Dallas Cowboys: Brent Celek

Fantasy fix: Start your Cowboys

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
10:00
AM ET
Because we all spend way too much time each week working on our fantasy teams anyway, here at the NFC East blog we like to take one post a week and focus it entirely on fantasy football. This is that post. It shows where our division's key players fall in this week's rankings by ESPN.com's fantasy football experts. Click on the position to see the full rankings for that position.

QUARTERBACKS

T5. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants (Mon.)

9. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

10. Eli Manning, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

I honestly think Romo's too low. The past two quarterbacks to play the Eagles have won NFC Offensive Player of the Week awards. Romo himself was 19-for-26 for 209 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles three weeks ago, but Philadelphia's pass defense has reached new depths since then. They're literally not covering anyone. On the flip side, neither Nick Foles nor Michael Vick is in this week's top 25. Vick looks to be out again with a concussion, and Foles isn't doing anything in his stead.

RUNNING BACKS

9. Alfred Morris, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

13. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

14. Bryce Brown, Eagles at Dallas

T27. Felix Jones, Cowboys vs. Eagles

41. David Wilson, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

43. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys vs. Eagles

I picked up Wilson in a league in which I've already secured a playoff spot, but I didn't do it because I expect him to assume Andre Brown's touchdown-maker role. I did it because of the reasonable chance he's the Giants' starting running back in at least one of the next four games. If you're desperate, you could use him this week on the off chance he breaks a big one, but Bradshaw's likely to get those goal-line carries Brown was getting, as long as he stays healthy. Speaking of healthy, it appears Murray might play Sunday night, but that situation is murky enough that I might stay away from it and just play the Cowboys passing-game guys this week against Philly. Especially since you might not know Murray's status until after all of the early games are over.

WIDE RECEIVERS

8. Dez Bryant, Cowboys vs. Eagles

T9. Victor Cruz, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

11. Hakeem Nicks, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

24. Pierre Garcon, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

28. Miles Austin, Cowboys vs. Eagles

39. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles at Dallas

46. Santana Moss, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

Nicks and Cruz are every-week musts, and the matchup against the Redskins' pass defense is enticing. But man, those Redskins have a way of giving the Giants' passing offense fits. Other than the one big play that won the Giants the Week 7 game, Manning hasn't thrown a touchdown pass against Washington over the past two seasons. Austin's low ranking is health-related, I have to assume. Ed Werder has been reporting this week that Austin will play, and if he does I would start him. Garcon as a low WR2/high WR3 in 12-team leagues seems about right, especially with 10 days' rest.

TIGHT ENDS

3. Jason Witten, Cowboys vs. Eagles

12. Martellus Bennett, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

22. Brent Celek, Eagles at Dallas

25. Logan Paulsen, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

Starting to feel redundant, but yeah, Witten. If I'm trying to make the fantasy playoffs and I can start a guy who's going to be running pass routes against the Eagles, I'm going to start him.

KICKERS

1. Lawrence Tynes, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

9. Dan Bailey, Cowboys vs. Eagles

T17. Kai Forbath, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

All of the division's kickers have been good, including unranked Alex Henery of Philadelphia. Tynes' team gives him the most chances, though.

TEAM DEFENSE

9. Cowboys vs. Eagles

16. Giants at Washington (Mon.)

24. Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

T27. Eagles at Dallas

Yeah, Cowboys are the only NFC East defense I'd start this week. But I'd feel pretty good about doing it.

Behind enemy lines: Eagles TE Brent Celek

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
6:38
PM ET
Galloway & Company go behind enemy lines to preview Sunday's NFC East showdown with Eagles TE Brent Celek.

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On Sunday's game against the Cowboys:

It's always a fight against the Cowboys. I love playing the Cowboys, probably one of my favorite games every single year ... but we're going to have to be ready to play because two teams with their backs against the wall ... no telling.

All-NFC East Team: Week 7 update

October, 24, 2012
10/24/12
1:16
PM ET

Not a lot of changes this week to the All-Division Team. Only two, I think, and neither one is the quarterback. Both Robert Griffin III and Eli Manning are playing at an extremely high level right now, and yes, I thought about using the fact that Manning won the game against Griffin's team as the tiebreaker. But as I watched that game Sunday, for those three hours, the best player on that field was not the two-time Super Bowl MVP. He got the last laugh, sure. And everyone who reads this blog regularly knows how I feel about Manning. But as of this moment, he's a notch behind Griffin for the starting quarterback spot on the All-NFC East Team. I think this is the first week all year in which they haven't switched places, so it's that close.

Before we go on, the disclaimer that no one will read: This is an all-division team based on overall season performance to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a position-by-position list of those who played the best this week. That's why Santana Moss isn't on it.

So as I said, only two changes this week. Not the most exciting week we've had with this. I'll explain those two changes, and offer some insight on which players nearly changed my mind, after I give you the team:

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (Last week: Griffin)

Running back: Alfred Morris, Redskins (Morris)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, New York Giants; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles (Cruz, Jackson)

Tight end: Martellus Bennett, Giants (Brent Celek)

Fullback: Henry Hynoski, Giants (Hynoski)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys (Pierre-Paul, Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Linval Joseph, Giants (Jenkins, Joseph)

Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys (Kerrigan, Ware)

Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; DeMeco Ryans, Eagles (Lee, Ryans)

Cornerback: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles, Prince Amukamara, Giants (Rodgers-Cromartie, Josh Wilson)

Safety: Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown, Giants (Rolle, Brown)

Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Tynes)

Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins (Rocca)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Wilson)

Punt returner: Rueben Randle, Giants (Randle)
  • Bennett had the big game catching the ball, yes, and Celek was off, but Bennett was close behind to begin with. What he and Hynoski are doing as blockers, in the run game and the passing game, is absolutely invaluable to the way the Giants are playing right now.
  • And yes, Amukamara is the best cornerback in the division at this moment. Wilson is having a fine season, the final play of Sunday's game notwithstanding, but Amukamara has done absolutely nothing wrong since returning from his injuries. With Corey Webster having a down year and the Giants' secondary in need of a boost, he's performing like a first-round pick.
  • Williams holds down his spot at left tackle after holding off Pierre-Paul all day Sunday. He's playing left tackle as well as anyone in the league. His closest competition in this division is the Giants' Will Beatty.
  • Looked at Nate Livings for left guard and Chris Chester for right guard, but I still have each a notch below the guy listed at his spot. Herremans hasn't been great, but you don't have to be to beat out Doug Free, Sean Locklear and Tyler Polumbus. I did think Polumbus played a good game Sunday. But again, year-long list.
  • Thought about Miles Austin over Jackson at that receiver spot but didn't pull the trigger. Another big Ahmad Bradshaw game could have threatened Morris at running back, because of what Bradshaw brings as a blocker. But Morris is the clear running back leader in this division right now.
  • Kerrigan's had two kinda bad games in a row, and I thought about putting Dallas' Anthony Spencer there instead. (He got a sack!) Will monitor this in the coming weeks to see if Kerrigan returns to his dominant early season form.
  • I didn't think Rolle or Brown looked remarkably impressive Sunday (Brown's interception notwithstanding), but I really don't see who deserves to have taken the spots from them. Maybe Nate Allen? Meh.
  • And finally, Lee is obviously not long for this inside linebacker spot, as he's out for the year with a foot injury. The leading candidate to take the spot at this moment is Washington's Perry Riley, but we'll see how the potential replacements play in the coming weeks. It's not ridiculous to think that Lee could hold the spot for a week or two without playing. That's how good he's been.

