Philadelphia Eagles: How the Eagles Match Up Against the Dallas Cowboys

Alexander OnushcoContributor IIIJuly 12, 2012

Philadelphia Eagles: How the Eagles Match Up Against the Dallas Cowboys

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    Earlier in the week, we went position by position and compared the Philadelphia Eagles to the New York Giants. Next up: the Dallas Cowboys

    The Eagles and Cowboys made their fair share of improvements this offseason, and both are ready to make a playoff push.  Fans from both sides will argue why their team is the best, and plenty of valid points can be made for both teams.

    Based on talent alone, however, let us see which team has the better roster on paper.


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    Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles

    Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, Rudy Carpenter

    As has been stated before in countless other articles, Michael Vick is perhaps the league’s most electrifying quarterback.  If you are looking for a big play, then he is your guy. 

    His problem, however, is his tendency to be careless with the ball and take too many hits.  If he wants to be considered among the elite at his position, he must learn how to protect the ball better and limit the number of opportunities defenses have to knock him out of the game.

    With his knack for missing games over the course of a 16-game season, Vick must be insured with a quality backup.  While the Eagles have potential there, they don’t have a sure thing.  Kafka has reportedly looked sharper this offseason, but there is no telling if he could carry the team for a couple games. 

    Foles was drafted in April to sit behind Vick and Kafka while he mastered his footwork and learned the nuances of the pro game.  He has a strong arm and the requisite physical tools to succeed in the NFL, but much depends on how well he transitions to the big leagues.

    Tony Romo gets much criticism for not being able to win when it matters most, but he still needs to be recognized as a top-10 quarterback in the league.  In the mold of Brett Favre, Romo can be considered a gunslinger.  On the positive, he will help his team put up big numbers on offense. 

    However, his sometimes reckless style of throwing also allows for more interceptions.  The past few years, he has been better with his reads and makes smarter throws than he did when he was younger.  If he can master the mental side of the game and come through in the clutch, fans will become much more appreciative of his talents.

    Backing Romo up is Kyle Orton, who has plenty of experience as a starter.  The Cowboys have the best backup QB in the division, and if Romo were to go down, Orton would still keep the team competitive.  An excellent offseason acquisition for Dallas.

    While Vick offers more upside, Romo has proven to be an exceptional quarterback and has one of the best backups in the league.

    Winner: Dallas Cowboys

Running Back

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    Philadelphia Eagles: LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk

    Dallas Cowboys: DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones, Phillip Tanner

    One of the top young players in the entire league, LeSean “Shady” McCoy provides the Philadelphia Eagles with a running back who is as lethal running the ball as he is catching it.  He is a true every-down back, which is a rare commodity in this modern era. 

    While he is still young, fans need to worry about the team overworking McCoy and wearing him down early in his career.

    To help keep McCoy fresh, the team will look to second-year player Dion Lewis to back him up.  Lewis is a smaller back than Shady but offers a similar skill set. 

    He is not, however, built to withstand an every-down role and would need to be a part of a committee if McCoy were to every miss time.  Bryce Brown and Chris Polk round out the top four running backs, and both offer some upside.

    DeMarco Murray surprised Cowboy fans as well as the entire nation when he stepped up and proved capable of being a starter in this league as a rookie.  Like McCoy, he offers three-down potential and should be a mainstay in the Dallas backfield as long as he can stay healthy. 

    However, the team still expects to use Felix Jones plenty, as he offers explosive abilities, especially on screens.  He may not be what the Cowboys originally hoped for, but he is still a quality player.

    Behind those two, Philip Tanner and rookies Darrell Scot and Lance Dunbar will battle for the third-string tailback job.  While none of those three offer any exceptional qualities, the winner of that battle should do a sufficient job.

    Both teams have immensely talented backs, but few teams have a player of McCoy’s caliber, and the Eagles also have promising depth.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

Wide Receivers

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    Philadelphia Eagles: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Marvin McNutt

    Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Andre Holmes, Kevin Ogletree, Danny Coale

    The Philadelphia Eagles have a quality group of starting receivers that offer different skills.  DeSean Jackson finally got paid this offseason and is expected to return to his typical home-run-threatening ways. 

    However, it may be Jeremy Maclin who emerges as the team’s most productive receiver.  Healthy after an offseason cancer scare last year, Maclin has been drawing rave reviews and should finally breakout for at least 1,000 yards. 

