Welcome to Beat Dallas Week, Monday night's prime-time affair that is an early-season NFC East test. The Eagles are in full Dallas mode now and they've got a handful waiting for them in Arlington, Texas. In this early-week period, let's catch up on some News and Notes with the 1-1 Eagles ...
1. How do the Eagles replace Brandon Graham on the field? I explained yesterday the implications of losing Graham for the season. It is more than an on-field loss, but for the purposes of this space, let's focus on that. Who replaces Graham's energy and his production? Who steps in with that veteran presence and institutional knowledge? The promising news is that the Eagles have heavily addressed the defensive line, so there are options here. Josh Sweat, in his fourth season and certainly no stranger to big-game reps, will play a lot. Sweat has played 47 percent of the snaps thus far, rotating with starter Derek Barnett. Veteran Ryan Kerrigan has his game legs after missing most of Training Camp with a broken thumb, and he plays with tremendous intensity and energy. Milton Williams, the third-round draft pick, worked throughout Training Camp and the preseason on the edge, so he has a good grasp of the scheme. He's a bigger body who can set the edge against the run and can offer power and quickness off the ball in the pass-rush game. Rookie Tarron Jackson is also going to have to step up with his speed as a pass rusher. Look, injuries stink. And losing Graham is a blow, no doubt about it. The Eagles have stocked the defensive line for a reason, so now we see just what kind of depth the team has here.
2. The situation is the same along the offensive line with right guard Brandon Brooks out for an undetermined time because of his chest injury. Rookie Landon Dickerson was "solid," said Head Coach Nick Sirianni, in his NFL debut on Sunday after practicing for only a few days at right guard. Dickerson is in the developmental stage of his career and he's extremely talented, so the hope is that his game continues to go in the right direction. The Eagles also have depth here with Nate Herbig, who has plenty of experience from his previous seasons, and Jack Driscoll, who is eligible to return from Injured Reserve after the Monday night game. The Eagles also added Jack Anderson, a seventh-round draft pick from Buffalo in 2021 who was on the Bills' practice squad. Again, losing Brooks hurts the Eagles. There is no way to sugarcoat that. He and Lane Johnson have for a long time been so good together on the right side of the offensive line. But the Eagles understand the need for depth up front, and they are well stocked here.
3. Turnovers are going to play a huge part in Monday night's game. The Eagles have neither taken the football away nor have they given the football up in two games, while Dallas has a +4 ratio (6 takeaways, 2 giveaways) and lead the NFL in that category. This is a statistic that matters in every game. While Dallas has been hit with some injuries along the defensive line – end DeMarcus Lawrence has a broken foot – they are expected to get Randy Gregory back from the COVID-19 list for Monday night and were pleased with rookie Micah Parsons' play at defensive end in the win over the Chargers on Sunday. The Eagles know they are going to have a battle on their hands at the line of scrimmage in this game.
4. I asked Sirianni what he thought of the offense's short-yardage performance through two games, and he said the team needs to be better there. "It's definitely something we need to improve on," he said. "We're too good up front to not convert on some of those short-yardage (situations). Credit the defense, they made a couple of good plays in those scenarios, but we know we're good up front and we know we've got to do a good job as coaches to put the players in positions to succeed. We know we've got the horses up front to pave the way."
5. A big takeaway from the 17-11 loss on Sunday? The Eagles had their chances, and in games against good teams, the Eagles have to finish the task. "These close games, every detail, every little thing matters," Sirianni said. "It's not just like, 'It matters this week, it doesn't matter this week.' No, every detail and every little thing matters. You see that with coaching, like, 'Man, I should have told them to do this, or I should have told them to do that or check this or check that.' All those little details matter. Hopefully, we all see that the parity in the NFL is so tight that all these little things make such a big difference. We've just got to be obsessed with the details and not let them slip for a second."
6. Finally, something fun. Rookie running back Kenny Gainwell grew up an Eagles fan while his father (Curtis) rooted for Dallas. Gainwell was always aware of the rivalry. "Always fun watching an Eagles-Cowboys game with my dad. We went back and forth with each other and had a good time with it," Gainwell said. "I loved talking some mess with him about it. Now, of course, he's changed who he roots for, but it was fun before I came to the NFL. It's a great rivalry. There's nothing better than when the Eagles beat Dallas for me in my house. I talked a lot about that with my dad after the games."
And with that, Beat Dallas!