As ever, I welcome your thoughts.

All-NFC East Team: Week 5 update

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
9:43
AM ET
Not a lot of changes this week to the All-Division Team, which now includes nine Giants, nine Eagles, six Redskins and three Cowboys. The most significant are at quarterback, where the Redskins' concussed rookie lost his spot to the guy I think is playing the position better than anyone else in the league right now, and at outside linebacker, where Mychal Kendricks' first bad game as a pro was enough to cost him his spot and force all of you DeMarcus Ware fans to find something else to yell at me about this week.

Before we get to the list, the disclaimer that no one will read: This is an All-Division Team based on overall performance in the season to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT merely a position-by-position list of the best Week 5 performances. That's why Ahmad Bradshaw isn't on it.

That out of the way, I present this week's edition of the team, with some explanatory notes at the bottom.

Quarterback: Eli Manning, New York Giants (Last week: Robert Griffin III)

Running back: Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins (Morris)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, New York Giants; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles (Cruz, Jackson)

Tight end: Brent Celek, Eagles (Martellus Bennett)

Fullback: Darrel Young, Redskins (Young)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Babin, Eagles (Pierre-Paul, Babin)

Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Linval Joseph, Giants (Jenkins, Rocky Bernard)

Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys (Kerrigan, Mychal Kendricks)

Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; DeMeco Ryans, Eagles (Lee, Ryans)

Cornerback: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles, Brandon Carr, Cowboys (Rodgers-Cromartie, Carr)

Safety: Nate Allen, Eagles, Antrel Rolle, Giants (Allen, Kenny Phillips)

Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Tynes)

Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins (Rocca)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Wilson)

Punt returner: Rueben Randle, Giants (Randle)
  • Yes, I consider LeSean McCoy a better running back than Alfred Morris. No, I do not think McCoy is having the better season. Morris has more yards, more yards per carry and more touchdowns. He deserves the spot for now.
  • Bennett had been holding off Celek for the tight end spot because of his blocking. But Celek's blocking has also been tremendous, and for me he surpassed Bennett this week.
  • Will Beatty of the Giants is one more very good week away from passing Trent Williams at left tackle, and that's no knock on Williams, who's having a very good year. Beatty is playing that well.
  • Feel free to help me out at safety. Almost no one's playing that position well. Almost left Phillips in there even though he's out for the foreseeable future with an injury. Weak spot this year in the division.
  • Got a lot of grief last week for ranking Jenkins over teammate Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle. I think Cox has played well, but I see what I see. Jenkins moves all over the line and does more. I went back and looked it all over again, watched last week's game tape and this week's over to see if I was nuts. And I feel good about the pick.

As ever, I welcome your thoughts.

All-NFC East Team: Week 2 Update

September, 19, 2012
9/19/12
10:00
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Eli Manning made it tough. I'm not going to deny that. His performance in the fourth quarter in Sunday's comeback victory against Tampa Bay was nearly enough to get him the starting quarterback spot on this week's edition of the All-Division Team. His yardage total of 510 for the game was the ninth-highest in league history, and is only 16 yards short of Robert Griffin III's two-game yardage total so far. When I sat down to make this week's team, I did so on the assumption that Manning would regain his 2011 season-ending spot as the quarterback.

But then I remembered the disclaimer that nobody reads: This All-Division Team is not simply a roundup of the best performances of the past week. It's an assessment of overall season performance to date. Griffin has a higher completion percentage, fewer interceptions and -- yes, this matters -- is the division's fourth-leading rusher with 124 yards on 20 carries. Manning has proven more over his career, obviously, and yes he's being asked to do more in the passing game than Griffin is in Washington. But it's not as though Griffin's being asked to play like Alex Smith. He's made big plays and protected the ball, and in the end this week's spot goes to the guy who's played eight good quarters so far this season, as opposed to one astoundingly brilliant one.

One of the results of this, I found when I tallied things up at the end, is what I believe to be a first. The Redskins have the most players (eight) on this week's All-NFC East team. The Giants and Eagles each have seven, and the Cowboys only have five for some reason, including their punter. Odd, since the Cowboys' Week 1 game was perhaps the best all-around game played by anyone in the division to this point. Strange how these things shake out sometimes.

Anyway here is the rest of the team, and then the explanations after:

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (Last week: Griffin)

Running back: LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (DeMarco Murray)

Wide receiver: Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, New York Giants (Kevin Ogletree and Jeremy Maclin)

Tight end: Brent Celek, Eagles (Martellus Bennett)

Fullback: Darrel Young, Washington Redskins (Young)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Jason Kelce)

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Cowboys (Pierre-Paul, Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Fletcher Cox, Eagles; Rocky Bernard, Giants (Bernard, Cox)

Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys (Kerrigan, Ware)

Inside linebacker: DeMeco Ryans, Eagles; Sean Lee, Cowboys (Ryans, Lee)

Cornerback: Josh Wilson, Redskins; Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles (Wilson, Rodgers-Cromartie)

Safety: Kenny Phillips, Giants; Gerald Sensabaugh, Cowboys (Kurt Coleman, Antrel Rolle)

Kicker: Billy Cundiff, Redskins (Cundiff)

Punter: Chris Jones, Cowboys (Chas Henry)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Brandon Banks)

Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)
  • Pierre-Paul is a slam-dunk at one of the defensive end spots. He's a nightmare for opposing defenses, and Tampa Bay was clearly focused on his side almost all game. He needs help from his teammates on the other side, who have yet to do anything. For the second week in a row, I went with a 3-4 end along with Pierre-Paul, which was a little bit tougher this week given the way Jason Babin and Trent Cole played Sunday. But I really think Hatcher is bringing something special to the Cowboys' defensive front, and that he showed as much as anyone on the defense this week coming off his huge Week 1. The guy who nearly bumped him out, actually, was another 3-4 end -- Washington's Stephen Bowen, which would have made nine Redskins! Bowen is worthy of consideration. I think Hatcher's played a tick better.
  • And truth be told, it could have been 10 Redskins, as I very nearly gave the second outside linebacker spot to Brian Orakpo over Ware, who was invisible this week. But this is an all-year team, and sadly, Orakpo won't be making it this year, as this turns out to have been his last chance. He's out for the season with a chest muscle injury.
  • Cornerback is a place where Cowboys fans will complain, and I hear you. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have played very well. But I think Wilson and Rodgers-Cromartie, when you go back and watch the tape, are playing at a remarkably high level right now. In last season's cornerback competition on this weekly exercise, Dallas' guys would have been winning easily. This year the competition is tougher.
  • Switched up the safeties. Nate Allen of the Eagles came close to snagging Sensabaugh's spot, especially with Sensabaugh getting hurt. Phillips is the division's best safety and one of the best in the league.
  • I didn't think I'd put Mathis back in at left guard because of the penalties, and Nate Livings is the No. 2 guy on my list here. But what Mathis does in the run game is just ridiculous, and it keeps him at the very top.
  • Almost kept Bennett in at tight end because of the job he's doing as a blocker, but Celek is the third-leading receiver in the division right now, behind the Giants' studs.
  • Trent Williams is making it easy at his spot, as he's always had the ability to do. He's fun to watch.

Okay, that's it from me. Your thoughts?

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Eagles review

December, 27, 2011
12/27/11
4:41
PM ET
There was going to be two ways that Jason Garrett and the Cowboys were going to play this game against the Eagles on Christmas Eve:

Scout's Eye
* If the New York Jets had beaten the New York Giants earlier in the day, then it was going to be all hands on deck to try and win the NFC East divisional title.

* If the Giants won, it'd be a meaningless game and Garrett would need to manage the game to try and protect players injured players such as Felix Jones, Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware before this week's showdown vs. the Giants.

What Garrett didn’t count on was quarterback Tony Romo getting injured. What surprised me the most about the way that Garrett played this game was the amount of snaps that he gave to Ware and Ratliff. I was convinced Jones, Ratliff and Ware wouldn't play much, but it didn’t work out that way. To their credit, Ware and Ratliff were the best players on defense.

PODCAST
Bryan Broaddus and Tim MacMahon discuss how the offseason may shape up if the Cowboys wrap up the season at 8-8.

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Cowboys' ends limit McCoy's effectiveness this time


I felt Eagles RB LeSean McCoy would cause the most problems on offense, both in the running and passing games. When the Cowboys and Eagles met in Week 8, the Cowboys' front seven -- particularly DEs Marcus Spears, Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher -- played poorly. They couldn’t get off blocks and did nothing to hold the point of attack.

In Saturday's game, the Cowboys' ends did a much better job of not getting pushed around, allowing the linebackers to flow and make plays. Spears had several plays where he was square to the line of scrimmage and was able to stack the blockers, which gave McCoy no room to run. Where the Cowboys' defense was outstanding was playing backside technique and not allowing McCoy to make that stop-start cut which hurt them last time.

Newman, Cowboys' secondary struggle yet again


In the first half, there were once again problems in the secondary with coverage. On the first drive of the game, the Cowboys were able to get pressure on Michael Vick.

With Anthony Spencer flushing Vick to his left, Spencer grabbed a hold of Vick’s facemask while trying to get him to the ground. Down the field, Mike Jenkins lost contact with receiver Riley Cooper as he started up the field. Gerald Sensabaugh tried to get over to help, but was left backpedaling while trying to locate the ball as it floated over his head. Safety Abram Elam also tried to get over to help, but he badly misplayed the ball as well. The result: Cooper caught the ball with three defenders within two yards of him.

There were several plays in this game where Terence Newman was not near good enough. In the second quarter, Newman misplayed a ball on second-and-10 after Marcus Spears made a nice square tackle on first down against McCoy.

When you study Vick, the one place that he loves to throw the ball is the middle of the field. On this particular play, receiver DeSean Jackson drove on a crossing route against Newman in man coverage. When Jackson broke inside, Newman lost contact with him and then tried to undercut the route but was a step late. Ware was able to get pressure on Vick, but not enough to affect the throw. Vick ripped it down the middle of the field to Jackson with Newman in chase position, giving up a catch and the first down.

On the Eagles TD with 10 seconds left in the half, Newman and Jenkins were playing in-and-out coverage on Jeremy Maclin from the 6. Newman was on the inside and Jenkins on the outside as Maclin started his route up the field and then inside. Newman passed Jackson inside to Sensabaugh from the slot and turned his attention to Maclin on the outside. Jenkins saw Maclin start inside but Newman didn’t react quick enough to pick him up. As Maclin got away from Jenkins and cleared Newman, Vick saw Newman not react and fired the ball to the middle of the end zone for a TD.

In the third quarter, the Eagles dialed up a screen pass to tight end Brent Celek. Where the Eagles are dangerous is that they'll throw a screen at any point on the field. On this play, Newman was once again trying to cover Maclin down the field but misplayed his route and got turned around and had his back to the screen. As Newman is hand fighting with Maclin, Celek ran right by him and up the field for a big play. If Newman hadn’t got in such bad position on the route, he could have made the tackle, keeping Celek from getting down the field.

Cowboys' offensive line failed to protect Romo


This game was going to be a struggle for the Cowboys' offensive line to provide protection, with or without Romo in the lineup. Romo doesn't have Vick's mobility, but he has been able to buy second and third chances with his legs the last several weeks. That's why the offense has been so productive.

The challenge for the line this week was to block defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole. Once again, the line struggled most with protection as a result of not picking up the twist stunt. On the play that Romo was injured, the Eagles used a blitz that they've run in several games this season.

With the Cowboys facing a third-and-4, the Eagles blitzed Matthews in the front side “A” gap, which was picked up by Phil Costa. Patterson hit the “B” gap, which was blocked by Kyle Kosier. Jason Babin was lined up on the outside shoulder of Tyron Smith, started into the line then looped all the way behind his teammates hitting the gaps. Smith tried to crash down inside to wad up the rushers, but Babin made it clean all the way through the center box while Costa was still locked up on his man.

Kosier saw what was happening and tried to work inside to block Babin but went to the ground. Babin had a free run at Romo, who was trying to get the ball to Miles Austin on a crossing route. The problem with this play is that Austin and Dez Bryant were trying to cross by each other with one of them not running the route deep enough, causing both receivers to not get to their spot cleanly. Romo had Babin in his face to the point that his hand hit Babin’s helmet. In all discussions that I have had with members of the front office, Romo should be ready to play against the Giants on Sunday.

Grudge match: Eagles-Cowboys keys

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
8:00
AM ET

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan vs. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy: With as many weapons as the Eagles have on offense, this is the one matchup the Cowboys cannot afford to lose.

Scout's Eye
Rob Ryan and his staff must find a way to put his defensive players in the best positions to make plays. When you study the Eagles, you understand the dynamic of what Michael Vick brings to the game and how dangerous he can be to defend, but McCoy is truly what makes this Eagles offense go. With McCoy, it’s about dealing with his explosive plays that cause defenses the most trouble.

Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg uses McCoy in so many different ways, whether it’s on the stretch play, sprint draw or the screen. Mornhinweg does a great job of getting McCoy one-on-one in space, which puts so much pressure on a defense to have to make a sure tackle.

McCoy has that rare stop-start quickness that backs like Barry Sanders had. He has the ability to allow the play to develop front side, then see what is happening back side, plant his foot and make a cut into the open space. Many a day I observed Sanders doing the very same thing for the Lions.

McCoy does an outstanding job of avoiding tackles because of this skill. He has the ability to run out of the negative play.

Mornhinweg likes to use McCoy in the screen game. It doesn’t matter at what point or where on the field, the Eagles will run a screen to McCoy.

PODCAST
ESPN NFL analyst Darren Woodson hops on to dissect the Christmas Eve matchup between the Cowboys and Eagles.

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The last time these teams met, Ryan played his safeties deep to prevent the vertical passing game of the Eagles. I believe you will see Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam lining up at normal depth, but also one or the other down in the box helping with the running game and the potential for the cut-back run.

The second area that should help Ryan is that Sean Lee will be back in the mix. Like many of the defenders in the last meeting, Lee was not at his best, and then got hurt and was out of the game. Ryan needs Lee to be special in this game and if the Cowboys are going to contain McCoy, it will be because of Lee, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. The defensive ends will need to be on point, but so will the linebackers for Ryan.

Cowboys RT Tyron Smith vs. Eagles DE Jason Babin: Smith really struggled with the inside spin move of Babin when these teams met in Week 8. Smith indicated that he has a better feel and understanding of what he has to deal with in playing Babin the second time around.

What makes Babin so dangerous on that move is that he is able to rush to the depth of the quarterback in the pocket, get the weight of the offensive tackle on his right foot, then spin hard inside and right on top of the quarterback for the sack. Smith really struggled early in the season when the rush came to the inside, not with the wide rushers. Since that game, he has done a much better job of handling those types of moves.

Smith will also need to be able to handle Babin in the running game, whether that is reaching him to the front side or play side or when the ball goes away. Babin is not as good as Eagles right DE Trent Cole playing the run, but because of his motor and effort he is one of those guys Smith is going to have to block to and through the whistle.

Smith needs to turn this game into a brawl against Babin and try to beat him up with power. Babin can’t go toe-to-toe with Smith power-wise, so beating him up will go a long way toward trying to slow his rush and having a better chance of controlling him.

Cowboys FS Gerald Sensabaugh vs. Eagles TE Brent Celek: The Eagles' leading receiver is tight end Brent Celek. When you study the games, it is very evident that he is Vick’s favorite target. When Vick gets in trouble or he feels pressure, Celek is the guy he is looking to.

Celek is similar to Jason Witten in the way he plays. He lines up all over the formation, like Witten, but when Celek can and will do the most damage is when he lines up inside as a normal, true tight end. You will generally see Celek line up on the offensive left side because when he runs his routes to that side, it is easier for the left-handed Vick to make that throw.

Celek is too dangerous a player to cover with Frank Walker, who earlier in the season did a nice job against tight ends but has not been as productive lately. I could see Ryan putting Sensabaugh in coverage to deal with Celek. Sensabaugh does have the cover skill to run with Celek and can be physical enough when he needs to be.

Last week, Jets coach Rex Ryan tried to cover Celek with cornerback Antonio Cromartie, but that didn’t work out well. Of the two Cowboys safeties, Sensabaugh does have the better cover skill, and next to dealing with McCoy, this will be the next most important job for the defense.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Eagles preview

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
11:42
AM ET

Scout's Eye
When Jason Garrett's Cowboys met at Valley Ranch this week, all they had to do to be reminded of what these Philadelphia Eagles did to them in Week 8 is sit down in their meeting rooms and study the tape of the total domination to understand what they will be up against this weekend.

The Cowboys have faced some quality opponents, but when you study the Eagles you see nothing like the other teams in the league with what you have to deal with from an offensive standpoint. There were days when I was in Green Bay and playing the '90s Cowboys when you went into a game against them trying to figure out how you were going to stop Emmitt Smith from running the ball or Jay Novacek on third downs or Michael Irvin on the slant. Just when you thought that you had one of those areas taken care of, the other players would find a way to take the game from you. This Eagles offense puts a lot of those same thoughts in my mind that I experienced against those Cowboys teams.

In the last meeting between these two teams, Rob Ryan and his staff made the decision to not allow these Eagles wide receivers to make any vertical plays down the field. Safeties Abram Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh, as Ryan put it, played "503 yards deep" from the line of scrimmage. The problem with this decision for Ryan was with his safeties so deep, he opened up the middle of the field.

Then to compound the problem, he lost Sean Lee in the game -- the only linebacker that was athletic enough to make a play in the middle of the field. This was a horrible situation for Ryan because it meant that he had to rely on Keith Brooking and Bradie James, who were exposed in coverage and in the running game. With the deep safeties, it allowed tight end Brent Celek and wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson to work crossing routes inside.

When I have studied Vick his last four games, the one area that he likes to attack is the middle of the field. Matter of fact, his best and worst throws come when he is working the middle of the field. Vick just looks more comfortable throwing to targets right in front of him, but like I mentioned he will make mistakes trying to fit ball down the middle against safeties.

McCoy looms as multi-dimensional threat


The deep safeties also hurt Ryan in the running game dealing with LeSean McCoy.

There are three areas that McCoy can hurt your defense.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
AP Photo/Matt SlocumExpect LeSean McCoy to give Sean Lee and the Cowboys defense the most fits.
The first one is on the stretch play when you have the offensive line with full flow running with defenders and he takes the ball all the way to the edge and around the corner. The Cowboys got gashed in the last meeting by the down blocking by tackles Jason Peters and Todd Herremans, who were able to set the edge allowing the ball to get outside. Watch how Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher and Kenyon Coleman play in this contest, because if the Eagles are running the ball well on the edges, it's probably because the defensive ends are not doing their jobs getting off blocks.

The second way that McCoy hurts you is with the sprint draw. Teams have various ways they run the draw, but the Eagles take full advantage of the ball-handling skill of Vick. Teams try so hard to get up the field and attack the Eagles before they get going that it leaves lanes in the defense. As the defense is coming up the field, Vick does an outstanding job of tucking the ball into McCoy and letting him use his vision and quickness to get the ball up the field past the oncoming defenders.

The final way that McCoy can hurt you is as a pass catcher, whether that is in the flat or more impressively in the screen game. The Eagles love to run screens and they will do them from anywhere on the field. The Eagles are the most dangerous when they get into the red zone and once again try to take advantage of defenders getting up the field. The Eagles will throw wide receiver screens to Jackson, they will use Celek in a delay screen where he blocks for two or three counts, then works his way to the outside in the open field, but the player that gives defenses the most trouble is McCoy. He catches the ball so well on the move and when he gets one-on-one, he can break anyone down. The problem for Ryan is that he doesn't really know when offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is going to use these screens, but he knows they will.