    Jason Avant is the last piece of the starting trio and has been an underrated slot specialist who has soft hands and a knack for moving the chains.

    Despite the quality of their starters, the Eagles still do not have a reliable big-bodied receiver.  Riley Cooper has yet to emerge as a consistent option in the red zone and will need to take a step forward this season if he expects to stick around. 

    The team drafted Marvin McNutt in hopes that he can eventually emerge as a solution.  He has all the requisite physical tools, but it remains to be seen if he can translate his raw talent into production on the field.

    Much like the Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys have exceptional starting receivers in Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.  Bryant has flashed his dominant abilities at times during his first few seasons in the league, but he needs to learn to finish games if he wants to be considered a true stud.  His talent, however, is obvious. 

    Austin has enjoyed a few productive seasons in Dallas but should be viewed more as a high-end No. 2 receiver.  The two starters make for a talented duo when healthy, perhaps one of the best in the league.

    With Laurent Robinson gone, however, the Cowboys are searching for a No. 3 receiver.  Fortunately, they have players like Andre Holmes, Danny Coale and Dwayne Harris who all have potential to be gifted receivers in the league.  The team needs one of them to step up, and whoever does should be in for a decent amount of targets.

    Overall, the Eagles and Cowboys boast a gifted group of receivers.  The Cowboys get the edge in this one due to Bryant’s massive upside, but the difference is ever so slight.

    Winner: Dallas Cowboys

Tight Ends

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    Philadelphia Eagles: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor, Brett Brackett

    Dallas Cowboys: Jason Witten, John Phillips, James Hanna

    Brent Celek has been a valuable piece of the Eagles’ offense the past few seasons, both as a receiver and a blocker.  He may not put up the receiving numbers of some of the elite tight ends in the league, but that may have more to do with lack of opportunities than talent. 

    Still in his prime, Celek will continue to add another wrinkle to the Eagles’ passing attack and will help with blocking now that left tackle Jason Peters is lost for the season.

    Clay Harbor is entering his third year as a pro and so far has not received enough opportunities to showcase his talents.  He does offer intriguing receiving skills and will hopefully see more targets in 2012. 

    The Eagles do not seem inclined to give in to the two-tight-end trend that has been sweeping the NFL, which means Harbor will likely still continue to struggle to get off the bench.

    The Cowboys have one of the most consistently productive tight ends in Jason Witten.  Over the past five seasons, Witten has failed to post less than 900 yards receiving.  He epitomizes the word reliable and has been Romo’s favorite target for quite some time. 

    While he did see his target numbers taper off in the second half of 2011, Witten remains a strong option in the passing game and is one of the better blocking tight ends.

    The team is also interested in the potential of backup tight end John Phillips.  With Martellus Bennett now the starter for the New York Giants, Phillips has taken over the role of second-string tight end and should be in for an increase in snaps each game.  While on the field, his greatest contributions will likely be in the vertical passing game.

    Again, a close call.  But Jason Witten has been doing this longer than any of the Eagles’ tight ends, which means the Cowboys get the nod here.

    Winner: Dallas Cowboys

Offensive Line

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    Philadelphia Eagles: Demetress Bell, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans

    Dallas Cowboys: Tyrone Smith, Nate Livings, Phil Costa, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Doug Free

    The Eagles will be returning with four starters from last year, which bodes well for line chemistry.  It would have been five, if not for Jason Peter’s injury. 

    Bell is the biggest question mark of the bunch, as he has yet to play a down for the Eagles.  OL coach Howard Mudd has been quick to offer Bell praise, which should reassure most fans.  Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans are the most experienced and proved to be great players over the course of last season.

    Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins had the luxury of starting their rookie seasons together.  Kelce was the biggest surprise, and will now handle more responsibility after proving to be a quality center as the season wore on last year.  Watkins got off to a rocky start but has now cemented himself as a starter for years to come.

    The Cowboys have one of the youngest offensive line groups in the entire league, which means there is plenty of upside here.

    Tyrone Smith heads the group, and looks poised for a big season.  He could emerge as one of the top players at his position.  On the other side, Doug Free hopes to have a bounce-back year.

