Sun, 24 Oct 2021

Big Picture: 5 Storylines for Cowboys & Eagles

Dallas Cowboys
24 Sep 2021, 04:24 GMT+10

Kyle Youmans

Just three weeks into the new NFL season, NFC East play is already here as the Cowboys (1-1) play at home for the first time this season and welcome in the Philadelphia Eagles (1-1). Dallas has won five of the last seven matchups with the divisional foe and four of the last five that have been played in Arlington. Both teams enter the week missing key pieces and Nick Sirianni makes his head coaching divisional debut in primetime on Monday Night Football. Here are five additional storylines for each team heading into Monday night's battle at AT&T Stadium.

Eagles

Costly penalties and a slow start to the second half doomed the Eagles in their 17-11 loss to 49ers this past Sunday. San Francisco held Jalen Hurts in check through the air with just 190 passing yards, but the second-year quarterback got his fill on the ground with 82 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers would have looked a little better if wide receiver Jalen Reagor wouldn't have stepped out of bounds on a deep touchdown reception, resulting in an illegal touching penalty and negating the score. Sunday marked the first loss for rookie head coach, Nick Sirianni, who took the early blame for the loss. "Today has been more about the coaches holding the coaches accountable, and myself holding the coaches accountable," Sirianni said Monday. "You come in after a loss and it's not a fun day. You've got to have tough conversations; you've got to hold each other accountable and get better." Monday will mark Sirianni's first battle with an NFC East rival and his first opportunity as a head coach to perform in primetime. Sirianni will have to deal without two of their anchored linemen on both sides of the ball. Defensive end Brandon Graham has been ruled out for year after tearing his Achilles against San Francisco. A loss that leaves a significant void in the pass rush and what Sirianni called the 'heart and soul' of the defense. Offensively, Brandon Brooks has been placed on injured reserve with a strained pectoral muscle, which brings back memories of 2020 for Eagles fans. Much like the Cowboys, Philadelphia had a revolving door up front with 14 different offensive line combinations last year in the 16-game regular season. After struggling in the passing game last season, Hurts suddenly looked around to see an extra-talented young crop of weapons to throw to this year. First-round pick and reigning Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith, was selected with the Cowboys original pick (10th overall) after Philadelphia swapped with Dallas for the 12th pick and a third-round selection. Smith was added to a young receiving corps that included Reagor, who missed five games in his rookie year, and Quez Watkins, who reeled in a 91-yard-completion in Week 2. Tight end Zach Ertz was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, as announced on Monday's transaction wire. It was also reported earlier in the week that Ertz is vaccinated, which would allow him to return to activity following no symptoms and two negative tests 24 hours apart. In 15 career games against Dallas, Ertz has put together a staggering 66 receptions for 641 yards and four touchdowns.

Cowboys

Dallas is coming off their first win of the year, 20-17, in dramatic fashion against the Los Angeles Chargers. Greg Zuerlein nailed a 56-yard field goal as time expired for his 11th career game-winning kick and his third as a Cowboy. The win came without five different starters who were inactive for various reasons. DeMarcus Lawrence (Foot), Randy Gregory (Covid), Donovan Wilson (Groin), Michael Gallup (Calf), and La'el Collins (Suspension) all missed last week's battle in L.A. Multiple under-the-radar players had career games, such as Terence Steele at right tackle and Jayron Kearse at the safety position. Sunday was Dallas' lowest scoring output in a win since 2018 as the Cowboys defense forced two turnovers and held the Chargers to just 95 yards on the ground. Dallas' defense has now strung together 9 straight games with a takeaway, the second longest active streak in the NFL behind the Miami Dolphins (24). Second-year corner Trevon Diggs tallied one of the interceptions to become the first Cowboys defender in more than 15 years to register a pick in the first two games of the year. Due to the lack of depth at edge rusher, without both DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, rookie linebacker Micah Parsons was thrown into reps at defensive end. Parsons, who hadn't played the position since high school rattled off eight pressures against the Chargers offensive line, the most by a rookie since 2019. It appears that Gregory will return from the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week, but Parsons' performance has raised the question of if his versatile skillset is best utilized as an edge rusher until the return of Lawrence. While he could be used again at end to offset the injury to Dorance Armstrong, Parsons might be needed back at linebacker as well. Philadelphia returns to AT&T Stadium for the first time since a crucial meeting in Week 16 that was dominated by the Cowboys, 37-17. The win kept Dallas alive in the divisional race entering the final week of the regular season while eliminating the Eagles from playoff contention. It was Hurts' debut against the Cowboys after Carson Wentz started the season's previous meeting that was won by the Eagles. After trailing 14-3 after the first quarter, Dallas' defense picked Hurts off twice and the offense delivered with 34 of the game's next 37 points. Amari Cooper was banged up in last week's win over Los Angeles after taking a hit in the endzone and reaggravating a set of bruised ribs. Coach Mike McCarthy said that the coaching staff does not expect the injury to be a long-term issue but did clarify that Cooper had been dealing with the ailment for a couple days prior. Dallas will keep a close eye on his condition this week because should Cooper miss any time, the Dallas offense would be without two of their top three receiving threats as Michael Gallup is still thought to be a couple weeks away from his own return.

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