Here we come…walkin’ down the street…we get the funniest looks…from everyone we meet…Hey hey we’re the Eagles, and we don’t monkey around…
We can’t out-physical Dallas anymore. Not this season, anyway. The Cowboys have gotten stronger, faster and better since early November. We have become a little more feeble and slower with a lot of factors going into that, most notably injuries. But we can still win with what we’ve got if we use our heads and play smart.
Physically there is a smaller margin of error than ever for the Birds, however.
Coach Pederson knows it: “One thing is, they’re relying on their run game, they’re putting the ball in Zeke’s (Ezekiel Elliott) hands and they’re successful offensively doing that. I think the other thing, when you look at their defense right now, they’re a little more consistent on defense with the guys that they have. They’ve got Jaylon Smith in there and (Leighton) Vander Esch and they’re young, athletic linebackers who are playing well and they’ve got (Randy) Gregory and (DeMarcus) Lawrence coming off the edge and they’re game-wreckers. This defense is playing fast and they’re playing faster than they were a month ago.”
So if I’m Doug I’m going away from predictable patterns on offense. The best way to slow down a fast defense is to give it too many choices once the ball is snapped. This is why the wishbone college offense is working so well for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens recently. It’s an entirely different blocking scheme from Joe Flacco’s standard offense, it opens up the run game and it keeps linebackers and defensive ends continually guessing as to who has the ball at the mesh point on the option. That split second of indecision is all it takes to slow down a fast defense.
I’m not advocating for putting Carson Wentz in a pistol formation with H-backs and RPO’s galore. I’m just saying the more designed roll-outs and bootlegs called this time around would be for the better. Just freeze those Dallas linebackers and ends for a split second longer than we did on November 11. It can make a big difference.
The Cowboys are focusing in practice on busting up the Eagles’ screen plays. They noticed we went to the screen game with Corey Clement a lot on Monday night. We need to come up with something that looks like a screen but turns into something else. Designing that play is way above my pay grade, but it’s the kind of creative thinking Doug needs to be doing.
Against the Redskins we established the run to set up the passing game. I’m thinking the Cowboys took extremely meticulous notes on that, so we would be advised to do just the opposite this coming Sunday. Spread ’em wide and hit ’em with quick tosses. Knock that safety out of the box and keep him guessing the entire opening half. Mix in some delayed run action and misdirection stuff just to keep those linebackers from locking in. This is an opportunity for Doug to show he can deal from a different deck of cards. Use the pass to set up the run.
I’m less concerned with stopping the Dallas offense with anything more than our standard formations and packages. There’s no magical formula needed, just some solid edge-setting tackling, smart disciplined coverages and at least occasional pressure on Dak in the pocket. What the Cowboys have shown in their most recent wins (such as the 13-10 victory over the Saints last Thursday night) is a very conventional offense. It’s the same concept over and over. The Cowboys’ offense under Coach Jason Garrett has always been based more on the talent at his disposal than the scheme itself, keeping things simple and trusting his players to win key matchups. In the running game, this works well mainly because of a very talented offensive line and star running back Ezekiel Elliott. One of their core passing concepts goes back to the 1990s when Ernie Zampese was their offensive coordinator. He called it 525 F-Post, and it has become a staple for offenses across the modern NFL. The tight end runs a shallow cross (1) designed to draw the attention of underneath defenders, leaving the slot receiver (2) one-on-one with a nickel corner on a quick post.
It’s the same stuff over and over, and it’s basic. They dare you to stop it. For the Eagles, the task at hand is simple, too: either stop it, or outscore it.