    However, there are big question marks in the interior of this unit.  Nate Livings, Phil Costa and Mackenzy Bernadeau all have faced their fair share of criticism, and it remains to be seen if any or all of them will improve.

    The Eagles notch another category win as an entire offensive line unit, but the Cowboys may have the better tackles.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

Defensive End

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    Philadelphia Eagles: Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt

    Dallas Cowboys: Jason Hatcher, Kenyon Coleman, Marcus Spears, Sean Lissemore, Tyrone Crawford

    In analyzing the defense of these two teams, it must be noted that they play in different systems, and therefore the personnel are asked to do different things.

    The Eagles have one of the most talented and deep defensive end groups in the league, and it begins with Trent Cole and Jason Babin.  Both offer exceptional pass-rushing skills, which were exemplified under the new wide-nine scheme the team implemented last season. 

    While Babin is not much of a tackler, Cole has shown the ability to wrap players up and is one of the better tackling defensive ends.

    Behind them, the quartet of Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Darryl Tapp and Philip Hunt will be asked to rotate in and keep an ongoing assault on the quarterback.  All offer quality pass-rushing skills.  Graham is out to remove the “bust” label after two relatively unproductive years marred by injury. 

    Whereas the Eagles are loaded at the position, the Cowboys have a rather average group of defensive ends. 

    Jason Hatcher is a quality player, but behind him there are question marks.  There have been plenty of criticism directed Kenyon Coleman’s way, and it is fair to wonder how secure his spot on the roster is.  Marcus Spears is solid against the run, but lacks much ability to apply pressure on the quarterback.

    Rotating in will be Sean Lissemore and Tyrone Crawford.  Lissemore is expected to see an increase in snaps this season and hopefully will offer some sort of spark.  Crawford was drafted by the Cowboys in April and could work his way into seeing more snaps as the year progresses.

    The Eagles’ unit easily wins this one, but remember that the Cowboys do not put as much emphasis on their defensive ends as the Eagles do.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

Defensive Tackle/Nose Tackle

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    Philadelphia Eagles: Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Mike Patterson, Derek Landri, Antonio Dixon

    Dallas Cowboys: Jay Ratliff, Josh Brent, Robert Callaway

    Much like with their defensive ends, the Eagles are incredibly deep at the defensive tackle position.  Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson are the incumbent starters.  Jenkins offers the pass-rushing skills while Patterson defends the run better. 

    Look for rookie Fletcher Cox to eventually push Patterson for playing time, as he has the potential to be a dominant defensive tackle in the league with the skills to both get after the quarterback and clog running lanes up the middle.

    Derek Landri and Antonio Dixon are both underrated players who would likely see more playing time on another team.  They can rotate in for the starters and still apply a good amount of pressure, putting the opposing quarterback under fire the entire game.

    Thanks to their 3-4 scheme, the Dallas Cowboys primarily rely on one nose tackle.  Jay Ratliff is the obvious starter and plays at a Pro Bowl level most seasons.  Behind him, however, the team has a lot of question marks, as both Josh Brent and Robert Callaway are unproven.

    Another easy win for the Birds, thanks in large part to the difference in schemes. 

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles


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    Philadelphia Eagles: DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney

    Dallas Cowboys: DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee, Dan Connor, Anthony Spencer, Bruce Carter

    After suffering through years of poor linebacker play, the Philadelphia Eagles finally went out and got themselves some capable starters. 

    DeMeco Ryans headlines the group and will be expected to play all three downs at the middle linebacker position.  He had an off year in 2011 playing out of position in Houston, but should be able to turn things around now that he is back at his more natural position.  

    The team also drafted Mychal Kendricks in the second round of this year’s draft.  He will be the starting strong-side linebacker and should prove to be an upgrade in coverage.

    The biggest battle will be between Brian Rolle and Jamar Chaney for the weak-side linebacker position.  Rolle started most of the season at the spot in 2011 and played well.  With a full offseason, he should build on his success from last year. 

    Chaney was replaced by Kendricks on the strong side, and will look to make a name for himself on the weak side.   If not, he will be a serviceable backup for all three positions.

    The strength of the Dallas Cowboys’ defense resides in the linebacker group, which is stellar. 

    DeMarcus Ware is the best outside linebacker in the game, hands down.  His ability to put pressure on the quarterback as well as his tackling prowess makes him deadly no matter how you look at it. 

