Back in October, during the Eagles’ 26-17 victory over the visiting Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles pretty much silenced game-changing threat Micah Parsons—and he still had a decent game, with seven tackles, one for a loss.
Still, despite missing two practices this week due to illness, Parsons will have to be constantly watched if the Jalen Hurts-less Eagles plan on wrapping up home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a victory in Dallas on Saturday.
Granted, Gardner Minshew has nowhere near the capabilities as Hurts as a runner. But he is mobile. And the Eagles still possess the best offensive line in football, who are a little eager to getting back and imposing their collective will, which means running the ball.
The Eagles may come at Parsons the same way they did the first time these teams met. That means attacking him directly, force him to make a decision instead of having him come from the back end to make a play.
An interesting sequence in the first game illustrated exactly why the Eagles neutralized arguably the best defensive player in football.
On the Eagles second drive of the game, on fourth-and-three at the Dallas 38 with 3:38 left in the first quarter, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni opted to go for it. The play lured the Dallas defense one way, as Hurts connected with A.J. Brown going in the opposite direction.
It set the tone of the game.
What was unique about the play was Parsons was left unblocked. Unblocked.
Instead, right tackle Lane Johnson closed down on the Cowboys’ defensive end.
Parsons didn’t seem to know what to do. He hesitated for a second as Hurts ran at him with the ball: Pick up Hurts or Brown, who ran by him? In that nanosecond of confusion, Hurts darted a short pass to Brown that turned into an 11-yard gain.
Can Minshew gain that kind of respect from Parsons? How will the Eagles deal with Parsons without the threat of Hurts running by him?
Eagles’ offensive coordinator Shane Steichen sounds like he has the utmost confidence in Minshew to carry out the same plan of attack against Parsons as the Eagles did the first time.
“Both those guys do different things, so we obviously have a plan for both going into it, and we’ve been preparing upstairs and obviously for practice and all those different things,” Steichen said of the game plan under Minshew as opposed to Hurts this week.
“Both of those guys bring unique stuff to the table, but we’ll have a plan for both.
“Gardner has played a lot of football. He’s a smart, competitive guy that understands the game. If Gardner is out there, we have all the confidence in the world in him that he’s going to go out and execute, and those conversations that myself and him have throughout the week leading up to the game, if he’s the guy, then we’ll be ready to go.”
As of Friday, Parsons was listed as questionable, but don’t fool yourself, he’ll be on the field against the Eagles.
Other than Parsons being ready, the Cowboys have possibly bigger problems looming. Are they tiring? Over their last three games against less-than stellar opposition in the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars (which have a combined record of 12-29-2, with Jacksonville carrying seven of those wins), the Cowboys have given up eight touchdowns. Over the first seven games, they yielded eight.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written features for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, and his breaking story on Carson Wentz for PhillyVoice on January 21, 2019. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.