I expect an inspired and focused effort by the Eagles in this first game of the second half of the season, one that obviously has huge implications. To break it down, though, the play at the line of scrimmage is going to tell the story.
My mind wanders back to 2004 and a game against the visiting Packers, when injuries along the offensive line forced the Eagles to start journeymen Alonzo Ephraim and Steve Scullo at the guard spots. There was a great deal of concern as to how the Eagles would adjust, how the offense could possibly move the football with two starters new to the starting lineup.
Well, the Eagles blew out the Packers that day (47-17) and sent the message that it really didn't matter who was on the field, the Eagles were going to dominate. Of course, that Eagles team was a special group, one that went to Super Bowl 39, and this Eagles team is just trying to get a win after losing four consecutive games.
We all wonder how the Eagles are going to move the football and score points with their injury-ravaged offensive line so radically changed. To review, the Eagles are going to play with Demetress Bell at left tackle, Evan Mathis at left guard, Dallas Reynolds at center, Dennis Kelly at right guard and King Dunlap at right tackle. It's not anything close to what the Eagles anticipated, but those are the breaks and the Eagles have to figure out what they can do well against a really good Dallas defense.
You figure that the Eagles are going to use at least two blockers on DeMarcus Ware, lining up a tight end or a back to whichever side Ware plays. The Cowboys are likely to send at least another pass rusher, and linebackers Anthony Spencer and Bruce Carter are fine, fine players.
It's a tall task for the players on the field and for the coaching staff. What adjustments do the Eagles make?
On defense, the Eagles have two choices: They get to quarterback Tony Romo and force him to move in and out of the pocket, or they face the risk of being shredded by a passing offense that can get it going as well as any offense out there.
How Todd Bowles is going to manufacture pressure, and how the Eagles can win some one-on-one battles, well, if this defense is going to show some life and force some takeaways, they need to make a lot of plays up front.
There aren't a lot of surprises coming at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday. It's an NFC East game, and the Eagles have won six of their last seven games within the division. Neither team can afford to drop to 3-6. Both teams have a lot of injuries and each team is going to have its depth tested.
So, there is no option here. The Eagles must win the game and keep the season alive and start the second half of the schedule the right way. Expect a fantastic effort, an inspired roster and a physical performance.
- You may see a lot of Clay Harbor as the second tight end in this game. You can be sure the Eagles are going to try to run the football a lot, and they're going to be very aware of the Dallas pass rushers.
- Just a reminder: The Eagles have scored seven points in the first quarter all season, and none on the first drive. What kind of a difference would it make for this team to have an early lead?
- Let's see if the defense is sufficiently embarrassed enough by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's words earlier this week that the Eagles are soft and not physical. I think it's been said the last two weeks, it needs to be said again: If the Eagles can't get up for this game ...
- I'm looking for a big game from Nate Allen, who is healthy and in the lineup at safety. He needs to tackle well and make sure the Cowboys don't get anything down the field in the passing game.