At 3-8, the Eagles have little to no hope of making the playoffs. But that doesn't mean there isn't still much to fight for and much to prove over the final five games. As head coach Andy Reid intimated earlier in the week, the team will now take a closer look at some of the young promising players on the roster, including quarterback Nick Foles and running back Bryce Brown, who just happened to set the franchise record for rushing yards in a game in his 178-yard performance last Monday night, which also happened to be his first career start. With Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy still on the mend from concussion, Foles and Brown will be in line to start again Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys.
But those aren't the only other young players under the spotlight. With wide receiver DeSean Jackson on injured reserve with broken ribs, third-year man Riley Cooper and rookie Damaris Johnson will have an opportunity to prove their worth. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive ends Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry will be of special interest following the team's release of Jason Babin earlier in the week. Graham is slated to start at left defensive end and Curry, who only played his first game of the year last week, is in line for significant snaps as well. If you look across the roster, the Eagles are actually ripe with young players who have made contributions. In fact, 11 players who played significant roles in last week's loss to the Carolina Panthers had never taken a snap in the NFL before the start of this season.
Then, of course, there's the motivation of a significant rivalry. Young players included, this Eagles team knows that there's nothing but distaste for the NFC East rivals. The Cowboys, at 5-6, are on the fringes of playoff contention and the Eagles would love nothing more than to spoil the season of their longtime adversaries. For their part, the Cowboys have the advantage of a 10-day rest following their lopsided home loss to the visiting Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving. It is a must-win for Dallas, and for the Eagles, perhaps the absence of high expectations will lead to a freer, more successful, style of play.
Last Time They Met In Dallas
Dec. 24, 2011, Eagles 20-7 - The luster was taken out of the game early as the Eagles were eliminated from playoff contention via the Giants' win over the Jets. However, the Eagles steamrolled their division rival knocking quarterback Tony Romo out of the game early. Michael Vick threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns as the Eagles were just seven seconds shy of a shutout.
|Tale Of The Tape (2012 Stats)|
|Points Scored Per Game||16.7 (30th in NFL)||22 (18)|
|Total Yards Per Game||357.1 (14)||375.6 (9)|
|Rushing Yards Per Game||129.1 (9)||78.7 (32)|
|Passing Yards Per Game||228 (17)||296.9 (3)|
|Points Allowed Per Game||25.6 (24)||23.8 (20)|
|Total Yards Allowed Per Game||345.5 (15)||328.8 (8)|
|Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game||117.5 (18)||109.8 (13)|
|Passing Yards Allowed Per Game||228.1 (15)||219 (9)|
|Turnover Ratio||-17 (31)||-11 (29)|
Players to Watch
DE Vinny Curry
Fans had been clamoring all year to see the Eagles' rookie defensive end, and second-round pick Vinny Curry did not disappoint. In his first NFL action last Monday, Curry played 21 snaps (or 31 percent of the team's total snaps) and finished third on the team with five tackles.
With the release of Jason Babin on Tuesday, the Eagles' young defensive ends like Curry will be asked to step up against a Cowboys offense ranked ninth in yards per game. Curry was a pass rushing force in college, and the Eagles could certainly use some of that pressure against the Cowboys. Quarterback Tony Romo has been sacked 26 times, including three by the Eagles in their Week 10 meeting. Curry will be asked to build on his positive performance and help generate pressure on Romo.
WR Riley Cooper
Since being drafted by the Eagles in 2010, wide receiver Riley Cooper has spent much of his time out of the spotlight. But with DeSean Jackson's season over, Cooper will be asked to step up and continue his midseason surge.
Cooper broke his collarbone on the first day of hitting at Training Camp, and missed the entire preseason, as well as the first five games of the regular season. But in his last three games, Cooper has made his presence felt. He has eight catches for 92 yards and an impressive one-handed touchdown which came the last time the Eagles faced the Cowboys. With injuries taking their toll on the Eagles' receivers, look for rookie quarterback Nick Foles to pay attention to his 6-3, 222-pound target.