With the Dallas Cowboys coming to town for a Sunday afternoon battle for first place in the NFC East, Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis is preparing his players to face the highest-scoring offense in the conference (30.5 points per game). On Tuesday, Davis discussed the challenges of defending the Cowboys and their savvy quarterback, Tony Romo.
"I think that one of the biggest things that Romo does is that he extends the play," Davis said. "If the initial play isn't there, like a couple of quarterbacks in the league … they don't necessarily run to run; they run to extend the play. The receivers do a great job of, when it breaks down, coming back to the ball and finding an open area, so we've got to be great at finishing the broken play as far as our coverage and staying attached in coverage. That's one of the challenges and I think the Denver game kind of showed that. They didn't stay attached all the time. Tony will see the field. He's got vision of the whole field and he'll find the guy that you drift off of and we can't drift off of our coverage."
Romo's passer rating of 108.6 is the highest among all NFC quarterbacks, but the 11-year veteran has been known to be very hot or cold throughout his career. According to Davis, the key to beating him is making sure that the Eagles defense stays aggressive for all four quarters.
"When you study him on film, he's either really hot or really off, and sometimes it's through the course of one single game," explained Davis. "He can be hot in the first half and second half cold, and vice versa. You've got to play him all the way through four quarters. You've got to challenge the receivers and challenge him to find the opening, and keep moving in on him. I think he'll make some plays and I think that he'll make some mistakes."
As the defense begins the week of practice to prepare for Sunday's game, it appears that they will be at least one man short. Patrick Chung made his return to the lineup against Tampa Bay after dealing with a shoulder injury, but his return was short-lived. After leaving the game against the Buccaneers, Chung's status for this Sunday remains a question mark, which may once again leave the door open for rookie Earl Wolff to step in.
"He's doing okay," Davis said of Chung's status. "With his shoulder, we tested it and it failed the test. There's a lot of pain involved, so right now he's getting a couple of different things looked at. We'll see as we go. We'll just go day to day with Patrick and see how it's coming along. … It's a nerve thing so you kind of have to go day to day with it. … It's a wild card with the type of injury that he has."
Davis explained that Wolff, who has already started two games in Chung's place, will have to adhere to the "next-man-up" philosophy.
"Whatever safeties we have active, they have to be responsible for it," Davis said. "I'm not going to cut back because we have a young guy in. … We won't slow it down."
Davis' counterpart in Dallas, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, is preparing for both Michael Vick and Nick Foles this week. Davis knows first-hand how that can tax a coaching staff adding to the prep workload.
"It does give you a problem," said Davis. "For instance, last year in Cleveland we were going to face Washington after (Robert Griffin III) was hurt, and they did a nice job of not letting us know which one we were going to get, (Kirk) Cousins or RGIII. We played a lot for the read-option and spent a lot of time doing that, and then all of a sudden we got Kirk Cousins and it wasn't that plan at all, so that takes a lot of your reps away. It really makes you split your preparation for the week, because you have to prepare for both. You can't read into anything, you have to make sure that you're ready for all scenarios, and when you have two drastically different quarterbacks, it does cut your preparation in half."
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