Bleeding Green Nation’s game-by-game preview of the Eagles' 2017 schedule continues today with Philadelphia's Week 11 and Week 17 opponent: the Dallas Cowboys. (Check out the Week 9 preview by clicking here.)
Last year, the Eagles played the Cowboys when Dallas was coming off their bye. This year, it’s just the opposite: Philadelphia will have a Week 10 break before traveling down to AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys finished the 2016 regular season as the best team in the NFC. That didn’t matter much, however, because they still got bounced in the first round.
There are some reasons to believe Dallas has a bright future. Dak Prescott unexpectedly showed a lot of promise as a rookie. Ezekiel Elliott was in the MVP discussion. As much as it sucks to admit it, Jerry Jones may have found two major building blocks for the future.
But there’s also reason to believe the Cowboys are going to take a step back this year. Dallas hasn’t really had a great offseason. Elliott is facing potential suspension and may miss at least a game or two. A few Cowboys players were arrested and some others were suspended.
In addition to the off-field trouble, the Cowboys had the second most turnover of any NFL team this offseason. Their overachieving defense wasn’t truly that great to begin with. Now it might be worse given they’ve lost some starters. The potential absence of Elliott also means the Cowboys will have a tougher time hiding Rod Marinelli’s unit.
The Dallas defense isn’t the only part of the team that took a hit. “The Best Offensive Line In NFL History” lost two starters this offseason. Starting right tackle Doug Free retired while starting left guard Ron Leary signed with the Broncos in free agency. A worsened offensive line won’t help to stave off sophomore slumps for Prescott and Elliott.
The Eagles’ first tilt against the Cowboys last year was fun to watch. The overtime thriller was anyone’s game. The feeling here is that’s what we’ll see again out of this year’s matchups. The gap between Philly and Dallas closed this offseason.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the Cowboys from our SB Nation associates over at Blogging The Boys.
Notable free agent additions:
DT Stephen Paea, CB Nolan Carroll, DE Damontre Moore, G Jonathan Cooper, OT Byron Bell, S Robert Blanton
Notable free agent departures:
CB Brandon Carr, CB Morris Claiborne, S Barry Church, S J.J. WIlcox, OG Ron Leary, OT Doug Free, DT Terrell McClain, DE Jack Crawford
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
Round 1: Taco Charlton - The Cowboys hope the defensive end out of Michigan will help them create a pass rush, something the defense has been missing since DeMarcus Ware left.
Round 2: Chidobe Awuzie - A versatile defensive back, he could play corner, safety or some hybrid of both. The Cowboys are revamping their secondary.
Round 3: Jourdan Lewis - A cover corner out of Michigan, he could play the slot or outside in the Cowboys new secondary.
Round 4: Ryan Switzer - A slot receiver with punt return skills, he adds another weapon for Dak Prescott.
Round 6: Xavier Woods - A ball-hawking safety who the Cowboys hope can create turnovers in the secondary.
Biggest offseason addition:
The top draft picks, the Cowboys didn’t spend much in free agency.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp:
Besides everyone wondering about a sophomore slump for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys are desperately trying to upgrade their back seven on defense. They are hoping that last year’s second-round pick, Jaylon Smith, has overcome his injury and can be a key piece of their defense at linebacker with Sean Lee. They let go of four players who played significant snaps in the secondary and are counting on a group of young guys and rookies to take over. The Cowboys secondary has done a poor job of getting interceptions and making splash plays, they need playmakers on the field. The offense is stacked, the defense needs to improve.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:
The Cowboys are shuffling their offensive line, guard Ron Leary left in free agency and right tackle Doug Free retired. They think they have a good player to plug in at right tackle, La’el Collins, but there is an open competition at left guard. The Cowboys identity is built around their elite offensive line, so it’s a little bit of a gamble this offseason as they re-tool a bit.
Notable injuries heading into training camp:
Jaylon Smith is trying to recover from his catastrophic injury in his college bowl game. He spent a year rehabbing, now we get to see if his knee has recovered enough to play effectively. DeMarcus Lawrence is getting over back surgery. Cole Beasley has hamstring issues.