The Eagles' road to the playoffs just got a little rougher. They already need the Jets to hold off the Giants just to have a chance. Now Asante Samuel has officially been ruled out for Saturday afternoon's game against the Cowboys with a hamstring strain, leaving Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to start at left cornerback.
While Samuel has not been his typical dominant self, snaring a pedestrian three picks through the first 14 games of the season, he remains one of the most dangerous ball hawks in the NFL. DRC is no slouch either, and will probably be more comfortable reprising a role on the outside, but he's had a difficult year, and there is certainly some drop-off there.
Meanwhile, Dallas has one of the deepest receiving corps in the league. Miles Austin has missed a bunch of time due to injuries, but the two-time Pro Bowler has touchdowns in consecutive weeks since returning. Dez Bryant has been inconsistent, but is a match-up nightmare, particularly in the red zone -- he has nine touchdowns this season. The injuries to Austin have also led to the emergence of Laurent Robinson, who has 792 yards on 16.2 per reception to go with nine touchdowns.
In their Week 8 tilt, the Eagles' secondary held Austin and Bryant to six catches for a combined 55 yards. Robinson finished with 103, but 70 came on a blown assignment that resulted in a fourth-quarter touchdown when the game was already out of reach.
The onus will fall on Juan Castillo and the defensive line to pressure Tony Romo. The Eagles sacked the Cowboys' QB four times in their first meeting, including two of Jason Babin's 18 for the season. Castillo has been calling for more exotic blitzes in recent weeks, and we've seen Romo crumble under significant duress multiple times in the past, so they should be able to get by, also thanks in part to their excellent corner depth.