Saturday, December 20, 2014

Questions That Linger

Updating: We've seen what the Eagles had in store for us, given six days to reload for the Cowboys, and I don't want to go out on too slender a limb here, but I'm underwhelmed. The defense got some pressure and forced a couple punts early, then quickly started getting turned inside out by screens and slants again. The offense, again off the field for long stretches, tried to regain its rhythm with long, complicated passes that required lots of timing and blocking that wasn't there. Or at least, that was how it looked. Maybe the plan really was for Donovan McNabb to get the ball out quicker, and it just didn't happen. In that case, I take back everything I said in Friday's paper.

Questions That Linger

Eagles general manager Tom Heckert is expected to be named to the same position with the Browns. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Eagles general manager Tom Heckert is expected to be named to the same position with the Browns. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

Updating: We've seen what the Eagles had in store for us, given six days to reload for the Cowboys, and I don't want to go out on too slender a limb here, but I'm underwhelmed. The defense got some pressure and forced a couple punts early, then quickly started getting turned inside out by screens and slants again. The offense, again off the field for long stretches, tried to regain its rhythm with long, complicated passes that required lots of timing and blocking that wasn't there. Or at least, that was how it looked. Maybe the plan really was for Donovan McNabb to get the ball out quicker, and it just didn't happen. In that case, I take back everything I said in Friday's paper.

At any rate, the Cowboys are much the better team, and since they are in the NFC East, that has to be the focus of this offseason, the way that 44-6 season-ending loss at the Linc led to a complete reassessment by Dallas last offseason.

The defense needs a lot of fixing, at linebacker, defensive end and safety.

Despite the case I laid out for how unusual it would be for a team to discard a McNabb-level QB, after something like this, you have to take a clear-eyed view there, as well. The o-line definitely needs shoring up, especially if Jamaal Jackson isn't full strength by opening day next season. Don't really want to see Max Jean-Gilles out there huffing and puffing while defenders fly past him anymore.

More coverage
 
Cowboys a tough matchup for Eagles
 
Fair or not, McNabb to be judged heavily
 
Moving the Chains: Reid's TO's; who's picking the Birds?
 
Ashley Fox: Eagles to face a different Cowboys team
 
Gonzo: DJacc ups the ante on Twitter
 
Bob Ford: McNabb should return next season
 
Eagletarian: Heckert move likely; Wild-card predictions
 
Eagles don't want a replay of last game

Good chance we're watching Brian Westbrook's final game in an Eagles uniform, which is really sad. He has hardly been on the field, hasn't carried the ball.

Earlier:
It was a nice season while it lasted. Andy Reid tried to go back to the Michael Vick well -- who could blame him, nothing else was working - and Vick's handoff with Leonard Weaver went awry, leading to a Dallas recovery on the Eagles' 18 that set up the TD that made it 24-7, just inside the two-minute warning.

When the Eagles got the ball back, they were facing the following realities: Donovan McNabb was 1 for 5 for 2 yards; first downs were 17-3 in Dallas' favor; the Eagles were 0-for-3 on third down. Oh and McNabb couldn't find DeSean Jackson with GPS.

The Eagles moved fitfully for a few plays, then Weaver fumbled after making a catch over the middle. Cowboys' ball, yet again.

And now Sean Suisham's 48-yard field goal has made it 27-7 at the half.

You could make the argument this is worse than last week. Certainly, the Birds' offense moved the ball better and turned it over less in the first half last week, even if it didn't score
 

Earlier: The Sean Jones pick that wasn't (see below) really was a momentum-buster for the Birds. They've gone back to getting beaten in the trenches again, Dallas going 85 yards in 10 plays for the go-ahead TD, 14-7.

Eagles burned a timeout at the goalline, when Quintin Mikell and Sheldon Brown were shaken up and they had just nine defenders lined up for the next play. Brilliant.

Not the series the Eagles needed after drawing even.

By the way, Macho Harris suffered what looked like a serious leg injury on a kickoff return. No further word yet.

