallas is too talented to go 8-8 again but we’ll see if they continue to mess things up without Garrett.