    Unfortunately, he is often double-teamed because he gets little help from the other side.  Anthony Spencer is an average starter but does not make his presence known on the field.  His future with the team is uncertain after this year.

    On the inside, the Cowboys have another stud linebacker in Sean Lee.  Equally good in coverage and against the run, Lee does it all and is becoming a vocal leader for the defense. 

    Next to him, Dan Connor will likely begin the season as the starter, but will be pushed by second-year player Bruce Carter.  Both play well against the run, with the younger Carter offering a little more upside.

    Few teams have two stud linebackers, and if Bruce Carter develops, the Cowboys may end up with three.  The Eagles are improved at the position but are not yet on Dallas’ level.

    Winner: Dallas Cowboys


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    Philadelphia Eagles: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Joselio Hanson, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh

    Dallas Cowboys: Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick, Mike Jenkins, C.J. Wilson

    Philly fans were disappointed with Asomugha’s first season with the team, but things should get better.  The team now implements a scheme that better fits his (and fellow starter Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s) skill set, which means improved play from the secondary. 

    Both he and DRC are solid cover corners and should limit the number of yards and touchdowns opposing offenses get through the air.

    Still, people must remember that Asomugha and DRC have not been to a Pro Bowl with this team.  Until we actually see the improvement, we cannot count this group among the best in the league.

    Joselio Hanson and Brandon Boykin will battle to cover the slot.  While Hanson has been dependable during his tenure in Philly, Boykin has all the tools needed to supplant him.

    The Cowboys decided to make a big overhaul at cornerback and will have two new starters.  Brandon Carr was the big offseason signing, while Morris Claiborne was the coveted first-round pick. 

    Both have elite talent, but it remains to be seen how they will perform in a new city and on a bigger stage.  More importantly, Carr and Claiborne must quickly build chemistry with each other and the rest of the team in order to be successful.

    Orlando Scandrick will likely cover the slot, which leaves disgruntled Mike Jenkins as the primary backup to Carr and Claiborne.

    Both teams seem to have made improvements at the cornerback position, but both also have questions that need answering.  The Eagles get the nod here because Asomugha and DRC had all of last season to build chemistry with the rest of the team, whereas Carr and Claiborne are new to Dallas.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles


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    Philadelphia Eagles: Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, O.J. Atogwe, Jaiquawn Jarrett

    Dallas Cowboys: Gerald Sensabaugh, Brodney Pool, Barry Church, Matt Johnson

    A lot of question marks surround the Eagles’ safety position.  Nate Allen has the brightest future of the bunch, and if he can return to his rookie form, he could eventually become one of the best safeties in the league.  Equally adept at coverage and tackling, he is the only safety that fans should feel comfortable with.

    Kurt Coleman will likely have to fend off Jaiquawn Jarrett for the other starting gig.  He is an average starter but leaves much to be desired. 

    The Eagles would much rather prefer if Jarrett won the job outright, but so far he has done little to impress the team or the fans.  Once training camp begins, we will see if he improved from his less-than-stellar rookie season. 

    O.J. Atogwe was signed this offseason to provide depth at both spots.

    The Cowboys have questions of their own at safety.  Gerald Sensabaugh is the only surefire starter.  The other spot remains an open competition between Brodney Pool, Barry Church and rookie Matt Johnson.

    Pool is the favorite for now thanks to his familiarity with Rob Ryan’s defense.  However, Church offers more upside and has better physical tools, so don’t be surprised if he wrestles the job away from Pool. 

    Matt Johnson could surprise everyone in training camp and win the gig as well, as he showcased the type of big-play ability in college that the Cowboys’ secondary desperately needs.

    Easily the weakest spot of both teams, the Eagles get the slight nod over the Cowboys because of Nate Allen’s upside.  But neither group deserves bragging rights yet.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles


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    Philadelphia Eagles (6): Running Back, Offensive Line, Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, Cornerback, Safety

    Dallas Cowboys (4): Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Tight End, Linebacker

    These two teams match up very well against one another and have deep and talented rosters.  They, along with the New York Giants and an improved Washington Redskins team, will make for an interesting battle for the NFC East crown.

    In the end, the Eagles may have the most talented team on paper.  Whether that translates to wins during the regular season remains to be seen.

    Either way, both the Eagles and the Cowboys have a solid chance of making the playoffs in 2012.