The Eagles' struggles this season have been with their offensive line. Against the Cowboys in the last meeting, I felt like that they were better than the Dallas front seven. There were too many plays where the Cowboys didn't do a good enough job of getting off blocks allowing the Eagles to control the game upfront.

The best offensive lineman for the Eagles is Peters at left tackle. In the games I was able to study, Peters more than has held his own, whereas earlier in the season, he didn't appear to move all that well. I thought he moved way too slow with his feet, but that has changed.

Teams have taken advantage of the Eagles inside with guards Evan Mathis and Danny Watkins. Rookie center Jason Kelce will get overpowered at the point of attack. The mobility of Vick and the quickness of McCoy really assist this offensive line in overcoming a great deal of their shortcomings.

Smith handles Babin once more


The last time that these two clubs met, there was a great deal of pressure on Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo because of the direction that the defense was going. Losses were mounting and the players that were brought in had yet to truly play as a collective unit.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/Matt SlocumJason Babin will play wide on the outside shoulders of the tackles seeking to add to his league-leading sack total.
The buzzword that you will hear in all the pregame shows will be how the Eagles play this defensive alignment of a "Wide 9," which is simply, defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin play wide on the outside shoulder of the tackles Doug Free and Tyron Smith. At times they will be a full man removed from the tackle. When you play this type of scheme, you are asking your ends to get up the field as quickly as possible to disrupt the running game but more importantly cause problems in the passing game. Pass rush is where the Eagles cause the most problems.

Usually your best pass rusher will rush from the offensive left hand side, but the Eagles' best rusher comes from the offensive right. The Green Bay Packers are the same way with Clay Matthews rushing from the offensive right.

Babin, who has a league-leading 18 sacks, is as explosive as any rusher Smith will face all season. As a matter of fact, Babin was the rusher who gave Smith the most trouble with his inside move. Talking to Smith, he now understands what he is up against and I think he is better for it.

Babin is unique with this move because he is able to do it at the depth and level of the quarterback's drop. He has a real feel for how to push up the field and get all of the weight of the tackle on his outside foot then quickly duck underneath. Smith really struggled when Babin used this technique on him.

At the other end is Trent Cole against Free. There should be serious cause for concern here because of the struggles that Free has had with technique this season. Cole is a better run player than Babin.

The Eagles are at their best in run defense when the ball goes wide and they are able to handle the play. It is when teams have run the ball at them that they have had their struggles. I thought the Seahawks did a real nice job with this in the regard that they physically came off the ball, getting hats on hats and making the Eagles fight blocks then have to deal with Marshawn Lynch.

The Eagles' weakness on defense is at linebacker. In studying Akeem Jordan, Jamar Chaney, Brian Rolle and Casey Matthews, I didn't feel like they did a good enough job of taking on blocks. With the injury to Felix Jones, I would not be one bit surprised to see Jason Garrett try to attack this Eagles defense with fullback Tony Fiammetta, Jones and Sammy Morris going straight ahead.

Teams have had also had success running the ball with misdirection plays. By that, I mean starting flow one way and getting the defense to react then bringing the ball backside with an H-blocker or fullback. If Jones was healthy, this is something you might see more of.

In the secondary, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are the corners with Joselio Hanson as the nickel. Asomugha will play the slot. The last time that these two teams met, he covered Jason Witten when he was in line and in the slot.

Something else to watch for is that Castillo has gone back to some of the old exotic blitz schemes that former defensive coordinator Jim Johnson used. In the Jets and Dolphins games, Castillo used two down linemen and had Cole, Babin and Matthews standing up in the middle of the defense. The Cowboys have had their troubles with blitz pickups when teams put pressure in the middle of the pocket with twist stunts.

Two things must happen this week: the Cowboys receivers must find a way to win on the outside and the offensive line must be able to pick up blitzes in the middle of Eagles defense. If they struggle in either area, you will see sacks much like Mark Sanchez and Matt Moore suffered in their games against the Eagles.

Behind enemy lines: Brent Celek

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
12:45
PM ET
Galloway & Company go behind enemy lines with Eagles tight end Brent Celek to preview the Christmas Eve matchup against the Cowboys.

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On the Eagle's early-season struggles:

When we started this season, I mean we did not play well at all. I don't think we played very well as a team, and the reason why I'm so excited right now, Galloway, is because I've never played on a team that has this type of talent and is now playing together as a team. And that excites me. What happened in the past happened in the past.

On Jerry Jones saying he's scared of the Eagles:

I don't know what to say about that. The way that we played these past two weeks, yeah. I mean we dominated games and we overcame adversity, which is hard to do in this league. I think I would fear us too at some point, but then again we've showed points of weakness. So we just got to prove that we're consistent, and if we continue to do that then I think a lot of people will fear us.

Other side: Inquirer's Jeff McLane

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
9:40
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- It's a little later than normal, but we bring you Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer with all that you need to know about the Eagles in this week's version of The Other Side:

Archer - What's the vibe in Philly this week? There is a feeling down here that the Eagles are dangerous and could end up winning this division after all.

McLane - The Eagles certainly can't think they're going to win the NFC East because not only does a lot have to happen for that to occur, but they really don't even deserve to be in this spot. And that's probably beneficial to how they'll play Saturday if the Jets beat the Giants and they're still alive. They really aren't taking themselves seriously and thus they don't have much to lose, which is probably why the Cowboys sound a little nervous.

Archer - Say the Eagles fall flat in their final two games, is there any real possibility that Andy Reid could be in jeopardy?

McLane - There's a possibility but all signs point to Reid returning for his 14th season. He still has two years left on his contract - at $5 million per - so the Eagles aren't likely to eat that. And the front office probably feels he deserves one more shot to finally win a Super Bowl. Michael Vick will definitely be back for one more reason and a regime change at this point would probably make little sense.

Archer - For all of the talk about Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson in the passing game, Brent Celek has become the go-to guy. Is that because of the attention to the guys on the outside?

McLane - There are a number of reasons Celek's numbers are up. Vick, for one, is throwing the ball to him a little more and some of that has to do with the attention Jackson and Maclin are drawing. And two, Celek isn't dropping as many balls thrown in his direction as he was last season.

Archer -Jason Babin has been a terror with 18 sacks. Is it simply a case of Jim Washburn knowing how to use him best?

McLane - Babin, a speed rusher, is tailor made for Washburn's wide-nine. He's also a little too focused on getting sacks at the expense of the run. But that's what Washburn asks out of his ends. Having Trent Cole, who does make more of an effort at stopping the run, on the other side of the defensive line has also benefitted Babin.

