The Eagles have the NFL’s best record after a bye week, with 12 wins in their last 14 post-bye games.
Under Chip Kelly the Birds are 1-1, but this year the time off came at a good time as several key Eagles players have gotten healthy and are expected to take the field against the Cowboys on Sunday Night.
Their third straight primetime game, this one is the most important by far. Philly can not only get back to the .500 mark at 4-4, but they can all-but silence the Cowboys in the NFC East as a loss will drop them to 2-6 on the year.
Here are three things to take note of prior to the 8:30 p.m. kickoff on NBC.
The Eagles have been shifting inside linebackers in and out through their first seven games. Boasting perhaps the most talented unit in football, injuries to Kiko Alonso, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks has caused each to miss some important time.
However, the trio’s injury issues did open up the field for Jordan Hicks, the Eagles’ third round pick from Texas. And the linebacker has shown he deserves to be in the regular, healthy rotation. Hicks leads the Eagles in tackles and has created two key turnovers (for a defense that leads the NFL in takeaways).
But don’t expect any new looks defensively with the Eagles health increasing by the day. At least not in Week 9.
“First, you got to get them back into the main role, get them oiled up to where they’re very confident and play well at that spot before I can get too exotic with packages,” Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “If all of them had been playing for the whole season, then I would say, ‘Okay, now we’re going to start going outside of the box.’ But right now, they haven’t had enough practice or game reps to do that.”
Return of the three-headed monster
The Eagles started the season dead last in rushing, but they’ve slowly rebounded.
Recent impressive outputs by Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray have had the Birds’ offense looking a little more like itself lately.
But to win against Dallas, Philly will need to continue to utilize the run game to keep the ball, as much as possible, away from the Cowboys ground game — which has also returned to form.And even though Mathews has been the hot hand, the Eagles want to continue to spread the wealth (to include Darren Sproles too).
“With a running back sometimes, if a running back is in a groove, you let him go maybe a snap or two more than you had planned,” Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.”But that still doesn’t mean you don’t sub in the other guys.”
No helping Hardy
Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy has averaged nearly two sacks per game over his last 13 starts.
He also is responsible for the lone turnover for the Cowboys in recent weeks, with his big interception in Week 8 against the Seahawks. Keeping him in check will be a challenge for the Eagles makeshift offensive line.
“They have moved him around,” Kelly told the media Thursday,”so you’ve got to be aware that he’s not always going to line up across from your left tackle; he could be inside on the guards. He’s been out at the other defensive end also. It’s predominantly in one spot, but there is movement and you have to be aware of where he is.”