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What Eagles coaches are saying before Monday Night Football at Dallas

The Eagles' coordinators weigh in on how to contain the Cowboys' CeeDee Lamb and cut down on the penalties.

Eagles safety Marcus Epps (22) latches on to Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb on  Dec. 27. The Eagles lost, 37-17.
Eagles safety Marcus Epps (22) latches on to Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb on Dec. 27. The Eagles lost, 37-17.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

It is officially Dallas week.

The Eagles will head south to play the Cowboys on Monday night in an anticipated matchup between longtime NFC East foes. Both teams are 1-1 heading into Week 3. Elsewhere across the division, Washington (1-1) plays at Buffalo while the Giants (0-2) host the Falcons.

Considering the state of the NFC East, this matchup will be crucial for the Eagles, who have as realistic of a shot as the other three teams to compete for the division title. The Inquirer’s Mike Sielski recently dove into this exact topic, writing, “the Eagles just have to be competent to be relevant.”

Reminder: Washington was crowned the NFC East champ last season after finishing with a record of 7-9.

The Eagles will practice Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before they board the team charter and jet down to Jerry World. Ahead of practice, the Eagles’ coordinators spoke to reporters on Wednesday afternoon. Here are our biggest takeaways.

Birds stress discipline, limiting penalties

The Eagles did a fine job limiting the San Francisco 49ers to just 17 points in Week 2, but they committed a few penalties that sucked the air of out of the defense.

The turning point was late in the fourth quarter, when safety K’Von Wallace was flagged for unnecessary roughness for his hit on 49ers running back Trey Sermon. The penalty negated a fumble recovery and the 49ers padded their lead with a field goal. In a game that was decided by just six points, those outlying factors proved to be the difference.

Through two games, the Eagles have committed 22 penalties worth 146 yards.

Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said discipline was stressed during team meetings Tuesday, when players returned to the NovaCare Complex to begin their weekly prep for the Cowboys.

“Our guys have a very clear picture of what we’re looking for as a defense and that goes into the being smart,” Gannon said. “And we addressed that with our entire defense. We don’t want to make those mistakes over and over in the heat of the battle. We do understand at times that does happen.

“But we’ve just got to continue to learn from that and get better. ...We talked to our guys about that; bang-bang penalties happen. So we do want to be a smart defense and clean up some of the penalties that we can clean up. But also knowing that, some of those bang-bang penalties are going to sometimes go your way, sometimes they’re not. The most important thing is to play the next play.”

Understanding Hurts’ passing chart

The sample size is small, but quarterback Jalen Hurts has sparingly thrown to the middle of the field in one-plus seasons with the Eagles. Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen doesn’t seem completely worried, though, and he provided an explanation behind Hurts’ passing charts.

“It’s really what the defense is giving us,” Steichen said. “If we think we have our route combinations, then we go into a game plan. And if they’re giving stuff outside the numbers, that’s where we are going to take it. If they gave give us stuff over the middle, that’s where the ball is going to go.

“So, [it’s] really coverage-based — we’re looking through a game plan, what they’re playing defensively and where we think the ball is going to go.”

In Sunday’s game against San Francisco, Hurts completed 12 of 23 passes for 190 yards. He also rushed 10 times for 82 yards and a touchdown.

Hurts is one of just four quarterbacks (joining Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, and Teddy Bridgewater) to compile 500-plus total yards with zero turnovers this season. He’s on pace to rush for 1,224 yards.

Finding the wide receivers

When the Eagles selected DeVonta Smith with the No. 10 pick in April’s NFL draft, they indicated the reigning Heisman Trophy winner would be a big part of the team’s future.

Despite being a rookie, Smith has shown he’s clearly the most talented receiver on the roster. His route-running skills are as advertised, and he’s an expert at creating separation at the line of scrimmage.

Smith finished with two catches for 16 yards on seven targets Sunday. Those numbers are a bit skewed since Hurts underthrew Smith on a few occasions. Smith’s seven targets led the team, but is seven enough for the talented wideout?

“Those are conversations we’ve had throughout the week leading into a game plan,” Steichen said. “And then on the sidelines, that stuff comes up and we talk through it. Obviously, we want to get everyone involved. There’s one football. We want to get everyone catches as much as we can every week.”

Following Hurts’ 91-yard completion to wide receiver Quez Watkins in the second quarter, the passing game abruptly crashed. The Eagles didn’t score on that drive, and even worse, not a single wideout registered a catch in the final 38 minutes.

“You’ve got to be able to adapt week in and week out to have success on Sundays offensively,” Steichen said. “We’ve got to do a great job, as a coaching staff, putting our guys in positions to make great plays.”

Containing CeeDee Lamb

Punter Arryn Siposs has done a splendid job in two games. He has booted eight punts for 393 yards with an average of 49.1 yards. Of his eight punts, four have been downed inside the 20-yard-line.

Opposing returners have managed just 24 yards on three returns. Can Siposs and the Eagles maintain their dominance in the punt game at Dallas, where they’ll be tasked with containing Cowboys punt returner CeeDee Lamb?

“I’ve always been a fan of CeeDee Lamb, even with his time at Oklahoma in terms of his punt-return ability,” special teams coordinator Michael Clay said. “We played against him last year when I was in San Francisco. He’s a very fluid athlete. He catches the ball well. He’s going to take some chances, but these are all calculated chances.”

Lamb has one return for 12 yards in two games. As a wideout, Lamb is a focal point of the Cowboys offense. He has 15 catches on 24 targets for 185 yards with one touchdown.

“He’s a strong runner and very elusive,” Clay said. “So, it has to take a full team effort. You’re not going to expect one-on-one tackles a lot with an athlete like CeeDee Lamb.”