Eagles-Cowboys Wake-Up Call Preview Q&A: Jon Machota
In this week’s installment of Opposition Research, we talked to Dallas Morning News Cowboys beat writer Jon Machota. We discussed how much the Cowboys’ starters will play, whether Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott has been more valuable and a few other topics.
What are your expectations for how long the Cowboys’ starters will play on Sunday?
“You can expect Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant and those offensive guys to start, but I don’t see them playing the entire game. Some of them will be pulled after maybe a half. Once Dak is pulled out, I think you’ll see Mark Sanchez and not Tony Romo. That first-team offensive line will play as long as Dak is out there, and I think they’ll be subbing those guys out once Dak is pulled. But left tackle Tyron Smith, I don’t think he’ll play at all. He’s been dealing with a right knee injury he re-aggravated in the Lions game, which is interesting because you don’t have your best offensive lineman protecting Dak Prescott’s blindside.
“On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive line is nothing like you’d see on a normal week. [Defensive tackle] Tyrone Crawford, [defensive end] Demarcus Lawrence and [defensive tackle] Cedric Thornton aren’t going to play. The one really interesting guy on defense is Sean Lee because he’s been limited a little bit in practice and you’d think they’d sit him after his injury history in the past, but every time we talk to Sean Lee, he says he’s playing. I don’t think he’ll finish the game either, but he may play the first two quarters.”
[Editor’s Note: Four days after Jerry Jones said “it would not be worth the risk” to play Romo, Adam Schefter tweeted Friday morning that the 36-year-old quarterback is “expected to play.”]
Both Dak and Zeke have been talked about some as potential MVP candidates. Who do you think has been more valuable to the Cowboys this season?
“I’ve gone back and forth all season about this, and if you talk to all of the people who cover this team you won’t get a definitive answer, but I got to give it to Dak. They’re 13-2 and had so much trouble without Romo last year; they went 1-11 without Tony Romo last year. I do give a lot of credit to [Cowboys offensive coordinator] Scott Linehan for adjusting the offense to what Dak does best, but so much of that 13-2 record is on your quarterback.
“Zeke’s been phenomenal and he deserves any of the honors he gets. It’s a way bigger difference when he’s out there compared to Alfred Morris or anyone else, so the notion that anyone can run behind this offensive line — Sure, I think there are a lot of running backs who could run for 1,000 yards behind the line, but not many are on Zeke’s level. I could go either way, but I’ll say Dak Prescott because in this NFL, everything begins and ends with the quarterback. I don’t think you can just take him out and put in Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel or someone else they had last year and expect anything close to 13-2.”
What do you think happens to Romo in the offseason?
“They’ve really stayed away from talking about their plans or what they hope to get for Romo. I will say this: I’d be very surprised if he’s back next year. It’s very clear that he’s not done playing football and he still wants to compete at the highest level. Everybody wants to throw out the scenarios of where he could go — Denver, Houston, Jets, Bears, wherever — and I don’t know what team he’ll go to, but there will be some team that comes out of nowhere and is interested. I think they’ll end up trading him, but he’ll have to have a lot of say as to where he gets traded because they’re going to have to re-work his deal. I don’t see him in Dallas and I don’t see him ending up with a team like the Jets. I think he has to go to a team that’s ready to win immediately.”
What are your expectations for this Cowboys team in the playoffs?
“A lot of people say the team that will beat them is the team that can run on them because they haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, and I think there’s a lot to that. Obviously, the Giants are a tough matchup because they’re the only team to have beaten the Cowboys. If the Packers go in there and beat the Lions this week, there’s no hotter team in the NFL and no hotter player than Aaron Rodgers. Whoever they get in the second round or NFC Championship could obviously beat them, but I think they’ll be the favorite in both of those games. If they play in the Super Bowl against the Patriots, I just think Bill Belichick will come up with something if he’s game planning for two rookies on offense.”
This is a weird game to predict because you don’t know how long the starters will play, but who do you think will win on Sunday?
“I think the Eagles are going to win because they’re not sitting key players. I’m interested to see what Sanchez will do in this offense because we haven’t seen much of him, but I agree with where Vegas is at. When it opened, I think the Eagles were favored by about three points. There’s just not a lot for Dallas to play for. Dak said he’s taking this game seriously because it’s a division opponent he’ll see twice a year going forward and he wants as much experience as he can get against a division rival, but he won’t be out there for the entire game. If he were to play the entire game, I’d pick the Cowboys, but I’ll go with the Eagles by about a field goal.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Take a look at our picks for this week’s slate of NFL games.
Dak Prescott is expected to start for the Cowboys against the Eagles on Sunday, but will he be in the entire game?
“You know, it feels like we’re throwing the ball a bunch, but I think obviously a recipe for success is lower those attempts.” The Eagles can achieve success by copying one of their division rivals.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
As a pending free agent, Bennie Logan wants to stay in Philadelphia, writes Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.
“I’ve been around here for four years,” Logan said on Thursday. “I have a connection with these guys. I enjoy playing next to Fletcher (Cox), Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin, just the relationships we have, man.
“Trying to start over and do something new, is something I’m not looking forward to. Because I enjoy being here, the city and everything. This is where I see myself at.”
Logan, 27, is finishing up the fourth and final year of his rookie contract that paid him just $1.66 million in base salary in 2016. After another solid season in 2016, Logan is in line for what should be a considerable pay raise.
While Logan won’t get involved in contract talks during the season so he can focus on football, he said he thinks his agent has had talks with the Eagles. Logan’s agent is CAA’s Todd France, who was able to negotiate Fletcher Cox’s mega deal this past offseason.
The Daily News’ Paul Domowitch thinks special teams coach Dave Fipp should be considered as a head coach.
“For whatever reason, I think sometimes special teams gets kind of snubbed a little bit, and it’s unfortunate because there are some great special teams coaches in the league,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “Every year, these guys kind of get overlooked.”
Owners covet the young offensive geniuses and the shrewd defensive generals who can beat protections and put quarterbacks on their butt. But the truth is special teams may be the best training ground of all for an NFL head coach.
“I think Dave is very capable,” Pederson said. “Next to myself, he’s the next coach on the staff that really is in front of the whole team, talking and coordinating meetings and things of that nature.
“I think he’d be right for a (head-coaching) job or for an opportunity. He’s very detailed in his work. He’s very thorough in his work. He gets the guys to practice fast. He keeps things very simple for the guys and (allows them) to execute and go out and play the scheme fast and aggressively.”
Doug Pederson will address the media around 10:45.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.