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Cowboys offense is ’not a one-trick pony;’ Jason Kelce earns praise; injury updates | Early Birds

Keys for the Eagles on Sunday, links to all our coverage, and much more.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott scores on a pass from Dak Prescott as Eagles safety Corey Graham tries to stop him during the Nov. 11 game. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott scores on a pass from Dak Prescott as Eagles safety Corey Graham tries to stop him during the Nov. 11 game. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)Read moreMatt Slocum / AP

Good morning. The Eagles return to practice at 1:20 p.m. today to begin preparing for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Carson Wentz has a news conference at 12:05 p.m.

This is a Thursday edition of the Early Birds newsletter. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.

— Zach Berman

Cowboys are ‘not a one-trick pony’

The Cowboys have been one of the NFL’s hottest teams since their Nov. 11 win in Philadelphia, starting a four-game winning streak that has catapulted them to the top of the NFC East. They seemed to be on life support before the game, but their offense is finally complementing their defense.

Ezekiel Elliott is the offense’s star, and that Eagles game jump-started him, too. Elliott has 470 rushing yards, 197 receiving yards, and five touchdowns during the four-game winning streak. But the Eagles know this week that it’s not just Elliott on Dallas’ offense. Quarterback Dak Prescott hasn’t thrown an interception during the winning streak and has had his four highest completion percentages of the season in those games. It has helped that the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper to be their No. 1 wide receiver.

They’re not a one-trick pony,” Jim Schwartz said. “They’re getting good production out of their quarterback. Their quarterback has taken a proactive stance when it comes to scrambling for first downs. Thanksgiving game, the New Orleans games, there were a couple plays that he made critical first downs when it didn’t look like he had anything. … I think [Cooper] certainly added to their passing game. So, it’s one of those teams you put too much emphasis on Ezekiel Elliott, all of a sudden Cooper is making a lot of plays down the field or [Cole] Beasley is making a lot of plays on the third-down game. If you don’t account for the quarterback, he has the ability to move, even if you get everybody else covered. I think that’s probably been the biggest thing that’s come out of the last couple of weeks. They’ve been playing at an efficient level.”

The Eagles only need to watch the tape from that first meeting. Prescott went 26 of 36 for 270 yards and one touchdown. Cooper led the team with six catches for 75 yards. The Eagles know it will not be an easy game on Sunday.

Jason Kelce earns praise

When Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh watched the television copy of Monday’s win, he saw the broadcast highlight Jason Kelce’s blocking. Groh thought it was well deserved.

“He's a special center, unique from an athletic standpoint, like you talk about in being able to get out on the perimeter,” Groh said. “That is a lot of fun for those linemen when they get a chance to get out there and run and make those blocks out in the open field.”

On Darren Sproles’ 14-yard touchdown, Kelce deserved as much credit as Sproles. Kelce ran downfield and blocked two players, using one hand to keep a defender off Sproles.

Kelce, who was voted a captain this year, has established himself as one of the NFL’s elite centers. He appeared to be fighting an injury earlier this season, but if Monday night was any indication, he’s healthy and the Eagles are reaping the benefits. The performance of the offensive line is a big reason why the offense has generated momentum during the last two weeks.

“He knows how much we think of him here,” Groh said. “He’s a special guy. He’s a special leader. He obviously does a great job of communicating a lot of things that we get done up front as a result of the way he plays and communicates with everybody up front.”

Injury updates

The Eagles didn’t practice on Wednesday because they played on Monday. They held a walk-through instead.

Had they practiced, the Eagles would have had five players absent: Jordan Hicks (calf), Tim Jernigan (back), Avonte Maddox (ankle, knee), Jalen Mills (foot), and Jason Peters (ankle). In that group, Mills is most at risk of missing Sunday’s game.

Josh Adams (shoulder) and Michael Bennett (foot) would have been limited.

Pay attention to the status of the injured players at practice on Thursday.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Ezekiel Elliott had a big game against the Eagles last month. The run defense will try to redeem itself on Sunday.

  2. Mike Wallace’s fibula has healed, Les Bowen reports. Now, Wallace just needs to add strength.

  3. What was on the minds of Eagles fans? Find out in the weekly chat.

  4. The Eagles were good for television ratings, Rob Tornoe writes.

From the mailbag...

It doesn’t sound like the Eagles are thinking that way. They view Rasul Douglas as an outside cornerback. You saw him play safety in the first Giants game in an emergency situation, but that’s not how they view him long-term. I was impressed with Douglas' tackling on Monday, but playing safety is more than just tackling ability -- especially deep safety. There’s a lot of range required and the ability to play in space. That’s why the Eagles moved Avonte Maddox over. If cornerback doesn’t work, perhaps that’s an option down the line, but I’ve been given no reason to believe they’re looking at that for Douglas right now.