Archer - I know it's a QB league, but how good has LeSean McCoy been this year? Twenty touchdowns is just ridiculous

McLane - He's been excellent. Some people like to say he's just a system running back, but that is just plain ignorance. McCoy, on many occasions, has simply made something when there really wasn't anything there. He's a superstar in waiting and may already be at that level.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Eagles preview

January, 1, 2011
1/01/11
5:37
PM ET
Scout's Eye
The league hoped this would be a matchup of two teams once again fighting for a division title, much like last season. It has turned into a preseason game in cold conditions.

The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys will be starting backup quarterbacks this week but for different reasons. The Eagles have nothing to play for after a crazy week of playing a Tuesday night game against the Minnesota Vikings and getting Michael Vick banged up with a quad contusion. They will have to turn around and play a wild card game next week, so Andy Reid is taking the smart approach by resting his Pro Bowl quarterback.

The Eagles are a dynamic offensive team with Vick in the lineup, but without him you can really see the flaws of this offensive line. When these two teams met in the second week of December, it was impressive the amount of pressure that defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni was able to generate. Vick took some tremendous shots in that game, and it seemed to affect the way he threw the ball and his willingness to take off and run with the ball.

The Vikings took the same game plan and attacked the Eagles’ front and backs. With Vick out of the lineup, the Eagles lose that ability to have their quarterback save the line when they struggle to hold their blocks for any length of time.

What Vick does is he extends the play. Kevin Kolb has mobility but nowhere near as effective as Vick. The plan for the Cowboys should be simple: continue to attack this Eagles' offensive line, which will struggle.

For all the money that the Eagles spent on Jason Peters, the results can’t be what they hoped for. He is not a dominant player and has his moments where he struggles on the edge and with his ability to hold blocks.

On the other side, Winston Justice is athletic, but he plays way too soft and tends to catch blocks. Justice tries to steer or take his man where he wants to go instead of hammering him off the ball. For all the games where Anthony Spencer was a nonfactor, the Eagles game earlier was one of his best.

The Cowboys will be able to rush these tackles and have some success getting to Kolb because he doesn’t have the skill of Vick to avoid the rush.

Something else to watch in this game is the ability of the Cowboys to put pressure on these Eagles running backs to have to play in pass protection. As good as LeSean McCoy is running and catching the ball, he struggles as a pass blocker. In the Vikings game Tuesday, they put him to the test. The Eagles want to get the ball in his hands as much as possible, but there will be times where he is going to have to step up and help Kolb out in blitz pickup.

The Eagles are a big screen team and are not afraid to do it at any point on the field. The Cowboys have to be careful when they do blitz that McCoy doesn’t sneak into the flat or work into the middle of the field and take a pass.

It’s not that McCoy doesn’t give the effort in pass protection. He is much like a Felix Jones in that he tries, but the technique and the results don’t always work out.

On the outside these Eagles receivers are tough to deal with. DeSean Jackson was listed as questionable this week, so like Vick, he might sit. Jackson had a monster game the first time these teams met. As the Cowboys found out, any time the Eagles get him the ball on the move, he puts a great deal of pressure on the defense.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
Barbara Johnston/US PresswireThe Cowboys won't have to deal with Pro Bowler Michael Vick, who will get some rest to be healthy for a wild-card game next week.
Both Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have speed, but their most impressive trait is their quickness. The Eagles like to use Jackson on screens or misdirection sweeps. Maclin is the better route runner of the two and appears to have the better of the hands. Maclin gets in and out of breaks without any wasted movements.

At tight end, the Eagles have a nice player in Brent Celek, who is an upfield player and is always a factor in the red zone. Celek has more than dependable hands and is usually a mismatch for linebackers in coverage. The Eagles have also begun to use backup Clay Harbor in the red zone more as well. Harbor is like Celek in that he can get up the field and is decent enough as a get-in-the-way blocker to help in the running game.

The weapons are still there offensively for the Eagles, but the key man in the offense is not. Vick has played like an MVP in 2010 and has hidden the sins of this offensive line, so it will be interesting to see how well they function with Kolb in the lineup.

When studying the game tape after the first matchup, I came away with the thought that this wasn’t one of Jon Kitna’s better games. There were too many times where plays were well-protected and he saw ghosts, which led to rushed decisions. There were plays that were left on the field -- the pass to Roy Williams early in the game along the sideline, the forced pass to Miles Austin that ended up as a tipped-ball interception and the underthrow to Martellus Bennett on a blown coverage by the Eagles.

When you are playing a team like the Eagles, they put images in your head of blitzing and attacking, which causes a quarterback to make poor choices.

For the most part, the line did a nice job of handling what Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott threw at them. Trent Cole is the Eagles’ best pass rusher and once again will be matched up with Doug Free, who wasn’t at his best last week against the Cardinals.

Cole doesn’t get the credit that he deserves as a run player. Free will need to block him throughout the play. He is not one of those guys that you give one shot to and he goes away.

When you play in Philadelphia, you always have to deal with the crowd noise. This is always an advantage to a guy like Cole that gets off the snap with solid quickness.

In the secondary, the Eagles have a big time player in Asante Samuel. Samuel didn’t play in the first game and has been nicked up some the last few weeks, but he was in the lineup against the Vikings on Tuesday.

Whether it’s Stephen McGee or Kitna at quarterback for the Cowboys on Sunday, they will be well aware of Samuel, who loves to bait quarterbacks into thinking that their receivers are open, then drive on the football to make a play.

Samuel also has a history of not wanting anything to do in the tackling side of the game. There have been times where he flies forward on a play to miss badly. In the past, teams have tried to take advantage of this part of his game.

Safety Quintin Mikell is no Brian Dawkins, but McDermott likes to use him in that way. Against the Cowboys last time out, Mikell was a steady performer. He will play forward and around the line of scrimmage. He will also be used on the blitz, which is an area that the Eagles have been outstanding at over the years.

Kitna missed a slot blitz by Joselio Hanson for a sack, and if McGee is the starter on Sunday, he will see more of the same. The Eagles like to create confusion with their scheme. Jason Garrett will tailor a game plan that won’t expose McGee too much. The throws that he was able to make were quick ones. Slants or inside routes to receivers and Jason Witten working all over the field will help.

Where the Cowboys had some success was getting the ball to the backs on the outside in space. Garrett will ask his quarterback to make throws without much reading involved. The most important thing is that if McGee does in fact start, he received all the reps in practice this week and he does have the confidence of his teammates to get the job done.

Scout's Eye: Eagles-Cowboys review

December, 14, 2010
12/14/10
11:11
AM ET
Coming into this match up with the Eagles, Jason Garrett and his staff understood the difficult task of having to game plan for a team that had some many explosive players on the offensive side of the football.

