Goooooood morning, EaglesNation. Well, it’s Cowboy Week. The Eagles are 2-4-1, and the Cowboys are 2-5 and might start a rookie who was their third-string quarterback two weeks ago. And only about 6,000 fans are going to be allowed into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night for the game because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But still, it’s Cowboys Week. And Eagles fans like nothing better than beating the Cowboys, especially if it helps them solidify their hold on first place in the NFC East.
In case you weren’t aware, the Eagles never have lost the game before the bye week under Doug Pederson. They’re 4-0 in pre-bye-week games under Dougie P. So there’s that.
They also are starting, slowly but surely, to get healthy. The Eagles activated the 21-day practice window this week for five players on injured reserve: wide receiver Jalen Reagor, tight end Dallas Goedert, offensive lineman Jason Peters, linebacker T.J. Edwards, and safety and special teams stud Rudy Ford. Reagor and Peters could play this week. Goedert, who has missed the last four games with an ankle injury, probably will be held out until after next week’s bye week to return.
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who missed the Giants game last Thursday with a quad injury, was a limited practice participant Wednesday and also could return Sunday night. Running back Miles Sanders, who missed the Giants game with a knee injury, is day-to-day, according to Pederson.
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Injury devastation to Eagles, Cowboys offensive lines
A few months ago, the Eagles and Cowboys had two of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
The Eagles' O-line was ranked No. 1 by Pro Football Focus during the offseason. The Cowboys were ranked No. 3.
Then the bodies started to fall.
Both the Eagles' and Cowboys' offensive struggles in the first half of this season can be traced largely to the massive number of injuries that they have suffered up front.
For the Eagles, it started in mid-June when All-Pro right guard Brandon Brooks tore his Achilles. In late August, Andre Dillard, who was supposed to replace Jason Peters at left tackle, tore his bicep. Both injuries were season-ending.
Left guard Isaac Seumalo injured his knee in Week 2 and has been on IR ever since. All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson has been hobbled by ankle and knee issues and already has missed two games and couldn’t finish last week’s game.
Peters, the 38-year-old Hall of Fame-bound warhorse who initially was re-signed to replace Brooks at right guard but ended up back at left tackle after Dillard got hurt, has missed the last four games with a toe injury. Rookie Jack Driscoll missed last week’s game with an ankle injury.
For the Cowboys, the bad news actually started in March when their five-time Pro Bowl center, Travis Frederick, who has been battling an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system and caused him to miss the entire 2018 season, announced his retirement at 29.
Both of their starting tackles — Tyron Smith and La’el Collins — are out for the season. Collins had hip surgery earlier this month and never played a game this season. Smith was shelved after two games with a lingering neck injury.
Frederick’s replacement, Joe Looney, has missed the last four games with a knee injury. All-Pro right guard Zack Martin missed Sunday’s loss to Washington with a concussion but will be back Sunday night.
The only starter on the Cowboys' offensive line who hasn’t missed any time is left guard Connor Williams. The only starter on the Eagles' O-line with perfect attendance has been their All-Pro center, Jason Kelce.
“It’s tough,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. "Outside of the quarterback position, your offensive and defensive lines give you the best chance to regulate the football game.
"If your O-line and D-line are intact and you get consecutive starts out of those positions, to me, that’s a pretty strong indicator of the consistency of how your football team plays.
“Obviously, Doug has gone through it with their offensive line, and obviously we have, too. Because that offensive line is such a bedrock of who you want to be as a football team, it’s a challenge.”
No one has been impacted more by the Cowboys’ plethora of O-line injuries than running back Ezekiel Elliott. He averaged 96.5 rushing yards per game in his first four seasons but averages just 65.4 this year. He still is looking for his first 100-yard game. He had seven last year and seven the year before.
The Eagles' offensive-line injuries have impacted both their ground game — they’re 18th in the league in rushing and 31st in first-down rush average — and their passing game — quarterback Carson Wentz is 29th in the league in passing and 31st in completion percentage and already has 10 interceptions, three more than he had the entire 2019 season.
"We’ve got seven games under our belt, and we’ve had a lot of moving pieces up there [on the line],'' Pederson said. “Hopefully, one day, we can have some stability with the offensive line.”
What you need to know about the Eagles
Jordan Mailata struggled at left tackle last week against the Giants. Was that why Jason Peters was taking practice snaps there Wednesday? Les Bowen reports.
Slowly but surely, the Eagles are getting healthy, EJ Smith writes.
Bowen and Smith: Jim Schwartz is using Jalen Mills as a blitzer, and the Eagles safety loves it.
From the mailbag
Can the team do anything to jumpstart their non-existent return game? — SGelfond (@sgelfond) via Twitter
Getting healthy would help. Many of the players that special teams coordinator Dave Fipp was counting on to bolster his core units have been pressed into action on offense and defense because of injuries.
The Eagles’ best punt returner, rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor, has missed the last five games after injuring his thumb. His replacement, Greg Ward, has excellent hands and can field a punt in a hurricane but isn’t the home-run threat that Reagor, who averaged 20.5 yards per punt return at TCU last year, is.
As for kickoff returns, the Eagles' approach, like many teams since the league started bringing the ball out to the 25 on touchbacks, is take the touchback when you can.