Among the Eagles' biggest struggles defensively this year has been keeping track of the tight end. And now, along comes All-Pro Jason Witten from the Cowboys.
"We’ve got to know where 82 is all the time," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "In every personnel group that they put out there he’s a guy that they look to. If it’s Will, if it’s another linebacker, if it’s a defensive lineman, if it’s a safety, they need to be studying film and know exactly what 82 does, when he does it and where he does it from.”
In 11 career games against the Eagles, Witten has 63 receptions for 792 yards and three touchdowns. He has had three 100-yard receiving games vs. the Birds, including 110 in the Week 2 meeting last season.
McDermott said Miles Austin has always been a good receiver, but is on the field more now - a fact that has not been lost on Roy Williams, the Cowboys' presumed No. 1 receiver.
"Yeah, there’s a one receiver and a two receiver. But we’re on the field at the same time," William said. "I’m the No. 1 receiver, but things are just going No. 2’s way."
Said McDermott of Austin: “He’s always been a good receiver and he’s always been a guy that we’ve had to be aware of when he came into the game, whatever role that may have been. This year specifically, to me, what’s different is that he’s on the field more and so he has more opportunities and that skill set that he brings to the table then has a chance to unfold and expose defenses and defensive backs and so on and so forth. He’s a threat out there for sure.”
McDermott pointed out that quarterback Tony Romo has been most effective when he is playing within the offense, but has tended to struggle when getting out of that and trying to make plays on his own.
On the injury front, it is unclear whether linebacker Chris Gocong will play after injuring his quad and hamstring on the same leg. If he can't play, rookie Moise Fokou will start.
Brodrick Bunkley and Victor Abiaimiri were both limited participants in practice today because of knee issues.
"It's Week 8 already? Week 8, Week 9 -- I've been studying this defense and learning what I have to do week in and week out," Fokou said Thursday. "I feel pretty comfortable with the defense. There's just little things I haven't seen yet, that probably Chris has seen, that I need to work on, pretty much detail my work."
On offense, the Eagles' biggest concern is making sure they can locate linebacker DeMarcus Ware at all times. Ware tends to move around, throwing off blocking schemes.
"They do play him a little bit unexpectedly where you may not plan to see him," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "That’s a gameplan thing. You try to know where he’s at. The one thing I’ll say about him is he is a dynamite player. He is fast and quick like a running back-linebacker-receiver type guy. He’s big and strong as well. He’s really an elite player in this league and one of the best pass rushers.”
Mornhinweg said the Cowboys' defense is "playing fast, playing with confidence."
He said injuries took the Cowboys "out of the game they wanted to play" last year.