Good morning, Eagles fans. It’s Dallas week, hopefully that’s enough to keep you cheerful even when you walk outside and realize it’s freezing out. The Eagles’ hardest practice is in the books, or at least I think it is. They went without pads or helmets yesterday, and I’d imagine that will set the tone for the rest of the week as Doug Pederson tries to bring a rested but prepared group to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon.
The Eagles will hold practice this afternoon and some players will be available to talk with reporters afterward. About 1,500 miles away, the Cowboys will be practicing, with or without Dak Prescott. More on that later.
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$30 million shoulder
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is preparing for this Sunday’s matchup not only with first place in the NFC East on the line, but quite possibly his job hanging in the balance, too.
Jerry Jones, the team’s owner and president, challenged Garrett to “get it done” last month, and has offered some not-so-promising comments when asked about the coach’s job security if the team continues to underperform.
But Garrett, who is in his 10th season as Cowboys coach, probably doesn’t have much time to contemplate Jones’ comments right now. His starting quarterback has an injury to his throwing shoulder.
Fourth-year signal caller Dak Prescott was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice after hurting his shoulder against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. According to media reports, Prescott wasn’t able to lift his arm above his head during the portion of practice reporters are allowed to watch, but he’s expected to be available for Sunday’s game.
Garrett wasn’t ready to say whether Prescott would be able to make the full gamut of throws he can typically make, even if he’s able to go.
“I think the biggest thing we’re trying to do is just get through today,” Garrett said during a conference call on Wednesday. “He wasn’t able to do anything today, so Cooper Rush took the reps in practice. We’ll just see how he is over the next couple days.”
Garrett’s Cowboys have won three straight games against the Eagles. Excluding a meaningless Week 17 win in 2016, the Eagles are 1-4 against Dallas in Doug Pederson’s tenure. Garrett is 11-8 against the Birds overall, and has gone 7-2 in Philadelphia over that time.
Even with his recent success, the Abington native said he has nothing but respect for the Eagles, especially their defense and Carson Wentz.
“They’re a great team,” Garrett said. “They’re awfully good on defense. They’re really good on the front, they’ve got really good linebackers and back-end guys. So, we recognize what that challenge is.
“[Wentz] has all the physical tools. Obviously, it’s the reason he was chosen as high as he was in the draft. ... We’ve competed against him a number of times, he’s just a really good football player and has been since Philadelphia drafted him.”
What you need to know about the Eagles
The Eagles defense has consistently underperformed against the Cowboys under Jim Schwartz’s watch. If that continues, it should cost him and defensive backs coach Corey Undlin their jobs, Marcus Hayes argues.
Several Eagles players reacted to the news of Dak Prescott’s shoulder injury on Wednesday. Erin McCarthy rounds up what they had to say.
Carson Wentz’s fumbling has been a problem all season. He says he can fix it, but Les Bowen wonders whether he can he do it quickly enough to avoid costing the Eagles this pivotal NFC East matchup.
The Eagles placed Kamu Grugier-Hill on injured reserve yesterday. As Jeff McLane reports, the linebacker’s agent said he’s been playing through pain for months.
Bowen also caught up with Rick Lovato, the Eagles’ Pro Bowl long snapper, who shared some hilarious details about the fraternity of NFL snappers and their group chat.
Jeff McLane went to the film room and figured what it takes to beat the Cowboys.
It’s still unclear whether the Eagles will have Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard, Lane Johnson, or Derek Barnett for Sunday’s game. I provided some context on where each player is at.
Sunday NFL Countdown is headed to Philadelphia for the weekend, Rob Tornoe writes.
From the mailbag
The Eagles are going to have lots of needs to fill in the off-season on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. To that end, I was wondering, how many draft picks are the Eagles slated to have in next year’s draft and what positions do you think they should prioritize? — From Dan May (@dannmaal) on Twitter.
Good question, Dan. You have become an Early Birds mailbag All-Star, and we appreciate that. According to overthecap.com, the Eagles have 10 picks in the next NFL draft. They stockpiled compensatory picks, one projected to be a third-rounder and two that could be fourth-round picks.
I’d say the team’s two biggest needs going into the offseason are help at receiver and cornerback. They could shore up those spots through free agency or via trade, which might be a more effective way to solve positional woes quickly. With their first-round pick, they could add a wideout who can help right away. Guys who analyze draft prospects, like Daniel Jeremiah from NFL Network, for a living have said it’s one of the deepest receiver drafts in recent memory, so they would do well to add a polished playmaker.
Those two positions need help right away, but I think this upcoming draft is going to be important to make sure the team gets deeper at position groups where they are getting older. The Eagles need to add some youth at spots like safety, center, and maybe even defensive tackle. They’ve got difference-making players at all of those positions, but Malcolm Jenkins is 31, not to mention a versatile enough player to share the field with safety in sub packages. The Eagles will get Malik Jackson back, so they have depth at defensive tackle, but there’s room to rotate in a young, developmental defensive tackle. At center, Jason Kelce is 32 and has openly contemplated retirement in the past. Nate Herbig could be the heir apparent, but competition is never a bad thing, especially considering how effective Kelce (6-foot-3, 295 pounds) has been as a smaller, agile center. At 6-4, 334 pounds, Herbig is more of a road grader than a dancing bear.