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Fan-Demonium: Bring On The 'Boys

Posted Dec 2, 2012

Fan-Demonium

2012 has not been a fun season for Eagles fans. Some are already looking ahead to 2013. Some are focused on what changes will be made in the offseason. Winning on Sunday night wouldn't erase the misery of the 2012 season, but it would give me three hours to enjoy the Eagles.

I hate Dallas with a passion. I can't stand Jerry Jones. Is there a more annoying owner in sports? Tony Romo might be a nice guy, but seeing the Gomer Pyle smile of his drives me nuts. I won't run down the whole roster. I think you get the idea. I don't like the Cowboys from the top on down. Beating Dallas has made me smile for two decades and that will continue into the future. If the Eagles can't have a good year, at least give me some good moments. The Sunday night win over the Giants was nice. Beating Dallas would be an early Christmas gift from the Eagles.

The Cowboys are 5-6. 2012 hasn't exactly been a banner season for them either. Both their offense and defense are ranked in the top 10 in yards. Both units are ranked much lower in points. That tells you they're a flawed team. The Eagles played them evenly a few weeks back until there was a punt return touchdown that broke the game open. Dallas scored a pair of defensive touchdowns after that and won 38-23.

Can the Eagles win without Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson? Yes, but let's be honest. The other players have to play really well to make up for their absence. The key is going to be rookie quarterback Nick Foles. He did some good things when he played Dallas the first time around, but has been very up and down since then. Last week, Foles was lucky not to throw three or four interceptions. Defenders kept dropping his passes. He was efficient, going 16 for 21, but only for 119 yards. Foles must play better on Sunday night.

First up, I want to see him make better decisions. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg know how to design plays. There will be open targets. It is up to Foles to find them quickly and get them the ball. Foles made poor reads and then threw the ball into coverage last week. He needs to do a better job of finding open receivers down the field. Throwing the ball to a checkdown receiver is fine. Throwing it away can be smart at times. You must stretch the defense vertically. I don't mean throwing 40-yard bombs. You do want to do that a time or two, but throwing intermediate passes is important. Get the ball 15 to 20 yards down the field.

Two key areas to watch are third downs and the red zone. The Eagles didn't convert on third down last week with any pass plays. They have really struggled on third down since Foles took over. This is to be expected from a rookie quarterback. I'm not suddenly expecting him to look great, but he does need to show some progress. If you want to sustain drives, you must convert on third down. As for the red zone, that's pretty obvious. You won't win when you have to kick field goals. You can't count on running the ball on every play. The quarterback must be able to complete some passes in the red zone to keep the defense honest and give his running back a chance to score when you do run the ball.

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

Bryce Brown blew us all away last week when he ran for 178 yards on 19 carries. That was amazing. Dallas is 13th against the run and will be missing some key pieces. They have backups manning much of the middle of their defense. You can bet Rob Ryan will try to stack the line of scrimmage to keep Brown from finding room. The Eagles need to run to find out if Dallas can stop it. I don't think Brown will come close to 178 yards this week. I'd love to see him do that, but realistically would settle for him getting 85 to 90 yards. That should help move the chains and give Foles and the passing game a chance to make some plays.

I do think there will be the chance for some big plays. Dallas likes to blitz and attack. There will be some creases. Brown is a downhill runner that can exploit them if he's headed in the right direction. Once he gets past the line of scrimmage, his speed becomes a major factor. Defenders have to take good angles or he can make them pay, as he did with the 65-yard run against Carolina.

Brown fumbled twice last week. He must hold onto the ball. I don't want it hitting the ground, even if the Eagles recover. Brown needs to know that he'll only stay on the field if he can keep the ball off the field. Dallas defenders watched the Monday night game. They know about the fumbles. They will be trying to strip it away. Brown needs to be smart about fighting for extra yards. There are times to fight for every inch and other times when the smart play is going down and keeping the ball safe.

The offensive line struggled in the first Dallas game. King Dunlap played right tackle and Demetress Bell was at left tackle. They both played poorly, missing blocks and committing penalties. This time Dunlap is back on the left side and rookie Dennis Kelly is at right tackle. While this is far from ideal, I do think the tackles will play better. Both players were solid on Monday. Dealing with DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Victor Butler isn't easy. They have combined for 18.5 sacks this year. Take into account that teams plan all kinds of protection schemes to slow them down. Those guys still post big numbers.

Kelly is the blocker I'll watch most closely. It would be great to find out he has good starting potential for the future. The Cowboys rushers will be an excellent test for him. Kelly didn't give up a sack last week, but he had some poor blocks. He also got help from Brent Celek on a few plays. Dallas now has watched tape of him and will have a better idea of how to attack him. Kelly will need to play even better to get the job done this week. I was encouraged by what I saw on Monday night.

The defense will be without Jason Babin for the first time this year. That means Brandon Graham will start. He got injured in a game at Dallas in 2010 so it would probably make him the happiest guy on Earth to go down there and have a really good game. Right tackle Doug Free has given up 5.5 sacks this year so Graham should have some chances to get to Mr. Romo. I hope Phillip Hunt is the backup on the left side. I thought Hunt did some good things when he last played, in the Saints game. Hunt was unblockable this summer. Give him some playing time and let’s find out if he's one of those guys who was just a preseason Pro Bowl player or if he can get the job done in the regular season.

Rookie Vinny Curry made his debut last week and got off to a good start. He was very active and had five tackles. I want to get a better feel for him as a pass rusher. Carolina and Cam Newton don't run a conventional offense. Romo will drop back and throw the ball quite a bit. That should give Curry a chance to show what he can do. The Eagles pass rush got good pressure on Romo in the first meeting. I'm interested to see if they can duplicate that.

Last week, the Eagles got good returns from Damaris Johnson and Brandon Boykin. Unfortunately, Boykin fumbled on his long return. It was encouraging to see the rookies showing the return skills that we saw from them in college. If you are going to upset a team, big plays on special teams can be a major factor. It would be great to see Boykin make amends for last week with a big play.

You also wonder if Andy Reid will have any tricks up his sleeve. The Eagles’ great run from 2000-04 was jump-started by an onside kick in Dallas to open the 2000 season. Would Reid try something like that again? He did it in Dallas back in 2003, but they returned the kick for a touchdown. That team was coached by Bill Parcells and was very fundamentally sound. The current Cowboys team is highly erratic. Maybe you can burn them with a trick play.

Let's go beat Dallas on Sunday night and put a serious hurting on their chances of making the postseason. If we can't go to the playoffs, let's make sure you can't go either. I wish the season hadn't been reduced to playing the role of spoiler, but that's what has happened. Go beat Dallas and for three hours we can smile. Even better, beating Dallas means Jerry Jones can't smile.

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