Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images
Are you ready for tonight’s big game? Make sure check out these last-second appetizers before enjoying the main course!
The Cowboys are getting some good news on the injury front, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.
According to sources, offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb and cornerback Byron Jones will be available to play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. All five are listed as questionable for the game, but they practiced Friday on a limited basis and — barring any last-minute setback — will play.
Smith and Collins had their second straight day of limited work, while Cooper, Cobb and Jones practiced for the first time this week on Friday. Smith has missed the last two games with a high right ankle sprain suffered late in the Cowboys’ Sept. 29 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Collins suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Oct. 6 against the Green Bay Packers and did not play last week against the New York Jets. Right guard Zack Martin (back, ankle) returned to practice after sitting Thursday and is also questionable but was expected to play.
Cooper lasted just three snaps against the Jets because of a quadriceps bruise suffered against the Packers. Cobb’s back tightened up leading into the Jets game, but he expressed hope he could play this week. Jones suffered a hamstring strain in the second half against the Jets and did not practice Wednesday and Thursday.
Here is the team’s final injury report:
Anthony Brown is the only Cowboys player ruled out of this matchup.
Miraculously, it looks like all the other injury concerns are at least going to try to give it a go. pic.twitter.com/opewE6HTpk
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) October 18, 2019
It’s nice that the Cowboys are getting some better health because the importance of this game cannot be overstated.
Last year, the Cowboys exercised a “break glass in case of emergency” and traded away a first-round draft pick to get Amari Cooper. Are desperate times upon them again this year? Bleacher Report examines whether it’s time to panic or not.
The fact that Dallas lost to the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers isn’t that troubling. The team’s third consecutive loss against the New York Jets, however, was. This isn’t meant as a dig at the Jets, though the Cowboys cannot feel great about giving them their first win of the season.
The problem lies in the way the team lost. Dallas was without starting tackles La’el Collins and Tyron Smith, and star receiver Amari Cooper had to leave during the game because of a quad injury. The team needed to lean on its defense, and instead, the unit allowed New York to jump out to a 21-6 halftime lead. If the Cowboys cannot trust their defense to carry the load at times, they’re going to be in trouble. Quarterback Dak Prescott has been up-and-down. He has a passer rating of 102.9 this season but hasn’t topped 90 in any of the losses—and the Cowboys may not have Cooper against the Eagles.
Things don’t get a whole lot easier moving forward. After the Eagles, Dallas has its bye in Week 8 but then takes on the New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Patriots and Bills, respectively. So yes, a loss to Philadelphia could severely hurt the Cowboys’ NFC East chances.
If it’s truly time to panic, what should the Cowboys do to save their season?
DALLAS COWBOYS (3-3)
Telling The Team It’s The Second Half To Start the Game
Before last Sunday, the Cowboys ranked 19th in the NFL in term of first half points per game at 9.6. 19th, not so bad, right? Could be worse? Well, the uglier truth to that is the fact that the Cowboys have been outscored 47-9 in the first half this season. All they have to do is come out guns blazing right away instead of waiting to do it in the second half. Set the clocks ahead on purpose or something.
It’s all about the trenches, baby.
This is going to be a very interesting game in the trenches for both teams. The Cowboys and the Eagles have both been very effective in doing the little things along the offensive and defensive line. The Eagles have been the better defensive line against the run. With the Cowboys struggling against the run in 2019, the Philadelphia Eagles may be able to take advantage and keep the Cowboys defense off-balance throughout the game. It’ll be imperative for the Dallas Cowboys to get a better effort from their run defense this week.
Eagles at Cowboys: Game pick, predictions, more for Week 7’s NFC East ‘Sunday Night Football’ – Jared Dubin, CBS Sports
Can you believe that Prescott and Wentz have been plagued with the most drops from their respective receivers this year? That leaves some to wonder… what could’ve been?
I feel like it should be noted that Carson Wentz is balling this season.
Despite spending much of the year working without DeSean Jackson and/or Alshon Jeffery, despite injuries along the offensive line, and despite drop issues so bad that a Philadelphia man who saved children from a burning building couldn’t help but throw some shade in wideout Nelson Agholor’s direction, Wentz looks really damn good. (Eagles pass-catchers have dropped 17 of Wentz’s 214 pass attempts. That’s the most drops any quarterback in the league has had to weather — one ahead of Prescott.) He’s probably two drops away from having the Eagles at 4-2 or 5-1 instead of 3-3, and if that were the case, his start would be getting a bunch more attention.
Prediction: Cowboys 33, Eagles 30
DMN’s John Owning offers up his weekly bold predictions, including how the receivers will start doing Dak a solid and catch more passes.
Cowboys WRs have less than two drops
That sound you hear is another pass bouncing off the hands of a Cowboys receiver. So far this season, Prescott has seen 16 of his passes dropped this season – second-most behind Carson Wentz oddly enough. Last year, Prescott had just 22 drops the entire season, including the playoffs, per PFF.
