Micah on the mind. It's what every offensive coordinator deals with when it lines up against the Dallas Cowboys' defense, and Shane Steichen is no different. The Eagles are preparing for one of the league's top defenses and a player as disruptive as any the NFL has seen in a long time in Micah Parsons.
It is senseless to assign a position to Parsons, whom the Cowboys move around their defense to take advantage of favorable matchups. And honestly, just about every matchup is in Parsons' favor. He is a freakish combination of speed and power and absolute relentlessness. Parsons has mayhem on his mind at all times and he is the key to a Dallas defense that has not allowed more than 19 points in any of the team's first five games.
In the high-scoring NFL, Dallas is a throwback to another era. The Cowboys, written off by some after losing quarterback Dak Prescott to a hand injury in a Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay, have instead won four games with backup Cooper Rush taking over for Prescott and engineering what Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon said Tuesday was an "efficient" offensive approach, relying heavily on the running game and not turning the football over.
"They've played really clean football, in my opinion," Head Coach Nick Sirianni told me on Tuesday. "That's a tribute to their coaches and their players."
And, of course, letting the defense eat. Starting with No. 11, Parsons, who as a rookie recorded 13 quarterback sacks in 2021 and who already has six this season, tying for most in the league and a 20-sack pace over the span of 17 games.
Every bit of preparation starts with Parsons and how to somehow minimize his impact.
"He's a really good football player. He's got to be accounted for on every play," Steichen said. "He flies around, they line him up all over the place, really good pass rusher. He's got speed. He's got power, so we've got to be aware of him. This is a really good defense we're facing. They're very sound in what they do. They play hard. They're physical. It's going to be a heck of a challenge for us."
Dallas has done the job defensively against some of the finest quarterbacks in the land – Tom Brady and Tampa Bay, Joe Burrow and Cincinnati, and then on Sunday, the Cowboys tore apart Matthew Stafford and the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. In that 22-10 road win, Dallas sacked Stafford five times, hit him as he threw the football 11 times, and had another dozen or so pressures. The Cowboys turned a strip-sack on the Rams' third play from scrimmage into a fumble recovery and return for a touchdown.
Dallas limited the Rams to one touchdown, the fifth straight week offenses have crossed the goal line once and only once against the Cowboys.
Said Parsons after that win, to no team in particular and the rest of the NFL in general: "We're just letting you know, you know, we coming."
All of this sets up for a terrific challenge on Sunday night. The Eagles aren't going to back down, obviously. Philadelphia has the No. 2-ranked offense (419.8 yards per game), a running game that averages 160 yards per game, and combines with a dynamic passing game to lead the league with 58 explosive plays (16-plus yards passing, 10-plus yards rushing). Philadelphia has yet to play its best game offensively, and still averages 27 points per game.
So, yeah, Sunday night shapes up as a classic in so many ways.
"They're good across the defensive line, there's no doubt about it," Sirianni said. "And when you're an offensive coach, the first thing you look at is, 'Can a defensive lineman ruin a game?' and 'Can a corner ruin a game?' They've got two guys, more than two guys. 90 (DeMarcus Lawrence) and 11 (Parsons), they're awesome on the edge, so there's no doubt we're going to have to be on our 'A' game, and then they've got (cornerback Trevon) Diggs over there and he can make things difficult based off who he is as a player. He's a really good player.
"This is a talented defense at all levels and, like I said, when you're an offensive coach, you look at the rushers who can get home and you look at the corner who can make it disruptive and they've got those guys."
Obviously, what happens between now and Sunday night and the game plan the coaching staff puts together and the practices the Eagles have will have a tremendous impact on the prime-time game, a battle for the top of the NFC East. Both teams are really good and that makes Week 6 even more special.