No Asante Samuel. No Winston Justice. As expected, the Eagles head to Dallas without two injured starters and all that matters now is replacing them. How do the Eagles do that? Here is the analysis as the team makes it way to Dallas and settles in for the night before a huge game ...
First, Justice. We've spent all week talking about Samuel and his availability and in a large way that is a compliment to King Dunlap, who played so well in two starts at left tackle when Jason Peters was injured. Let's look a little closer at Dunlap and his matchups.
Dunlap is a more natural right tackle, and he is certainly athletic enough to get to the edge and keep Michael Vick's blind side clean. The Cowboys can flip-flop their outside linebackers, so Dunlap is likely to see both Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware. Both have speed and power, so Dunlap has to be prepared for both.
He played so very well against Atlanta, protecting Kevin Kolb's rear, that there is great confidence in Dunlap. He has the feet, he has the long arms and the punch and he knows that he has to play low. He can't let the Cowboys get up underneath his torso. He has seen the 3-4 and he has done his job in that environment. Dunlap also started against the Titans' 4-3 scheme, so he has the picture of anything the Cowboys might throw at him in his mind.
Now, does Dunlap's presence mean the Eagles have to alter how they block the Cowboys? If they feel they need to help Dunlap, the Eagles can use a tight end or a back to that side to chip. If not, they can help inside against Jay Ratliff or on the other side against Ware. So it really matters how well Dunlap plays in one-on-one blocking situations. Keep an eye on that early in the game.
Dunlap is a good run blocker and he is a tough guy, so he has to be prepared to play 60 minutes in a loud stadium -- no problem for him in Tennessee -- and keep Vick clean and keep Spencer from crashing down the line in the running game.
Backing up Dunlap would likely be Todd Herremans, who can move from left guard to right tackle, with Nick Cole replacing Herremans at guard, should Dunlap need to be replaced. Austin Howard, the promising rookie, is likely to dress.
This will be Samuel's third straight missed game. The Eagles have used Joselio Hanson and Trevard Lindley in combination to replace Samuel, with mixed results. Chicago attacked the Eagles secondary with great success. Houston had plays here and there, but in the end the Eagles defense -- and it took a group effort -- prevailed and shut down the Texans in the fourth quarter.
Both losses are significant, no doubt about that. The Eagles are down two starters for their biggest game of the season. They have to rally and come together and compensate. Injuries give others a chance to step up and play, and to prove themselves. This is the game. This is what matters. And it will take a great game plan and like execution to make due and beat the Dallas Cowboys.