In many ways preparing for the Eagles has become more of a task because the emergence of Michael Vick as the quarterback. In years past, going into games against the Eagles, Donovan McNabb was the trigger man for the offense, but as in games that finished the 2009 season and the NFC Wild Card game, McNabb clearly wasn’t the player that he had been.

Scout's Eye
In studying Vick for this game, the Eagles offense operated at a different level than that of the previous McNabb teams. Vick still showed the ability to beat you with his legs, but now he has become an accurate pocket passer. There was that threat that if he got in trouble and the pocket broke down that he would be able to run his way out of trouble.

Going into this game, I felt like that the Eagles offensive line was going to struggle with this Cowboys defensive front the longer they had to hold their blocks. Paul Pasqualoni’s game plan was a sound one by trying to hit Vick at every opportunity. By punishing Vick, you affect the way he runs the ball or his willingness to run the ball and you affect the way he passes it.

Cowboys outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer played well in this game. Early in the game, the Eagles tried to block Ware with fullback Owen Schmidt, tight end Brent Celek and running back LeSean McCoy at various times but Ware was able to play off blocks and get pressure on Vick and be a factor in the running game. On the interception by Bradie James, Ware was able to beat McCoy and cause Vick to have to alter his throwing motion, which caused the ball to be delivered high for the interception.

Spencer was relentless in the way he played in this game. The way that he was able to get hits on Vick throughout the game was exactly what Pasqualoni had planned going into this game. He was also had a tipped ball and kept nice leverage on a screen that the Eagles set up that had a chance to be a big play if he is not there.

PODCAST
Former Cowboy Darren Woodson jumps on with Skin and ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon to break down the Cowboys' secondary.

Listen Listen
*The Cowboys lost this game because of several big plays both offensively and defensively.

The first snap of the game for the Eagles found the Cowboys in zone coverage with Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman on the same side of the field. At the snap, the line goes full flow to the right along with McCoy as Vick spins to his left on the boot. Jeremy Maclin is lined up on the outside of DeSean Jackson and starts inside toward Jenkins and safety Alan Ball. Newman now turns his attention toward Jackson working his way up the field. Newman gets turned, which causes him to have to adjust on the move which allows Jackson to get an advantage on him.

Vick is now standing on the left side of the pocket with no rush. Spencer is on the outside of him but is holding his ground, thinking that Vick might take off. Vick then launches the ball down the field to Jackson, who has separation on Newman. Ball sees what is happening and tries to move in that direction but is there only to make the tackle on Jackson.

*With 11:43 left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles take over the ball on their own 9-yard line with the score tied. The Eagles break the huddle in their three-wide receiver package and the Cowboys counter in the nickel.

Jenkins is in press coverage on the outside against Jackson. At the snap, safety Gerald Sensabaugh walks forward and Ball begins to roll deep. Jackson is off the line with Jenkins right on his hip, Jackson sharply cuts outside and down toward the sideline, Jenkins plants, gathers then tries to drive back into position to play the ball. Vick has delivered the ball to the outside as Jackson makes his break.

Jenkins plays the ball correctly technique-wise with his off hand, but the route and the spot of the pass is just too good. The diving Jenkins cannot make the play.

From the near safety position, Sensabaugh is too far forward to help because of alignment and the speed of Jackson. He is now behind the play. Ball now reacts to the play from the middle of the field and as he is working his way toward Jackson, and he slips as Jackson cuts inside of him.

No one is now in the middle of the field as Jackson is now at full speed. Orlando Scandrick and Newman are in coverage to the left side of the field. They have their men covered, stop, then begin to sprint to chase Jackson who beats them to the goal line for the 91-yard touchdown.

*After the Jackson touchdown, the Cowboys get the ball on their own 23-yard line with plenty of time.

Garrett calls for the two-tight end package with Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett. Roy Williams lines up to the left side with Eagles corner Dimitri Patterson nine yards off and playing outside of Williams.

At the snap, Jon Kitna gives a play-action fake to his right. Andre Gurode is beaten off the snap and defensive tackle Antonio Dixon is right in the face of Kitna. Leonard Davis tries to help Gurode but is unable to offer any. Williams starts his route up the field breaking down at the sticks. Patterson turns inside after seeing Williams settling. Patterson then plants and drives under Williams, who has now lost his balance and is falling backwards. Patterson now is driving outside and to the ball.

Kitna, with Dixon in his face, has to hurry the ball to the outside really unaware of Williams falling and how well Patterson has played the route. Williams is left scrambling to try to get in front of Patterson, who is in much better shape to play the ball and make the interception.

*As good as Kitna had been these last several weeks for this offense, this wasn’t one of his better games overall. It appeared that he felt more hurried throwing the football than he really was.

He missed a blitz pickup, which caused him a sack by Joselio Hanson on a slot blitz. Kitna moves Felix Jones to his left pre-snap. On the right side of the formation, he has Miles Austin in the slot working against Hanson with a safety behind him. At the snap, right tackle Marc Colombo fans to the outside and Davis down inside. Kitna’s eyes never see Hanson, who runs between Colombo and Davis unblocked.

By alignment, Kitna should have known that there was a chance that Hanson would be coming on the blitz.

Kitna also missed a throw to Bennett on a busted coverage by the Eagles that should have been a touchdown if he threw the ball further down the field. He had Roy Williams open earlier in the game but threw the ball behind Williams, who had to adjust but was unable to keep the defender from making the play.

Kitna did make two nice throws to Witten down the middle of the field with one of those resulting in a touchdown. But again, as good as Jon Kitna had been in his starts, this is one I am sure he will go back and feel like he left some plays on the field.

Scout's Eye: Eagles-Cowboys preview

December, 9, 2010
12/09/10
11:00
PM ET

The Cowboys have faced several outstanding quarterbacks already this season, but they have yet to face one that has the talents of Michael Vick.

When I see Vick play, I have to laugh at the fact that any team in the NFL could have had Vick's numerous skills on their roster if they had only offered the Eagles enough in the form of a draft pick. Last offseason, the Eagles made the commitment of playing Kevin Kolb, but when Kolb was banged up against the Packers opening day, Vick was pressed into the starting lineup and Kolb quickly became a backup quarterback.

Scout's Eye
It is truly amazing that Vick was gone from the game for two seasons then spent one season as the "wildcat" quarterback. He now is nowhere near that quarterback that struggled to read defenses or to make accurate throws that he was in Atlanta.

The ability to escape the rush and make plays with his feet is still there, but he now can beat you throwing the football. Vick no longer has to play with just a simple high-low read on the boot. He can stand in the pocket and hit receivers on vertical routes or across the middle. He can throw screens and checkdowns with touch. He can fit balls into tight spots with the confidence of Drew Brees or Peyton Manning.

Vick has become the quarterback that scouts thought he would be, except no one believed that he had the ability to make all the throws and can be successful executing them. When you now watch Vick throw, there is some snap to it. He can deliver the ball on the line. The ball isn't all over the place, and receivers don't have to make adjustments to catch each throw like his teammates in Atlanta did.

