By Shawn S. Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys were the only team from the NFC East to win in Week 1, and they hope to hold onto that lead after their second game – one against their division rival Philadelphia Eagles. The two teams split their games last season, but this is a different Eagles team. There are two new players on the offense in starters DeMarco Murray and quarterback Sam Bradford, and Cowboys fans know how important Murray was to their playoff run last season. Here is a look at the Eagles heading into Week 2.
The Philadelphia Eagles lost their first game of the season to the Atlanta Falcons, 26-24. While they lost, the Eagles let the Falcons get out to a big start and then roared back in the second half to almost win the game. However, turnovers hurt the Eagles, and the hard fought comeback turned into a disappointing loss. The Eagles now sit alongside the New York Giants and Washington Redskins at 0-1 in the NFC East, knowing that a win over the Cowboys in the second week could move them into first place.
Philadelphia Eagles on Offense
The Philadelphia Eagles made major changes in the offseason. They let wide receiver Jeremy Maclin leave, traded away running back LeSean McCoy, and then traded their starting quarterback Nick Foles. Replacing them is former first overall draft pick Sam Bradford, the 2014 Offensive Player of the Year DeMarco Murray, and former San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews. With no addition at wide receiver, the question is whether or not the Eagles could continue to move the ball.
Bradford struggled in the first half on Monday night against the Falcons, but he tore it up in the second half. Bradford finished by completing 36 of 52 passes (69.2 percent) for 336 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The second pick came at the end of the game, but it wasn’t Bradford’s fault, and the receiver tipped the ball to the defender. Bradford was almost perfect in the second half outside of some bad routes, and it wasn’t his fault the Eagles lost.
Cowboys fans want to see how DeMarco Murray plays since leaving Dallas, and he was almost shut down in Week 1. He carried the ball eight times for nine total yards and caught four passes for just 11 yards. However, Murray was damaging in one other way. He scored two of the touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air. Even when he can’t run, he still affects the game. It was Darren Sproles who led the way, rushing with five rushes for 50 yards and seven catches for 76 yards. The rushing game is a mix of three players, with Ryan Mathews as the third, and that is what Dallas needs to stop.
Philadelphia Eagles on Defense
The reason the Philadelphia Eagles lost was because of their defense. Julio Jones caught nine passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the game. If Dez Bryant was healthy, he would be the one to beat Philadelphia in Week 2. However, Bryant isn’t playing and the biggest target is now tight end Jason Witten. Only the receivers on the Falcons team really hurt the Eagles, so if they can improve against Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley, the Eagles should have a chance to win.
Against the run, they did allow rookie Tavon Coleman to run for 80 yards on 20 carries and Devonta Freeman picked up 87 yards on 10 carries. The Eagles will have Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden to contend with, but neither player was great in Week 1, so the Eagles deficiencies may not hurt them against the Cowboys.
The Eagles had two interceptions in the Falcons game, so they will set out to shake up Tony Romo. This game will be the Eagles defense against Tony Romo, and the winner will be who can have the better game in that battle.
Philadelphia Eagles’ Players to Watch
DeMarco Murray is not the player who will lead the Eagles to victory over Dallas; that is quarterback Sam Bradford. However, when it comes to the Cowboys, the player to watch is DeMarco Murray. In 2014, Murray was the NFC Offensive Player of the Year, the NFL rushing leader, and broke the record for the most rushing yards in a season for Dallas. With that said, the Cowboys rushing attack in Week 1 was anemic while Murray didn’t play well at all against the Falcons. Cowboys fans want to know if they will really miss Murray this season and this is the game where they find out.
Malcolm Jenkins is the man who can really disrupt the Cowboys offense. With no running back really shining in Week 1, Tony Romo is expected to do more to win. Free safety Jenkins finished the first week with seven tackles, six solo, as well as three passes defensed and one tackle for a loss. With Dez Bryant out of action, Jason Witten becomes the number one receiver and Jenkins will work to disrupt that aspect of the passing game.
Tony Romo proved in Week 1 that he could win a game without his biggest playmaker Dez Bryant and without a running game that comes close to the 2014 playoff team. He will have to repeat that performance in Week 2. However, the Cowboys defense is not full strength and will face a very good quarterback in Sam Bradford and a running back who knows the team well in DeMarco Murray. Without Bryant on offense and with questions at running back, the Eagles have the advantage when their defense is on the field and their offense should be able to handle Dallas. If Dez Bryant was healthy, this would be a close game. Without him, the Eagles have the advantage in this early season matchup.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.