Although, I'm still revelling in the glory that was our week 1 dismantling of the Rams, my attention has turned elsewhere. My focus has zeroed in on our week 2 division battle with Dallas. Both Dallas, and Eagles' fans alike, can agree that this matchup is of great importance. The winner, will take an early lead atop the division, which is one more step towards the playoffs. The loser, will have experienced a setback, and need to muster their resolve to keep moving forward. It's early in the season, but the game will be a pivotal one for both teams. Over the next week, I'm going to post a head-to-head comparison, and what I see as keys to coming out on top. Todays look, will be at the running backs.
Cowboys: Marian Barber III, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice
The Cowboys running game was nasty, in their handling of Cleveland. MB3 ran for 80 yards on 16 carries, and had 2 touchdowns. Felix Jones ran for 62 yards on 9 carries, and 1 touchdown. Then to wrap up the game Tashard Choice ran for 26 yards on carries. You can't knock that kind of hussle.
Marian Barber is Dallas' featured back. Barber is a physical back, who's not afraid of contact. I'm going to take a step further and say, that he enjoys it. Barber is difficult (to say the least) to bring down with initial contact, and usually will earn a few more yards after contact. Barber is an excellent blocker, and accomplished pianist (funny word), as was displayed in this years HBO documentary Hard Knocks. He seldom fumbles the ball, and is an adequate receiver as well. Barber has yet to rush for over a 1,000 yards, but that can be explained by the fact that he was Dallas' short yardage back behind Julius Jones, until now. As the featured back, I read somewhere that his workload will increase from 204 carries last year, to around 250. Which will be a huge increase in his workload. The increase could become a factor later in the season, but shouldn't have much relevance to Monday's game. What will have an impact is his bruised ribs. I would be flat out shocked, if Barber were scratched from the lineup. I expect that he'll be there, and so does his team [Profootballtalk]. Most likely, Barber will receive a cortizone shot, and wear some additional padding, but that's only going to enable him to play. I know from personal experience that bruised ribs are painful, and long lasting. Day-to-day activities, such as getting out of bed, become chores. It's quite possible that Barber could be pensive, and avoid those collision that usually allow him to get those few extra yards. Barber's sure-handedness could be jeapordized by the additional padding as well. Marian Barber may not be at 100% come game day. If the injury does have an impact, the Cowboys shouldn't worry too much, they've got this rookie out or Arkansas. What's his name??
Felix Jones, the rookie from Arkansas, is the change of pace back for Dallas. He's good. Really good. He can run between the tackles, or take it to the outside. He can catch, and he's a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Jones lurked in the shadows of Darren McFadden, but he wasn't any slouch, check out the numbers [Felix Jones]. In my opinion, Felix Jones is a young Brian Westbrook.
Eagles: Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter, Lorenzon Booker Brian Westbrook had a good game against the Rams. He rushed for 91 yards on 19 carries, and 2 touchdowns (1 receiving). Buckhalter, and Booker combined for 14 yards rushing on 7 carries, but the Eagles don't rely on the running game nearly as much as other teams.
Brian Westbrook, is an offense unto himself. Countless times, He has taken the Eagles offense on his shoulders, and brought us to victory. He can do so many things, and opposing defenses have to scheme around him. Last year, he ran for over 1,300 yards, caught 90 passes for 771 yards, and recorded 12 touchdowns. Westbrook, also receives praise for his blocking ability. He's a difficult guy to defend against. Brian Westbrook is in a good place right now, he's healthy, and happy (just got a new deal). Look for Westbrook to expose the mismatch of being covered by a linebacker. If/When he gets to the second level he could take it to the house.
Correll Buckhalter, is a strong runner, who is best suited running north/south. His career average is 4.5 yards a carry. Buckhalter is a good secondary back. He's going to give you positive yardage, strong play. If Buckhalter can stay healthy, he'll keep the chains moving, by gaining positive yardage, and give Westbrook a rest throughout the game.
Lorenzo Booker, was acquired by the Eagles in a draft-day trade with the Miami Dolphins in 2008. As a rookie, he tallied 125 yards rushing on 28 carries, 237 yards on 28 catches, in just 7 games. Booker, in his sophomore season out of Florida State will provide another threat out of the backfield for the birds, when lined up with Westbrook. Although, we didn't see any of this during the St. Louis game, we'll probably see it against Dallas. Lining Booker and Westbrook in the backfield will make opposing defenses take notice, and provide any number of mismatches for the Eagles to capitalize on.
Brian Westbrook is one of the best backs in the NFL, and he takes the advantage over Marian Barber. That being said, The Cowboys are the better team at the runningback position. They have an excellent back in Marian Barber, who's going to wear down defenses with his running style. Then you have Felix Jones, who's a homerun hitter, every time he touches the ball. Then if the first two fail, there's one more Choice (Bad joke). The Cowboys depth and skill at the position is too much, and Brian Westbrook is irreplaceable to us. Tomorrow, I'm going to look at the Quarterback position. Until then, what's your take on this? Go Birds!!!!