The Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) and the Dallas Cowboys (1-1) are set to play on Monday Night Football at AT&T Stadium. In order to preview this big Week 3 NFC East matchup, I reached out to our enemies over at Blogging The Boys. Dave Halprin kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming tilt. Let’s take a look at his answers. (Check out my side of the exchange coming up at BTB.)
1 - If you had to assign a grade to Mike McCarthy through two games, what would you give him? To what extent does he inspire confidence?
Discounting last year and only going on the 2021 season, I’d probably give McCarthy a grade of “B”. The arguments in his favor include being aggressive on fourth down decisions and being aggressive as a team in general. Sure, sometimes the moves backfire, but I’d much rather have an aggressive coach than a conservative one. He’s also been smart to get out of the way of his coordinators. Kellen Moore is doing a fantastic job as the offensive coordinator and McCarthy, in spite of being an offensive-minded coach himself, has given Moore pretty much free reign and that has been smart. He also managed to cobble together a plan in the face of a week of injuries, suspensions and COVID issues to go out west on the road and beat a fairly good Chargers squad. It was good to see the team react well to a tough week, so the head coach gets some credit there.
There are some issues at times. The weird excuse for letting the clock rundown at the end of the Chargers game seemed somewhat insane and was not a good look for a head coach. There are absolutely times where McCarthy doesn’t seem to be on top of things or he is making decisions on the fly instead of being well-prepared. I wouldn’t say he inspires total confidence. But the Cowboys are 1-1 and almost knocked off the defending champs on the road, the defense is playing better than last year after McCarthy realized his mistake with Mike Nolan and rectified it by bringing in Dan Quinn. At this point, he’s done a fairly good job starting off the 2021 season.
2 - There seems to be a lot of buzz about both Micah Parsons and Tony Pollard following the Cowboys’ win over the Chargers. How important are those guys to the Cowboys’ success moving forward?
Micah Parsons is a huge piece of the Cowboys success moving forward because he gives the defense a playmaker who can move around the field. The first game he played linebacker and he was good, but definitely had some rookie moments. Against the Chargers they moved him to defensive end when DeMarcus Lawrence broke his foot and he was very good in that game. His pass rush resulted in eight hurries, four QB hits and a sack as he torched the Chargers backup right tackle. He is so physically gifted for a guy his size that he’s just a mismatch waiting to happen. The Cowboys are counting on him to be a star on the defensive side of the ball and nothing so far contradicts that. It will be interesting to see where they play him most this week now that Randy Gregory is back after missing the Chargers game because of COVID.
Tony Pollard is a guy that Cowboys fans have been begging the team to give more touches to, and they did this week. He provides a much different look than Ezekiel Elliott. He is a quick, space player who can also hurt a defense in the passing game. The split for touches this past week between him and Elliott was much closer to 50/50 and that’s probably what the team should shoot for going forward. Pollard just adds a playmaking, homerun element to the offensive running game.
3 - What is the Cowboys’ biggest strength? How should they be attacking the Eagles?
The Cowboys biggest strength is their array of offensive playmakers and a quarterback who knows how to use them. In Week 1, the Cowboys played a very tough run defense in the Bucs, so they let Dak Prescott throw 58 times and rack up over 400 yards, and they came ever so close to pulling off the big upset. The next week, against the Chargers, they ran the ball for 198 yards and dominated in the running game. Kellen Moore is adaptable and he is going to take whatever a defense gives him, and because of the QB/RB/WR skill personnel the Cowboys have, they can take advantage of all that. And the offensive line isn’t bad either, allowing the Cowboys to be very flexible in how they choose to attack a defense.
4 - What is the Cowboys’ biggest weakness? What should the Eagles be looking to exploit?
The Cowboys biggest weakness is the cornerback group. Only Trevon Diggs inspires confidence back there and teams have really picked on the group in the first two weeks. To make matters worse, the Cowboys pass rush, outside of what Parsons did against the Chargers, hasn’t exactly struck fear into anybody. So the Cowboys are very vulnerable to a passing attack that has receivers who can do damage. Tom Brady and company torched them, and Justin Herbert did too, except penalties kept causing issues for the Chargers who had two passing touchdowns wiped out by penalty. The only thing that has saved them in the secondary is they are getting turnovers. That has been the great equalizer for the pass defense.
5 - Who wins this game and why? Score prediction? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Cowboys season?
No surprise, but I’m taking the Cowboys in this one. They are at home and they seem to be playing much better than what we saw last year. All of the draft picks and free agent signings on the defense are paying off so far, and obviously having Prescott back makes all the difference in the world. The Eagles ripped up a bad Falcons team, but last week wasn’t the best performance against the 49ers. I’ll take the Cowboys 31-21 in this game. My expectations for the season are the Cowboys win the NFC East and make the playoffs, where they should be able to be competitive. Besides things we can’t predict like injuries, the biggest thing that will decide the Cowboys season, and whether they are legitimate contenders, is how this defense plays as the season progresses. The Cowboys offense is good and should score points, but the defense holds the key.