Good morning, Eagles fans. It’s the first “Dallas Cowboys Week” of the season, and it’s seemingly bigger than usual. The winner of the Week 7 matchup will leave as leader of the NFC East, with a head-to-head win in tow as the season progresses. The biggest day of practice is in the books, but there is still plenty to monitor going into today’s 1:30 p.m. session. Be sure to look out for which healing players are there and which ones are full participants. Players will be available to talk following practice, too.
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Right before Doug Pederson came just shy of guaranteeing a win against the Cowboys earlier this week, he said something likely being uttered in Dallas this week as well.
“The sky is falling outside.”
Sure, the Eagles and the Cowboys have gotten off to the same start on paper. Both teams are 3-3, both have had frustrating losses, and now, they’re each dealing with injuries to major contributors.
But the Cowboys started off the season looking like world-beaters. They were 3-0 with quarterback Dak Prescott looking like a guy worth $30 million a season. The offense was averaging over 32 points per game and the defense was holding teams to just over two touchdowns each.
But it turned out to be fool’s gold. The Cowboys are now losers of three straight, including a surprising 24-22 loss to the then-winless New York Jets at MetLife Stadium last week.
During his Wednesday telephone conference, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said there isn’t a common thread between the three straight losses.
“Each of the games we’ve played have been a little bit different,” Garrett said. "I think you learn from the experience individually, I don’t know if there’s an overarching trend.”
Making matters worse, the team is missing four offensive starters and two starting defensive backs due to injury. Receivers Amari Cooper (ankle/quadriceps) and Randall Cobb (back) are both trying to return this week, but neither practiced on Wednesday.
Starting offensive tackles La’El Collins (knee) and Tyron Smith (ankle) also missed practice on Wednesday. Center Travis Frederick was also absent with a family situation, but is expected to be back with the team and ready for Sunday.
Turns out, the Cowboys’ version of “Next man up" is “Next guys in.”
“You’ve just go to bang away, you have to put the next guys in there,” Garrett said. “We’ll take that situation day-by-day. ... You play a 16-game schedule, every team in the league would love to have all 11 starters healthy for every snap of every game, but that’s not our league. It never has been, never will be. Hopefully you build your team in a way where you can put the next guy in."
Garrett was effusive in his praise of the Eagles, even giving props to the linebacking corps that just lost a starter because of poor production and the secondary that has been gashed on multiple occasions this season.
“They’re a really good football team,” Garrett said. “We know a lot of their personnel, they’re really good on the defensive front, they’re good at linebacker, they’re good on the back end in the secondary. They’re an aggressive, physical defense.
“Offensively, they’ve got a ton of weapons. The quarterback’s an outstanding player. ... They just have a lot of great players on their team, they’re a well-coached team and we have a lot of respect for them.”
What you need to know about the Eagles
The Eagles drafted Andre Dillard in the first round of last year’s draft to be their left tackle of the future. Well, Jason Peters is “week-to-week,” and the future is now for the young lineman, writes Les Bowen.
How did Andre Dillard do relieving Jason Peters against a very strong Minnesota Vikings defensive front? Jeff McLane broke down the film to find out.
Speaking of first-round picks, some may say Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett has yet to reach his full potential this season, but he’s not ready to make a determination on his play so far. Bowen has that, and other notes, covered.
Marcus Hayes is in enemy territory this week, and he asked Cowboys players if they’d heard Doug Pederson promised fans a win on Sunday.
The Eagles secondary got some reinforcements back in practice on Wednesday as Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby suited up. Paul Domowitch caught up with Mills, who says he feels ready to return for Sunday’s game.
The gang discussed the positions in which the Eagles are lacking on the latest version of the Early Birds Podcast.
Pederson said cutting Zach Brown wasn’t done just to shake things up. Bob Ford looks into that.
From the mailbag
What can the Eagles do to overcome the obvious age problem for this year and into the future with Wentz? How can this team get younger? — @mcomofl on Twitter.
Thanks for the question, Michael. I think the answer to this question is also the answer for why the team ultimately passed on Jalen Ramsey at the price the Rams paid. They have to build through the draft, and I think that starts with taking more chances on players. The Eagles have made only 10 selections in the last two drafts. Yes, there have been some solid picks and some players the jury is still out on, but the way this team can continue to field a Super Bowl contender and get younger is by drafting difference-makers.
The Eagles won a Super Bowl finding undervalued commodities and making smart moves on the margins, and I think they will always try to find value in free agency and low-cost trades, but most successful teams are still able to point to excellent draft picks. Finding a Cooper Kupp in the second round, or an Alvin Kamara in the third round, can make a huge difference on a team. Part of finding these players is having a lot of bites at the apple, and the Eagles haven’t had as many picks as they could have. This season, they have at least seven picks, with the possibility of getting three more compensatory picks. Adding seven or eight draft picks will do a lot to making the team younger.