Now, Prescott certainly deserves a sliver of the blame for the frequency of drops as mediocre ball placement on some of his throws has forced the receivers to make some difficult adjustments. Nevertheless, the old adage is true – if a ball hits the receiver in the hands, he should come down with the catch. Last week was particularly frustrating, as the Cowboys had five drops as a team – three of which came from the usually sure-handed Michael Gallup. This should be a wake-up call for the Cowboys receiver corps who have been very up-and-down with their play thus far this season.
Against Philadelphia, the Cowboys receivers should be more focused and stronger at the catch point, which should, hopefully, limit the number of drops from the unit this week. The Cowboys will need their drop luck to change against Philadelphia, as any missed opportunities can be the difference between a win and a loss in a tightly contested divisional matchup. getting a bunch more attention.
Despite recent struggles, Dak Prescott is still playing solid ball – Michael Kist, Bleeding Green Nation
It’s rare to see Bleeding Green give the Cowboys some love, so let’s honor that with this story. Of course, there’s still some negativity worth mentioning that makes pass protection a vital element in determining the outcome of tonight’s game.
Where Prescott has struggled has been when he’s under pressure. And he’s been under pressure a lot lately. He’s been under duress on 44% of his dropbacks last three weeks (3rd most) as opposed to only 21% over the first three weeks (2nd least). Per PFF, his “kept clean” QB Rating of 121.7 (2nd) is a far cry from his under pressure performance (62.3, 20th).
Now, you’re probably saying, “Mike, you idiot, pressure doesn’t matter if the coverage is bad”. You’d be right, especially about me being an idiot but especially with the Eagles this year. Jim Schwartz has often mentioned the disconnect between the pass rush and pass coverage, for which he should shoulder a good deal of the blame. It’s of note though that per Pro Football Focus the Eagles are forcing a 62.0 QB Rating when they get to the quarterback, right around Dak’s poor mark for 2019.
How can the Cowboys keep Prescott from getting drilled all game? A return to their play-action game would be a start. Using max protect, moving the pocket and utilizing Dak’s legs in conjunction with the Eagles’ selling out to stop the run would keep Dak clean and give the Cowboys opportunities for shot plays and open windows. It’s been a problem for the Eagles all year, who stack the box more than any team in the NFL and flow hard to run action.
If the Cowboys receivers have a good day catching the ball, it could end up being huge because the Eagles defense has one glaring weakness. Dave Spadaro from Eagles’ base camp explains:
2. The ‘X’ plays are killing the defense Quarterback
Kirk Cousins averaged 10.8 yards per pass attempt on Sunday, a critical number. Case Keenum threw touchdown passes of 69 yards and 48 yards in the opener. Matt Ryan took nine deep shots against the Eagles’ secondary and the Eagles actually held up OK. Aaron Rodgers completed four passes of 25-plus yards. This is a big problem and it’s happening because the Eagles aren’t putting enough pressure on the quarterback and because they’re giving up too much on the back end.
What’s the solution? It’s a whole lot better to play with a lead and force an opposing offense to be one dimensional. That’s one. Finding a pass rush, that’s two. Getting some players back at cornerback will help – it sounds like Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are at least a possibility to play in Dallas. Better communication is needed, too. The Eagles blew some assignments in Minnesota and it cost them.
Surprise, surprise – the Eagles/Cowboys game makes the list of this week’s most intriguing games. The Athletic’s resident Cowboys expert Jon Machota provides his keys to success and makes his final score game prediction.
The Cowboys win if: They protect Prescott and force some turnovers on defense. The Cowboys are the only team not to start a drive on the other side of the 50. That’s because they haven’t gotten much from the return game and they’ve only intercepted two passes. Things are heading in a bad direction in Dallas. Maybe a few fortunate bounces Sunday night could be the spark to get them playing like they did the first three weeks of the season. Despite the injuries, there’s enough talent available for the Cowboys to still play like one of the better teams.
Game prediction: Eagles 27, Cowboys 24
The great folks over at the Mothership share their final predictions for tonight’s game. It’s mostly good, but not everyone has the Cowboys emerging victorious on this one.
Nick Eatman: Back before the Saints game, I justified my uneasy feeling about the game and picked the Cowboys because they were 3-0 and hadn’t showed me any reason not to. Last week, the Cowboys showed me a big reason by losing to the Jets. Yes, I think this team will benefit from guys returning from injury but I still think this will be a huge challenge. Going off what I’ve seen lately, I can’t foresee the Cowboys getting this win. I don’t see an up-and-down shootout because these offenses haven’t been that consistent. I see it coming down to the final seconds once again, but my “gut” is overpowering my mind on this one and I’ll take the Eagles 27-23.