Eagles Wake-Up Call: Takeaways From Cowboys-Giants

Football returned Wednesday night as the Dallas Cowboys went into MetLife Stadium and handed the defending Super Bowl champion Giants a 24-17 loss.

Here are some quick takeaways from that game, with an Eagles slant:

* This goes back to last year, but the Giants are proof that you can be a flawed team and still win the Super Bowl. They allowed 28 touchdown passes (tied for 25th), 7.5 yards per attempt (tied for 20th) and 60 pass plays of 20+ yards (29th). Offensively, they averaged 3.5 yards per carry (32nd) and totaled four runs of 20+ yards all season (32nd). The point is the Giants were able to compensate for those weaknesses with outstanding quarterback (and receiver) play, along with an elite pass rush. No one will remember where they ranked in the areas I mentioned above, just that they beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Looking at this season, and last night, specifically, injuries played a factor, but the Giants’ secondary got carved up by Tony Romo, who went 22-for-29 for 307 yards and three touchdowns.

* It sure seems like the defensive line is going to have an edge in pretty much every NFC East matchup. The Giants had two sacks and a couple more quarterback hits. The Cowboys’ offensive line had seven penalties (not counting two more on tight end Jason Witten). But Romo and the Dallas wide receivers were still able to make plays when they needed to.

On the other side of the ball, Dallas had three sacks and five quarterback hits against Eli Manning.

Looking at it from an Eagles perspective, Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg would be wise to give King Dunlap a little help in the form of Brent Celek or Clay Harbor when the Birds go up against elite pass rushers like DeMarcus Ware (two sacks last night) and Jason Pierre-Paul.

* The need for wide receivers and defensive backs to make plays while the ball is in the air was on display last night. Miles Austin made a nice adjustment for a 34-yard touchdown in the fourth, and Domenik Hixon came down with a 39-yard grab. Last year, when Nnamdi Asomugha got beat, it was often because he failed to make plays on the ball, even when he was in good position. Offensively, DeSean Jackson had issues in that area too.

The Eagles expect Michael Vick to keep his eyes downfield when he gets out of the pocket. And he’ll take his share of chances in allowing Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to make plays even when they’re not wide open, but the receivers need to help him out.

* This is off-topic, but did I really see someone wiping off Jerry Jones’ glasses for him in the owner’s box last night? At what point does that become an option? When you make your first million? Is that when you decide: I really don’t need to be doing this for myself anymore.

As they say, must be nice.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The time has come for second-year guard Danny Watkins to show what he’s learned this offseason.

T-Mac caught up with Fletcher Cox and found out what the rookie’s goals are for 2012.

Riley Cooper and Colt Anderson won’t play Sunday. That means an opportunity for wide receiver Damaris Johnson to have an impact right away.

Jason Avant had some strong words on the league’s referee situation. For the record, it seemed like the replacement officials were fine in the Cowboys-Giants game. They missed a couple calls, but seemed competent, as far as I could tell.

I asked eight Eagles players which teammate is ready to have a big year. Here are their responses.

And finally, we kicked off our position-by-position previews with a look at the defensive line.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Eagles extended Trent Edwards’ contract through 2013, a league source tells Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com. They could still let Edwards go at any point, but the veteran quarterback is under team control for this season and next.

Don’t expect the Browns to let quarterback Brandon Weeden hold onto the football and risk having to face pressure from the Eagles’ defensive line Sunday. From The Plain-Dealer in Cleveland:

“Obviously their defensive line is solid,” Weeden said. “You’ve got to get the ball out quick. But you’ve got to protect ‘em. That’s really the moral of the story. In order to be able to win you’ve got to be able to run the football, you’ve got to be able throw the ball down the field, you’ve got to do the small things.

Meanwhile, first-round pick Trent Richardson is excited to get on the field vs. the Eagles. Also from The Plain-Dealer:

“I could’ve played in the first preseason game,” he said. “I was still running full speed. But coach [Pat Shurmur] didn’t want to take that chance and end up [with me] being injured even more, so it wasn’t even worth it. This might be the best thing for my career here.”

And finally, Russ Lande of the National Football Post likes the Eagles’ decision to add wide receiver B.J. Cunningham to the practice squad:

He is never going to be a blazing receiver who runs away from cornerbacks and gets separation on deep routes.  However, with good size, excellent playing strength and the strong hands and concentration to make highlight reel catches seem routine there are tools to develop.

COMING UP

We’ll hear from Juan Castillo, Marty Mornhinweg and Bobby April today as the Eagles continue to game-plan for the Browns. Birds 24/7 will have it all covered from the Novacare Complex.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.