These Eagles' receivers, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, are outstanding in space. Any time they get the ball on the move, it's difficult for defenders to deal with. Both Jackson and Maclin have speed, but their most impressive trait is their quickness.

The Eagles like to use Jackson on screens or misdirection sweeps. Maclin is the better route runner of the two and appears to have the better hands. Maclin gets in and out of breaks without any wasted movements.

You have heard me talk about Miles Austin and the way he runs routes without changing speeds; Maclin is the same type of player. He runs his routes all the same speed and makes it difficult for corners to get a read on him.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesEagles receiver DeSean Jackson is fast, but it's his quickness that really creates issues for defenses.
At tight end, the Eagles have a nice player in Brent Celek, who is an upfield player and is always a factor in the red zone. Celek has more than dependable hands and is usually a mismatch for linebackers in coverage.

Would not be the least bit surprised to see Paul Pasqualoni have Anthony Spencer try to hammer Celek all night off the line of scrimmage. Any time you give Celek free access in a route, he is going to be a problem.

Other than quarterback, the area that I feel like the Eagles have made the biggest jump is at running back. For many years, I was a Brian Westbrook fan for all the ways he could hurt you in a game, but with LeSean McCoy in that role now, the Eagles have an even more dynamic player.

McCoy is an explosive ball carrier that can make you miss in the open field or punish you with power. He is good in space, and his hands are steady. Vick likes to throw him the ball in the flat on simple plays, and he has the ability to turn them into large gains. Would not call him a killer as a pass blocker, but he will chip and then get in the route. Does a nice job of running the stretch play, finding the hole and then making the cut inside.

The Cowboys' defenders need to get to him before he can get started. He hits the hole in a hurry and can extend the run. The Eagles like to run a play-action game with boots and waggles off action involving McCoy.

The Eagles' offensive line benefits from players like Vick, McCoy, Celek and the two receivers. These players that I have mentioned all hide the sins of this line, whether it's Vick's ability to scramble and avoid the rush, McCoy busting through a defense that is not cleanly blocked or Jackson running with a screen.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesLeSean McCoy has skills in the open field similar to former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, but he can also punish you with power.
There are some flaws along this line when it comes to pass protection. The Eagles' line doesn't handle movement all that well and will set on different levels in pass protection. Teams have been able to create pressure because the longer this line has to hold a block, the more trouble it has finishing the block.

The Bears were able to get pressure with a four-man rush and movement up front. Pasqualoni will try to do the same, keeping his rushers wide and playing coverage behind the rush. If the Cowboys can hold up on the back end, the opportunity to get someone home on the rush will increase.

*Week 16 and the Wild Card game last season against the Cowboys are two games that Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott would like to forget.

In neither of those two contests was his defense ready to play or did he and the staff manage to come up with any type of answers to slow down this Jason Garrett-led Cowboys offense.

McDermott is in his second season since taking over for the late Jim Johnson, who was a master at creating all types of blitz packages and schemes to get your offense off the field. McDermott will give you different looks defensively, but he isn’t close to the exotic blitzer that Johnson was.

The defensive line likes to be active up front with movement, and the linebackers will play tight to the line of scrimmage. When the Eagles do blitz, it’s usually through the double "A" gap with linebackers Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims.

From the secondary, McDermott will bring safety Quintin Mikell. who is playing the role of Brian Dawkins but is nowhere near as effective as Dawkins once was in this scheme.

The Eagles' best pass rusher is defensive end Trent Cole. Cowboys left tackle Doug Free once again draws the assignment of handling the opponent's best rusher. Unlike Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, Cole plays the run well, so Free will need to be at his best each snap and work to finish his blocks and not allow Cole to chase down the play.

In the secondary, the ball-hawking cornerback Asante Samuel returns to the lineup after missing the Chicago and Houston games with a knee injury. In Samuel’s place, nickel man Joselio Hanson has been the starter at left corner.

Samuel has a history as a gambling player. Samuel loves to bait quarterbacks into thinking their receivers are open, then driving on the football to make a play.

Samuel also has a history of not wanting anything to do with the tackling side of the game. There have been times where he flies forward on a play to miss badly.

I would expect this Cowboys offense to test him on the outside early to see the condition of his knee and also see how committed he is in playing in a physical game. Any ball that spills to his side of the field will be a soft force and will be something worth watching.

Behind enemy lines with Brent Celek

December, 9, 2010
12/09/10
6:00
PM ET
Galloway & Company go behind enemy lines with Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek as he prepares to square off against the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys.

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NFC East Beat Writers series: Eagles

June, 30, 2010
6/30/10
1:45
PM ET
We welcome you to Day 3 of our series on the NFC East. We're a little late, and for that we apologize. Today we look at the Eagles, a team that lost three times to the Cowboys last season. And with that we talked to Philadelphia Inquirer Eagles beat writer Jeff McLane.


Five things to worry about

1. Offensive line. There are questions at each spot. Tackle Jason Peters wasn't great and Winston Justice was solid but he has to show he's more than a pass blocker. Jamaal Jackson is coming back from ACL surgery and might miss part of camp. I don't think I can count on him. Nick Cole had problems in the Dallas game snapping the ball. A lot of question marks.

2. Cornerback. Asante Samuel on one side, but teams showed beause he didn't play press coveage they can do some double-screens to give him problems. Ellis Hobbs replaces Sheldon Brown. The Eagles seem to think if they can get to the passer it's going to be OK.

3. Free safety. Nate Allen is an upgrade from Macho Harris, who moved to corner. Allen will compete with Quintin Demps.

4. Strong side linebacker. Not sure if Moise Fokou is big enough and he's not great in pass coverage. Stewart Bradley is another player who might come back and do something.

5. Coaching. Andy Reid has got a little pressure on him just because Donovan McNabb is not here anymore. I'm sure people want to see if he can win without Donovan. It's the biggest test of Andy's career.


Five things not to worry about:

Wide receiver. They've got DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Maclin will be better than last year. And when you add Jason Avant, you might have the best slot receiver in the league. I think they got one of the better wide receiver corps in the NFC East.

Tight end. Brent Celek can only get better. It's a little worrysome about the backups. Clay Harbor and Cornelius Ingram both have issues. Ingram hasn't played in almost three years because of two torn ACLs.

Defensive end. Trent Cole and Juqua Parker are solid, and adding Brandon Graham makes this a position of strength. They made defensive end a priority in the offseason and they felt like they needed to get to the quarterback. I think Graham will be a playmaker.

Quarterback. I know it's the No. 1 question coming in, but they are a lot more worried about other things than this. Kevin Kolb has been in the system for three years and he's developed a rapport with the wide receivers. I think Kolb will do pretty well.

5. David Akers. He's as good as it gets. A couple of down years, but he's rejuvenated.

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