After taking a few days off to rest and recover, guard Nate Herbig said the mini-bye weekend "felt like we just had six months off," and that's a good thing. The Eagles were back at the NovaCare Complex on Monday following Thursday night's win over the New York Giants and after seeing the Washington Football Team manhandle Dallas on Sunday. Philadelphia remains atop the NFC East with the Cowboys coming to town on Sunday night.
There is a lot to consider here, so let's dig into some of the goings-on as the Eagles prep for Dallas and a chance to get something going, really going in a division that is clearly there for the taking …
1. Four players return to practice
With the 21-day window now activated, the Eagles welcomed linebacker T.J. Edwards, special teamer Rudy Ford, tackle Jason Peters and wide receiver Jalen Reagor back to the practice field, or at least they are now eligible to practice. All four will help the team – the Eagles could use Edwards's physical play and aggressiveness in the middle of the defense, Ford is as good a gunner in the punt game as there is in the league, Peters has experience and a Hall of Fame career protecting a quarterback's blind side, and Reagor adds to a young and fast wide receiver corps the Eagles are developing. Will any of them be on the field on Sunday night? It's a possibility. We will have to see how they go through the week of practice, but there is no doubt the Eagles could use a bit of a boost with the roster so depleted by injury. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson and defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway went on Injured Reserve on Monday, so the roster space is there and the needs are real.
2. It's Dallas Week!
You know what it means when the Eagles play Dallas. It's a special week, even during a pandemic. Sunday night is going to be rocking and rolling at Lincoln Financial Field with 7,500 fans in the stands. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox sums up the feelings in the locker room about Eagles-Cowboys.
"Every game means a lot, but it's different. It's Cowboys week," Cox said. "They won two games and we've won two games, but really, in the bigger picture of things, you really can throw the records out the window. We know they're going to bring it. It's another division game for us, another game for us to go out and get better as a team. This week just keep the main thing the main thing and keep it about us. Attack the week and then attack the game on Sunday."
3. Who will play quarterback for the Cowboys?
Dak Prescott is out for the season after suffering a gruesome compound ankle fracture and dislocation a few weeks ago. He is recovering after having successful surgery. At the time of his injury, Prescott oversaw the league's No. 1-ranked offense. As many problems as the Cowboys have had in a 2-5 start to 2020, scoring points with Prescott at the helm was not one of them. Andy Dalton finished the win over the New York Giants and then started in the losses to Arizona and Washington, and the offense struggled from start to finish in each of those two games. On Sunday, Dalton was leveled by Washington linebacker Jon Bostic and suffered a concussion. It is still very much a question as to whether Dalton will play on Sunday night.
If he can't, the Cowboys will go with rookie Ben DiNucci, a seventh-round draft pick from James Madison. He finished up the game at Washington, completing 2 of 3 passes for 39 yards. Whether it's DiNucci or Dalton, the challenge will be to get away from the Eagles' pressure. Dallas has had a miserable time fielding an offensive line and defenses are blitzing like crazy. Prescott could run away from a bad offensive line. Dalton has not been able to do so. And that's why the Cowboys are reeling.
4. Richard Rodgers, a weapon
Richard Rodgers has been a producer at the tight end position, catching 15 passes for 184 yards this season. With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert out, Rodgers has carried the tight end position along with Jason Croom, who caught a touchdown pass against Baltimore. Rodgers caught 58 passes with Green Bay in 2015. Between then and the start of this season, Rodgers had 43 receptions. He's on his way to having quite a bounce-back season.
"I'm not really concerned about my status as a tight end," Rodgers said on Monday. "Like I've said a million times, I'm just going to try to help the team wherever I can. There were a couple of big spots last game where I was able to get open. I just try to catch the ball when it's thrown to me."
Injuries played a part in Rodgers' time with the Eagles in 2018 and 2019 when he caught one pass for 7 yards in seven games. He's healthy now and he and Carson Wentz have developed a trusting chemistry and we saw it Thursday night against the Giants when Wentz went to Rodgers for gains of 11 and 30 yards on the drive that led to Boston Scott's game-winning touchdown catch.
"It's not really just about me being on the same page with Carson," Rodgers said. "I think it's everyone being on the same page as a whole group. That was a very positive thing we did on a short week – everyone being on the same page and connecting like that in the game, it's impressive."
5. Greg Ward, the veteran of the WR group
Greg Ward has played in all of 13 NFL games and he's been with the Eagles since 2017, whether on the practice squad or the 53-man roster. That makes him, amazingly enough, the veteran of a wide receiver group that includes Reagor, Travis Fulgham, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins with Jackson and Alshon Jeffery sidelined.
"They always come to me and ask me questions," Ward said. "But I like to go to them and talk to them about ball just out of the blue. Some plays that I watch, I ask them what they're thinking. I believe we can all learn from each other. We're all pretty tight in that room, so I think that's going to carry us a long way."
6. The NFL trade deadline is next Tuesday
Howie Roseman is one of the most active general managers in the NFL and you never really know what he's got up his sleeve. Will the Eagles be active as the trade deadline looms? Stay tuned. The Eagles have been awfully quiet and there haven't been many rumors out there. Even though the deadline is Election Day, teams are expected to work to get deals done this week due to COVID protocols – if you want the player in your building for the Week 9 games, you need to get the trade done this week. The Eagles aren't as affected because of their Week 9 bye. We will see how it goes between now and next Tuesday.