The recently derided ‘NFC Least’ has dropped the ‘L’, with the division enjoying a resurgence thanks to stellar season starts for the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
Nick Sirianni’s Eagles remain the last undefeated team in the NFL at 5-0 behind a doubt-defying Jalen Hurts at quarterback and host a 4-1 Cowboys side on Sunday who have more than just survived in the absence of their star QB Dak Prescott, winning their last four in a row.
Highlights of the Dallas Cowboys against the Los Angeles Rams in week five of the NFL season
Their Sunday night clash promises to be the perfect cocktail of brawn and brains as Philadelphia’s admittedly injured offensive line of nimble-footed players sustains one of the most sophisticated, coercive and varied running games in the NFL against a raging defensive front from Dallas and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s cover spying.
October 17, 2022, 1:10 a.m.
“We just gotta play big boy ball this week,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We know this is for the NFC East and this is the start for us. We play in Dallas. They don’t like us and we don’t like them and we know what it’s going to be like in the trenches.
“We know this will be one of those games where we have to fight for whatever we want and I’m delighted about that.”
Between Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, the Eagles scheme has skewed toward zonal running, harnessing the athleticism of an offensive line ranked 11th in run blocking by Pro Football Focus, with the respect Hurts demands with his legs at the back also serving as a contributing factor to their early dominance on the pitch.
Highlights of the Philadelphia Eagles against the Arizona Cardinals in week five of the NFL season
Miles Sanders is currently ranked fourth in the NFL with 414 rushing yards on 4.8 yards per carry and with three touchdowns to his name, while Hurts, showing drastic improvement as a standing and dissecting pocket passer, has already carried the ball 68 times for 266 yards as an asset in independent and designed missions.
“I was always taught that you win games up front, you win championships at the back,” Siranni told the Eagles’ official website this week. “It was always a saying [Indianapolis Colts head coach] Franc [Reich] would say. So Jalen is doing a great job of holding that back.
“As far as scrambles go, those are going to happen in the game when he thinks he’s got a pressure breakdown or nobody was open on the perimeter, he’s got to move and make a play, and you can see that he creates – on the third – down scenarios can create first downs for you with his legs and with his arm.”
Credit was also rightly piled on running game coordinator and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, whose running unit ranks fourth overall in the league.
He awaits perhaps the most insightful test of the Cowboys defense yet. “It will be a big test for us,” Cowboys setter Demarcus Lawrence said Thursday.
“I feel like they have a pretty good attack. They have a good receiving corps, a good quarterback, a good offensive line. But also we [them] ‘Boys.’
Here’s a look at some of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons’ best sacks in his NFL career so far
The Eagles are ranked first in PFF’s pass blocking category, but find themselves facing a pass rush led by Lawrence and Micah Parsons that ranks second in the league in sacks (20), first in pressures (104 ), first in hits (61) and also first in haste (61) while blitzing 10th over 55 times.
Where Parsons split his time more evenly between inline rusher and off-ball linebacker as a rookie, his off-the-edge reps have increased to around 85% so far in 2022 and accounted for a pressure rate of 17.7. % (second in the league), second only to Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers with whom he shares six sacks each.
Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl champ Torry Holt describes Dallas Cowboys sophomore defenseman Micah Parsons as a ‘generational player’
The Cowboys’ impact on offense has been such that they only blitz 19% of the time and sit less on base defense than most teams in the league because they tend to rely on a four-way race.
The spotlight on that game intensified this week as Eagles base offensive lineman Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce and Isaac Seumalo were all restricted in multiple practices, after suffering injuries against the Chicago Cardinals. Arizona last weekend.
Quinn’s evolution has been a key factor in Dallas’ success on defense as the former Seattle Seahawks Legion of Boom figurehead strikes a balance between single and double safe coverages, feigning stacked boxes before retreating and teasing light boxes before spinning down. His guessing game will propel him to the top of head coaches’ wish lists in the offseason.
Dallas’ favorite zone coverage defense will face a test in the form of Hurts, notably getting the ball out faster than last year, and the Eagles’ run-pass-option tendencies, with the temptation for Sirianni to run straight to Dallas with his quarterback.
“The biggest thing, anytime you go against an offense that has a running quarterback or designed runs where the quarterback is part of it, is more stress on a run defense,” said Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy.
“I think the most important thing is how he runs? Are we talking about a designed run or is that part of the scrambling exercise?
You have to treat him like you would treat the other five perimeter players.
“Tackling it will be a priority for us, it’s a major target for us, they break a lot of tackles so we definitely have to win the battle.”
Watch some of the best plays by Philadelphia wide receiver duo AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith
The Eagles are by no means restricted to the ground either. Tight end Dallas Goedert is putting up remarkable yards after catch numbers, while receivers AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith are destroying secondaries as effectively as any tandem in the league.
On the other hand comes the Eagles’ resistance to a Cowboys run game that ranks a respectable ninth in the run and is currently relieving the pressure on backup quarterback Cooper Rush.
The Philadelphia defense is seventh in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed but 25th in yards per rushing attempt, and will be met by an Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard tandem who have combined for 553 rushing yards so far this season.
If you like football full of blood, big bodies and tackling on the line of scrimmage, this game is for you.
Watch Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football, live on Sky Sports NFL from 1:20 a.m.
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Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys prepare for fierce battle in NFC East | NFL News – Reuters
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