It has been an amazing journey, a marathon indeed, from the time the Eagles lost last season's NFC Championship Game to now. Ups, downs and all arounds we have gone and here the Eagles are, a few days away from their NFC East showdown against Dallas. I want to begin by thanking you for being here every step of the way, and to wish you the happiest and healthiest New Year.
At the same time, the Eagles are all business. The sense of "enjoying New Year's Eve" is a foreign concept in the late afternoon at the NovaCare Complex. The Eagles are following the detail, step by step, of their normal practice and preparation week. We've got a big 'un coming up on Sunday in Dallas. Here are some things on my mind as kickoff nears ...
- Michael Vick returned to practice on Thursday, which helps the offense. In fact, every Eagle on the injury list was a full participant in practice. Vick is expected to resume his role as a short-yardage and red-zone specialist and there is no denying that he has had an impact here. I like what Vick brings to the offense and I hope the Eagles have plenty of chances to use him in this game against the Cowboys.
- Dallas has a big, strong offensive line, which has always been a challenge for the Eagles' front seven. The Eagles must use quickness and leverage to win that battle at the line of scrimmage, so I wonder if Jason Babin will see an increased role. He had a sack in the November 8 game against Dallas. Tackling is so critical in this game. Dallas uses a two-tight end set more than any team in football and can run the ball and eat clock as well as any team when they have a lead.
- I would like to see the Eagles get the ball in Brent Celek's hands more than they did in the first game against Dallas when he caught 3 passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. As much as we talk about how the Eagles must contain Dallas tight end Jason Witten, the Cowboys have to feel the same way about Celek. He has 69 catches, 875 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. Not bad for a player in his first full season as a starter.
- By the time the game begins, Dallas will know if it has a chance to gain the No. 2 seed. A Vikings win over the Giants knocks Dallas out of that possibiilty, right? So if the Vikings defeat the Giants, will that impact Dallas' intensity for this game? They know they would already have to play the following week ... Probably not, so I can forget the thought. A Dallas win gives them a home playoff game. That is their incentive, even though one Dallas newspaper reporter suggests the Cowboys should lost to the Eagles to avoid having to play Philadelphia in back-to-back weeks.
- Anyone who goes into this game thinking Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is going to "choke" should forget that thought. Romo has thrown a career-low 8 interceptions and he is having a tremendous season. There are few quarterbacks more dangerous throwing the ball on the run and working the pocket to escape pressure than Romo.
- It was interesting to hear Sean McDermott say that Macho Harris will take the majority of snaps at free safety, instead of Sean Jones. The Eagles are "matching up" their personnel on defense with offensive personnel more than at any time I can remember. Harris is coming along as a cover safety. I said this last week and I'll say it again: Four rookies have starting roles, basically, with Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy on offense and Harris and Moises Fokou on defense. A fifth rookie, Antonio Dixon, is a key rotation player at defensive tackle.That is pretty impressive for an 11-4 team.