Take a look at the key players the Eagles will need to contain on Sunday night when they meet with Dallas for the second time this season ...
The Eagles are back in action tonight when they take on the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Our gameday coverage begins at 6:30 PM with Inside the Eagles, Eagles Game Plan and the Best of 360 leading up to The Kickoff Show at 7:30 PM featuring reports from Arlington, Texas. Eagles-Cowboys gets underway at 8:30 PM. We'll also have The Halftime Report and once the game is over make sure to stay online for the Post-Game Show presented by Ricoh with extensive highlights, All-22 analysis and live press conferences. In the 5 Things to Know Today for Sunday, November 8, I wanted to look at five things that have changed since the Week 2 matchup between these two teams.
1. Lane Johnson To Start At Left Tackle
After not practicing all week, Jason Peters was declared out on Saturday by the Eagles before the team made the trip to Texas. The All-Pro made the trip with the team, but this is the first game he will miss since his 2012 season was wiped out by an Achilles injury. Lane Johnson will make his first career start at left tackle. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft has been a mainstay at the right tackle position. He spent the entire week of training getting ready for the tall task at hand. Johnson explained at the team hotel Saturday evening that the tackles typically don't get much help in pass protection meaning that he will be on an island against a strong Cowboys defensive end rotation led by Greg Hardy.
"I feel as good as I need to be to get out there and go play," Johnson said. "It felt good to go out there next to Al (Barbre) and get our communication down for this week, so I feel comfortable."
2. DeMarco Murray Returns To Dallas
A former third-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys, running back DeMarco Murray returns to where he started his NFL career and earned All-Pro honors as the league's rushing champion in 2014. A true pro, Murray is looking at tonight as just another game. But with Ryan Mathews questionable with a groin injury, Murray might have an expanded role. In the first meeting back in Week 2, Murray only had 2 yards rushing as the Cowboys shut down the Eagles' offense. The Eagles have figured out how to get Murray going. In four games since Week 2, Murray has 296 yards rushing at 4.42 yards per carry.
In this week's Green Exposure, we highlight some of the most memorable games against the Cowboys leading up to Week 9. View the full gallery here...
3. The Cowboys Miss Tony Romo
The Cowboys' season took an unexpected turn when linebacker Jordan Hicks sacked Tony Romo and fractured the quarterback's collarbone. Dallas traded for Matt Cassel, but hoped that Brandon Weeden could keep the offense afloat. In three starts, Weeden threw just one touchdown pass as Dallas dipped below .500. Cassel took over and has been arguably more ineffective. Last week against Seattle, Cassel threw for just 97 yards passing at an average of 3.88 yards per attempt. Dallas scored no touchdowns in the 13-12 loss.
4. Hicks Stands Out At Linebacker
Hicks was thrust into action back in Week 2 after injuries to Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks. The strong depth at inside linebacker was now tested as the third-round pick, who was expected to handle special teams action as a rookie, was a starter. Hicks has been a savior for the defense. He leads the team in tackles and ranks second among all rookies in impact plays (sacks, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and interceptions). Alonso returns tonight for the first time since the Week 2 game. Kendricks came back just before the bye in the Carolina game. DeMeco Ryans' status, however, is questionable with a hamstring injury.
5. How Effective Will Dez Bryant Be?
The All-Pro wide receiver suffered a foot injury in the season opener against the Giants and made his return last week against Seattle. Against All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, Bryant had just two catches for 12 yards. In his Film Study column, NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell noted times when Bryant had Sherman beat, but Cassel wouldn't pull the trigger. Bryant suffered no setbacks in the game, but was limited in practice this week. The Dallas offense is much tougher to defend when defenses have to account for Bryant and tight end Jason Witten.