It is with great appreciation that I bring you the final Man Up of the year.
The feature originated on September 14 and was creatively titled Eagles' offense: Evaluating every player.
From there it became a weekly fixture. I asked you for suggestions on a name, ignored them (sorry) and then went with one of my own: Man Up.
Anyway, these made me look at the game differently throughout the season, and that's a good thing.
To all of you who have e-mailed or commented on Man Up throughout the season, we thank you. And we'll do it again next season.
As for MTC, there is no offseason. We'll discuss the rest of the playoffs, free agency, the draft and so on in the upcoming months. The days when we go without a post will be few and far between so keep coming back.
With that being said, here is the breakdown of the D:
Juqua Parker - He did a much better job than he did in Week 17.. Parker's pressure on Romo helped create the near-interception by Sean Jones in the second quarter. The Cowboys tried blocking him with Jason Witten on the play. He also hurried Romo in the second, forcing him to escape the pocket and throw incomplete. He made a couple nice plays against the run, but on Felix Jones' 73-yard touchdown, the key block was tight end Martellus Bennett sealing Parker on the edge, allowing Jones to break free.
Mike Patterson - Overall, Patterson did a nice job against the run. But on Jones' 73-yard run, he was one of the only Eagles who had a chance to bring him down near the line of scrimmage. He couldn't. Good hustle by Patterson to bring down Miles Austin on a wide receiver screen. I'm always amazed when D-linemen get outside and make those plays.
Brodrick Bunkley - Bunkley made some nice plays against the run, but as was the case last week, the Cowboys had success running to the other side. Neither he, nor Patterson, did anything as pass rushers, but they came out of the game quite a bit in passing situations.
Trent Cole - Once again, the Cowboys showed they are one of the only teams in the league that can keep Cole away from their quarterback. One sack in three games against Dallas, but more importantly, he didn't get the consistent pressure he was able to generate against other teams. He had one near-sack at the end of the first half, but couldn't bring Romo down. Cole and Will Witherspoon switched places on one play where Cole rushed up the middle, but other than that, he primarily lined up from the right defensive end position. Cole did a very nice job against the run.
Jason Babin - On the field for 19 plays as part of Sean McDermott's D-line rotation. Like Cole, he switched places with a linebacker (Tracy White) on one play and rushed up the middle, but did not have much success getting to Romo all day. He made one nice play against the run in the first.
Chris Clemons - I thought this was one of his more productive games of the season. Clemons played 18 snaps and had a sack. He also got pressure on Romo on at least three other plays. Clemons was sometimes used as a fifth lineman when the Eagles went to the nickel and used just one linebacker.
Victor Abiamiri - He played 21 snaps, mostly lining up inside in passing situations. Not much in the way of a pass rush, but Abiamiri did some good things against the run. He dropped back into coverage on one play in the second, although McDermott did a lot less of that this time around.
Darren Howard - He played a lot (32 snaps). Not consistent pressure on Romo, but did get to him a couple times. The Cowboys ran right at Howard on a 12-yard Felix Jones carry. Howard dropped back into coverage on one play in the third.
Antonio Dixon - Only played eight snaps. Dixon dropped Jones for a loss in the fourth, but didn't notice him much other than that.
Will Witherspoon - He blitzed 10 times in the first half, but never got close to Romo. He had ups and downs against the run, but did an OK job there. Witherspoon was called for a face-mask penalty in the second.
Moise Fokou - He actually made some nice plays against the run. This wasn't like Week 17 when the Cowboys consistently gashed the Eagles' defense on the ground. The Jones play was a killer. But take that play away, and Dallas averaged less than 3.7 yards per carry.
Akeem Jordan - Almost completely phased out. Jordan played just six snaps in this one. The week before, he started at middle linebacker and played there for the entire first half. Here, he didn't see a single snap in the middle. Jordan was blocked badly on the 12-yard Jones run in the second.
Jeremiah Trotter - In Week 17, when Trotter pretty much played only the second half, he had seven tackles. In this one, when he played pretty much the whole game in the middle, Trotter had just one. He looked slow and couldn't get off his blocks on a 9-yard Tashard Choice run, a 20-yard Jones run and a 13-yard Jones run. He actually did a good job getting penetration on the Jones 73-yard TD run, but couldn't get to him.
Tracy White - He played 20 snaps, used primarily in the nickel. I'll have a breakdown of this tomorrow, but White blitzed quite a bit. He got great pressure up the middle in the first, paving the way for a Clemons sack.
Chris Gocong - He got back on the field, playing 18 snaps as the Eagles' strong-side linebacker in the base defense. He came untoucuhed on a blitz in the first, sacking Romo for a 7-yard loss. Against the run, he missed a tackle on Jones in the third, but made a nice play on a direct snap. Gocong also made a good special-teams tackle.
Asante Samuel - Samuel's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the first half gave the Cowboys a first down instead of a 3rd-and-10. In the second, he was beat by Roy Williams for 17 yards on a 3rd-and-7. Samuel had a chance at an interception later, but the ball hit him in the face.
Sheldon Brown - He battled through injury all season, but had a tough time in this one. Brown's 40-yard pass interference penalty against Miles Austin set up the Cowboys’ first touchdown. Brown got beat in coverage a couple other times: on a 36-yard Austin catch and on a 17-yard Williams reception on 3rd-and-10. He also missed a tackle on a 13-yard Jones run in the second.
Joselio Hanson - Really rough game for Hanson. He did a bad job on the WR screen to Williams that gained 15 yards in the first quarter. Hanson struggled with those against Denver also. He was beat on a couple third downs: one a 12-yard Austin reception on 3rd-and-8 in the second; another an 18-yard Crayton catch on 3rd-and-9 in the second. Hanson blitzed a couple times from the slot, something we did not see the week before. He was the last line of defense on the Jones 73-yard touchdown, but got turned around.
Macho Harris - He saw most of the snaps at free safety before leaving the game with injury. It looked like Choice was his responsibility on a third-down conversion in the first. Against the run, Harris was blocked on a 9-yard Choice run off a direct snap.
Quintin Mikell - He joined the other members of the secondary who struggled. Mikell got beat by tight end John Phillips on the Cowboys' first touchdown. Witten beat him for an 18-yard gain in the second, and Mikell was whistled for a 12-yard pass interference call before halftime. The Cowboys' offensive linemen did an excellent job of getting to the next level and taking out the Eagles' DBs in run support. Guard Leonard Davis moved Mikell out of the way on Jones' 73-yard TD run.
Sean Jones - He filled in for Harris, who left the game with an injury. The overturned call on Jones' interception was huge. The Eagles' offense would have had the ball deep in Dallas territory with the game tied at 7. After the play was overturned, the Cowboys went 93 yards and took a 14-7 lead. Jones blitzed a couple times and actually did a nice job, getting to Romo on one of them.