|ESPN.com: Dallas Cowboys||[Print without images]|
We'll look at one matchup from both sides of the ball:
Cowboys RT Marc Colombo vs. Eagles LDE Juqua Parker: Victor Abiamiri, the Eagles' starting left defensive end, is doubtful with a knee injury. The Cowboys could take advantage of his absence by running right at the 6-2, 250-pound Parker, who has a significant size disadvantage against the 6-8, 320-pound Colombo. Strongside linebacker Chris Gocong (quadriceps and hamstring) is also doubtful, so the Eagles could be especially vulnerable on running plays when Parker is on the strong side.
Establishing the run is especially important against the Eagles, who thrive in third-and-long situations. Philadelphia ranks among the league leaders in sacks (23) and turnovers forced (21) in large part because of its exotic blitz packages. If the Cowboys are running the ball effectively, Philadelphia defensive coordinator Sean McDermott can't be as creative with his calls.
Running back Marion Barber hasn't averaged 4.0 yards per carry in a game since straining his quadriceps in the second week. He's lacked his normal burst and power. However, according to Cowboys coaches, Barber is close to full strength now. He should have opportunities to hammer away on the right side.
Eagles WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin vs. Cowboys CBs Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins: After using premium draft picks on Jackson and Maclin the last two years, the Eagles suddenly have one of the most explosive young receiver corps in the NFL.
Jenkins said the primary goal for the Cowboys' secondary Sunday will be to prevent the big play. That will take a heck of a performance by the cornerbacks and some help from the pass rush.
Philadelphia has 50-plus-yard touchdowns in six of seven games this season. Jackson has six such touchdowns this season -- including a punt return and reverse -- which ties and team record and is two shy of the most for a season in NFL history. Maclin, a rookie first-rounder, started slowly but has touchdowns of 51, 40 and 23 yards in the last four games.
"All those guys can stretch the field and play fast," Jenkins said. "I love challenges like that."
The Cowboys' cornerbacks pride themselves on being aggressive and physical, but they have to exercise some caution against the fast Philly receivers.
Secondary coach Dave Campo has stressed this week to the cornerbacks to watch for double-moves, which Jackson in particular often uses to get open deep.
"We've got to use good eyes," Campo said.
If not, the Cowboys' corners could be looking at the back of green jerseys en route to the end zone.