As the Eagles' offense aims for an improved showing in Dallas, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has his eyes on stopping Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff.
"Ratliff is a special player, and they've got several," Mornhinweg said. "Ratliff chews people up."
Last year, Ratliff faced off against Nick Cole, who made his only two starts at center in the Eagles' regular-season finale at Dallas and then the NFC wild-card rematch. He was filling in for the injured Jamaal Jackson. Ratliff didn't make it onto the stat sheet, but the big nose tackle was a disruptive presence as the Cowboys' defense dominated both games. The Eagles scored 14 points in two trips to Dallas.
"We had Nick - second game at center - we had some problems there," Mornhinweg said. "Not with Nick. Nick played pretty well, but we were just off a little bit."
This time around, the task of handling Ratliff will fall largely on center Mike McGlynn, who knows what he's up against.
"He's a very quick, fast- twitch guy and just overall a good player," McGlynn said. He was inactive last year, so this will be McGlynn's first matchup against Ratliff.
"Very disruptive player," McGlynn said. "With what they do, disruption causes a lot of holes for other guys to make plays."
Ratliff has 21/2 sacks this season.
McGlynn, listed at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, didn't reveal any special plans for blocking the 6-4, 303-pound nose tackle.
"Just trust your technique and go out and play," McGlynn said.
Mornhinweg noted that the Eagles have had success against Dallas in the past, and said he looked forward to facing a 3-4 defense, despite an impression by some that his offense struggles against the versatile formation.
"We love the 3-4," Mornhinweg said. He said the West Coast offense the Eagles run was built at a time when many teams played 3-4, and therefore is suited to counter the defensive look.
He also credited the Cowboys' front seven, though.
"They create some challenges for us, starting with their men that play on the line, including the linebackers," Mornhinweg said.
Linebackers DeMarcus Ware (91/2 sacks) and Anthony Spencer (three sacks) lead the way when it comes to quarterback pressure. Teams have been hitting Michael Vick with regularity in recent weeks.
Stopping those two, and pushing back Ratliff, will be critical to keeping him safe - and reversing last year's results.