What you hear from the Eagles' defense this week is what you want to hear – it's going to take a full-team effort on Monday night against the balanced and potent Dallas offense that features quarterback Dak Prescott, a two-headed running back scheme with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, and a passing game with wide receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb.
Monday is going to be a great matchup between an Eagles defense that has allowed just 23 points in the first two games of the season against a Cowboys squad that is second in the NFC in yards gained.
"They have a lot of weapons and it's going to be on us to dictate to them," linebacker Alex Singleton said on the most recent Eagles Insider Podcast. "They can run it and they can make big plays in the passing game. We have to limit what they do."
Everything with Dallas starts at quarterback, where Prescott has returned from last year's dislocated ankle to complete 77 percent of his passes for 640 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions in the Cowboys' 1-1 start. Prescott can make plays with his legs as well as his arm, he's tough in the pocket, and he has great chemistry with his receiving corps.
Prescott is the first priority to contain.
"I just know we've got to get after him in the pocket because that's where he makes his hay," said defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who could be in line for more snaps with Brandon Graham gone for the season. "I know everyone thinks of him as a really great athlete and running all around, and he is all those things, but where he really takes advantage, and that's what he was doing in the first couple of games last year (before suffering his injury), was making plays from the pocket with his arm, so I know we've got to attack the pocket up front and make plays."
Lamb is the explosive second-year wide receiver who has 15 receptions, 185 yards, and a score in two games, while Cooper is the veteran who is among the best route-runners in the league. Cooper has 16 catches, including 13 in the narrow Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay, for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper has been limited in practice this week with bruised ribs. Third receiver Michael Gallup is sidelined, but Cedrick Wilson, Jr. has filled in capably to give Dallas more options down the field.
In the backfield, Elliott and Pollard key a ground game that stomped the Chargers for 198 yards (109 by Pollard on 13 carries) last week in a 20-17 victory. The twosome total 227 yards rushing and Pollard is averaging a robust 7.7 yards per carry.
"Anytime you talk about stopping the run game, it's about getting a lot of hats to the ball, everybody being where they're supposed to be in terms of fits and things of that sort and then just rallying," safety Anthony Harris said. "Going against tough opponents with big linemen, you want to try to get as much penetration and win the line of scrimmage. With the ballcarriers, you want to get a lot of hats there so you can stop extra yards after contact and tackle really well."
Prescott's recovery from his gruesome injury has been the key for the Cowboys' offensive rebound. The team used four quarterbacks last season and dealt with other injuries throughout the offense. In its home opener, Dallas wants to soar on Monday night. An Eagles defense that ranks tied for second in terms of fewest points allowed through two games and fourth in rankings of fewest yards allowed. Dallas averages 24.5 points and 435 yards per game.
Where is the Eagles' defense in its development? Everyone will see under the bright lights of Monday Night Football.
"I think we've done a lot of good things and we know we can be better," Singleton said. "The defense has bought in with what JG (Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon) is saying, with what our position coaches are saying, and we've bought in with each other. We're clear with what the objectives are. Stopping the run is always going to be first and foremost. We want to take the football away and that's a goal to help our offense. But we want to keep playing within the system and playing with fundamentals.
"Dallas has a strong 1-2 punch in the backfield. They are special together. They are both physical and will come downhill on you and thump you. They're looking for big yards after contact. We want to set the tempo on them. Dak is a composed quarterback who knows how to play within the system. I think we're all excited to get down there and do what we do – stop the run and get into favorable down and distances and then play the coverages we want to play."
The Eagles are, like every team, still feeling things out. We're three weeks into the season. Monday night represents an opportunity to take a step forward on a national stage. The defense has the task of limiting a Dallas offense that can be devastating when at its best.
"Our best against their best. That's the way you want it," Singleton said. "We feel like it's on us and we know that to have success. We all have to do our part."