Eagles Wake-Up Call: Getting To Know the Cowboys
Here are five things to know about the Dallas Cowboys.
1. Tony Romo is playing some of the best football of his career. He’s completing 68.8 percent of his passes (second in the NFL) and averaging 8.54 yards per attempt (second). Only two quarterbacks are completing 68 percent or better and averaging at least 8.0 YPA: Romo and Peyton Manning. He’s tossed 22 touchdowns against six interceptions, and only Aaron Rodgers has a better passer rating than Romo (111.4). He likes to chuck it downfield. According to Pro Football Focus, 14.2 percent of Romo’s passes have gone 20+ yards from the line of scrimmage. That’s fifth-most in the NFL.
2. The Cowboys’ run game has carried them. DeMarco Murray has 268 attempts, 51 more than the next guy, who happens to be LeSean McCoy. Murray leads the NFL with 1,354 yards and is averaging 5.1 YPC. He has 10 runs of 20+ yards. Bennie Logan might not be impressed with Dallas’ offensive line, but Chip Kelly is.
“I think it’s vastly improved,” Kelly said. “They do a really good job. They’ve got Zack Martin there, first‑round draft pick, who has really fit in. I think their center [Travis Frederick] who they picked a year ago, he’s in his second season, so there’s a little bit of continuity. Obviously, they’ve got [Tyron] Smith at tackle who is outstanding. I think one of their strengths right now is what they’re doing up front.”
Dallas has run the ball on 48.85 percent of its offensive snaps, third-most in the NFL.
3. Dez Bryant is Romo’s favorite target. He’s got 63 catches for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. Jason Witten (43 for 461) is still productive. And Murray (38 for 303) is involved in the passing game as well.
No. 2 wide receiver Terrance Williams is averaging 15.9 YPR and has six touchdowns to go along with seven grabs of 20+ yards. Cole Beasley mans the slot. He had two grabs for 66 yards against the Giants, but had not accumulated more than 12 yards in a game in the previous five.
4. Defensively, the Cowboys have performed better than expected, given the pieces they lost in the offseason. But this is not an especially strong group. The Cowboys entered the weekend 21st in DVOA (21st vs. the pass and 22nd against the run). Opponents are averaging 4.3 YPC against Dallas (18th).
Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News offered this assessment of the Cowboys’ defense:
The Tampa Two defensive scheme of Marinelli is designed to prevent big plays. Keep the ball in front of you and make the opposition work for its scores, figuring if the offense must snap the ball nine or 10 times on a possession, it will eventually make a mistake.
But that hasn’t been happening with this defense. The Giants mounted scoring drives of 14, 13 and 11 plays in those three possessions of 80 yards or more. The Dallas defense seemed more of a sparring partner on this night than a legitimate title contender.
5. Dallas has had one of the least effective pass-rushes in the NFL. The Cowboys entered the weekend 31st in adjusted sack rate.
Defensive tackle Henry Melton leads the team with 5.5 sacks. Jeremy Mincey has added three.
“The one thing I think Rod Marinelli’s teams do when he’s running the show is that they play extremely hard, and there’s probably not a group that plays harder in the National Football League,” Kelly said. “They run to the football. Everybody runs at every level: the D‑line, the linebackers and the secondary. Any time you play hard, you’ve got an opportunity to be successful, and that’s what they’re doing right now.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Eagles-Titans, the Day After: On Josh Huff‘s relationship with Kelly. Plus, Riley Cooper explains his bad route, the number that matters, five thoughts, game balls, snap counts and more.
Logan is tired of hearing about the Cowboys’ offensive linemen, saying there’s nothing special about them.
Earl Wolff underwent what he described as “mini-microfracture” surgery to help repair damaged cartilage in his right knee.
“The Eagles are winning the NFC East.” What they’re saying this week.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Les Bowen of the Daily News on rookie first-round pick Marcus Smith II and the linebacker situation:
Kelly said that when he talked about rookie linebacker Marcus Smith needing to show more consistency in order to earn playing time, that was assuming good health from Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho. With Acho sustaining a groin injury Sunday, the picture changed.
“I’m confident in him,” Kelly said. Smith played 14 snaps Sunday, after Acho was injured. Kelly said not to assume Acho is “dead” for Thursday; the Eagles are critically short on inside linebacker depth. (If Acho can hobble out there, even as an emergency fill-in, the Birds will probably take that.)
Acho was listed as a limited practice participant. He said he is optimistic about being able to play.
Philly Mag’s Drew Lazor writes about Cowboys fans in Philadelphia:
“That’s like rooting for another country in the Olympics,” said my aghast buddy Chris, an Eagles diehard, when I asked him for his thoughts.
It’s a good comparison. To the Philly faithful, the idea of someone with a 215 area code supporting The Star is just as nauseating as hoping the Russians crush us in ice hockey, or cheering for Chinese gymnasts to school our boys on the pommel horse.
Because of this, I long considered Dallas fans with Philly roots to be a fancified local urban legend, like Midgetville, New Jersey or the wandering SEPTA bus. How could a fandom so dramatically etched into the regional DNA beget any outliers, especially ones so traitorous?
(Just to be clear, noted Cowboy fan Domonic Brown is from Florida, so does not technically qualify for this discussion.)
Then I started meeting them, and I had questions.
How did they come to support not just an enemy, but THE enemy? What motivates them to stay Dallas fans? And, most importantly — how have they survived up to this point?
We’ll talk to Billy Davis, Pat Shurmur and the players.