Earlier: The Cowboys' two-plus game shutout streak is over after a 76-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to Jeremy Maclin, fooling Mike Jenkins and tying the game a 7-7 early in the second quarter.

The Cowboys had just taken the lead after a pass interference penalty against Sheldon Brown set Dallas up on the Eagles' 1, but the Birds' defense had been doing a much better job of pressuring Tony Romo and shutting down the Cowboys on third and long early.

Now Sean Jones has intercepted Romo, bobbling the ball as he hit the turf. Dallas challenge. Looked to me like he might have had a hand under the ball, but the ways of the replay booth are often mysterious. And now a view shows the ball squirting out just enough. Sure enough, pick overturned.

Earlier: A source close to the situation agreed today with reports that Eagles general manager Tom Heckert likely will be named the GM of the Cleveland Browns on Monday. Heckert is not in Dallas for tonight's Eagles-Cowboys game, the source said.

Heckert., 42, has worked for the Eagles since 2001 and has been in his present position since 2006. His contract expires after the 2010 season and he has not been extended. Speculation holds that he wants to find another job now, before getting into a lame duck situation. The Eagles are believed to be keen on player personnel VP Howie Roseman as Heckert's replacement.

Heckert is close to Eagles coach Andy Reid, and he apparently is being hired in Cleveland by Reid's mentor, Mike Holmgren. Theoretically, Heckert will have more say in personnel in Cleveland, though details seem sketchy so far,

Meanwhile, it's almost gametime and the Birds'inactives are as expected. There was some possibility Quintin Demps might return kicks this week, but the team hasn't found a defensive role for Demps, which makes him hard to activate. Sure enough, Demps is inactive.

The biggest change from last week is that Michael Vick is the second QB and Kevin Kolb is the third QB, freeing the team to use Vick anytime during the game.

Other inactives are CB Geoffrey Pope, OT King Dunlap, OL Dallas Reynolds, WR Kevin Curtis, TE Martin Rucker, and DT Trevor Laws.

Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann will join a part of the philly.com live chat during the game.

In case you were wondering, here are our predictions and matchups.

DAILY NEWS PREDICTIONS

Les Bowen: Cowboys 26, Eagles 16

 

Bill Conlin: Cowboys 30, Eagles 24

 

Paul Domowitch:  Eagles 31, Cowboys 30

 

Sam Donnellon: Cowboys 27, Eagles 10

 

Marcus Hayes: Cowboys 24, Eagles 17

 

Rich Hofmann: Cowboys 27, Eagles 20

 

John Smallwood: Cowboys 27, Eagles 17

DALLAS MORNING NEWS PREDICTIONS

Tood Archer: Cowboys 27, Eagles 19

Tim Cowlishaw: Cowboys 24, Eagles 9

Gerry Fraley: Cowboys 24, Eagles 9

Rick Gosselin: Cowboys 20, Eagles 17

David Moore: Cowboys 24, Eagles 16

Bill Nichols: Cowboys 24, Eagles 17

Kevin Sherrington: Cowboys 21, Eagles 17

Jean-Jacques Taylor: Cowboys 23, Eagles 16

DOMO'S KEY MATCHUPS

1. Eagles MLBs Jeremiah Trotter and Akeem Jordan vs. Cowboys RBs Marion Barber and Felix Jones: Stopping the run is at the top of the Eagles' things-to-do list. They were much more effective vs. run last week with Trotter at MIKE in their base package. Advantage: Cowboys

2. Eagles WR DeSean Jackson vs. Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins: Cowboys effectively neutralized Jackson in the two regular-season games. And now he's playing hurt. Advantage: Cowboys

3. Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott vs. Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett: Garrett has kept the Eagles off-balance in both wins this season with unpredictable play-calling. McDermott has to figure out a way to get his defense off the field on third down. Advantage: Cowboys
 

To read Domo's full scouting report, click here.

About this blog
Eagletarian is your home for comprehensive coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Les Bowen Daily News Staff Writer
Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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