Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles at Cowboys: Our (cough) expert predictions

usa-dez-bryant-nolan-carroll.jpg

Eagles at Cowboys: Our (cough) expert predictions

The Eagles, fresh off the bye week, clash with the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football at AT&T Stadium for a big NFC East showdown.

A win for the Eagles would put them back at .500 while handing Dallas its sixth straight loss. Will it happen?

Our experts offer their predictions:

Derrick Gunn (2-5)
The Eagles, coming out of the bye week, hope they play a lot better than they did prior to it. Both the Eagles and Cowboys are desperate for a win.

For the most part, the Eagles will be healthy going into this matchup, but Jason Peters (back) is out and DeMeco Ryans (hamstring) is questionable. Peters' absence is huge because Lane Johnson slides over to left tackle to face the Cowboys' Greg Hardy.

Dallas doesn't have much of a run game and the Eagles' defense has been pretty good against the run all season.

Sam Bradford has to get it going in a hurry, while Cowboys replacement QB Matt Cassel has been inconsistent at best in two starts.

Look for the Eagles to struggle but in the end survive in this divisional grudge match

Eagles 20, Cowboys 10

Ray Didinger (2-5)
The Dallas coaches spent this week watching the film of Carolina's smash mouth running game beating up on the Eagles to the tune of 204 yards. No doubt the Cowboys drew up the game plan for Sunday's showdown borrowing heavily on the Panthers' approach. With Matt Cassel (58.5 passer rating) at quarterback, the Cowboys would much prefer running the ball to passing it so that's what they will try to do. It is up to the Eagles' defense to stop it.

The Eagles missed DeMeco Ryans in Carolina and they will miss him again if he can't go Sunday, but the Cowboys are short on weapons. Dez Bryant is still limited by his foot injury and Darren McFadden came back down to earth last week (20 carries, 64 yards). Not much scoring in this one but I expect the Eagles to win ugly.

Eagles 20, Cowboys 14

John Gonzalez (4-3)
When last we saw the Cowboys, they were busy beating the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Much has happened since then. The Cowboys have lost every game they’ve played after upending the Eagles. That’s five in a row if you’re counting at home (and even if you’re not). After Tony Romo went down, Jerry Jones said Brandon Weeden would be a capable backup. Jerry Jones was wrong. Jerry Jones insisted Joseph Randle would help the running game take some of the pressure off the passing game. Jerry Jones was wrong. Jerry Jones also called Greg Hardy a leader. Oh boy was Jerry Jones wrong about that one. Jerry Jones is wrong a lot.

The Eagles are kind of a mess right now, but the Cowboys are much worse off. This is a default pick.

Eagles 24, Cowboys 20

Corey Seidman (3-4)
There are many reasons I think the Eagles could or should win this game, but I just don't see this patchwork offensive line being able to contain Greg Hardy and the Cowboys' pass rush. Dallas has an underratedly solid defense, and unless the Eagles' receivers finally show an ability to consistently get open, Sam Bradford won't have the time in the pocket to find them.

Maybe the offense breaks through and makes major strides coming out of the bye. But through seven games the Eagles' offense has looked dangerous only once, really, against the Saints.

Cowboys 20, Eagles 16

Andrew Kulp (3-4)
The Cowboys are losers of five straight and recently turned to Matt Cassel to keep their season afloat. So far, no good. When Cassel's first or second read isn't there, he tends to flee a perfectly good pocket and run. I can't imagine the Eagles' front seven allowing that. It should harass the Dallas quarterback into plenty of sacks and maybe a few giveaways — after all, this is the most opportunistic defense in the NFL.

Meanwhile, it's on Sam Bradford to protect the football and mount one or two long drives against a tougher-than-advertised Cowboys defense. As long as the signal-caller isn't turning the ball over and the offense isn't constantly three-and-out, the Eagles' defense should put the team in some quality scoring positions. I see it being a bit of a field-position battle, with the Birds eventually coming out on top.

Eagles 23, Cowboys 16

Andy Schwartz (4-3)
Both teams have good defenses and suspect offenses. OK, right now, sans Tony Romo, the Cowboys' offense isn't just suspect; it's bad.

The Eagles are coming off a bye week and are motivated to make amends for the Week 2 debacle against Dallas at the Linc.

The defense will create a turnover or three, the receivers will actually catch a few passes, DeMarco Murray will score at least one TD against his former club, and the Birds will leave the monstrosity that is AT&T Stadium with a victory.

Eagles 24, Cowboys 20

Dave Zangaro (3-0)
The Cowboys are on their third quarterback this season. They're having blow-ups on the sideline. They just cut their opening-day starter at running back.

The Eagles better win this game. If they can't win this game, it says a lot more about them than it does the Cowboys.

I expect the defense to shut down Matt Cassel, a hobbled Dez Bryant and the rest of the Cowboys' offense. The Eagles' offense can't possibly be any worse than it was against the Cowboys in the first meeting between the two teams, even with Greg Hardy's being back.

Eagles 33, Cowboys 23

Ronald Darby gives glimpse of why Howie Roseman pulled trigger on trade

Ronald Darby gives glimpse of why Howie Roseman pulled trigger on trade

The Eagles' trading of wide receiver Jordan Matthews was met with mixed reviews.

The arguments ranged from fair to, frankly, kind of silly. I definitely understand the numbers. He was crazy productive in his three seasons with the Eagles and became a reliable target for franchise quarterback Carson Wentz. Plus, he's Wentz's best friend and Wentz was super sad.

But seriously, I don't want to take away from what Matthews meant to his teammates, especially Wentz. But the reality is he's a limited, slot receiver who likely would've commanded too much money to return next season.

Here's the bottom line: Ronald Darby showed Thursday why Howie Roseman pulled the trigger on trading Matthews and a third-round pick.

So you may wonder, why would the Bills give up on a 23-year-old corner if he's so promising?

You all know the story by now. After having a tremendous rookie season, Darby struggled in Year 2. The former second-round pick was limited with a hamstring injury early in the season and suffered a concussion in Week 12. Factor health in with a Bills defense that struggled as a unit and a team entrenched in turmoil that resulted in the firing of its head coach and GM and Darby wasn't exactly set up for success.

Darby also didn't fit the mold of what Buffalo is now looking for in a corner. New head coach Sean McDermott utilized long corners when he was in Carolina. After losing veterans Josh Norman and Charles Tillman, the Panthers drafted James Bradberry and Daryl Worley in 2016. Both measured at 6-foot-1 with 33 3/8 arms at the combine. Darby also excels in man coverage. Last season under McDermott, Carolina played more zone coverage than any team in the NFL.

Darby is by no means perfect. The positives: crazy fast, quick feet, tremendous anticipation. The negatives: suspect hands, not a great tackler, gets lost in zone coverage at times. All of that was on display against his former team Thursday.

On his first snap, he missed an open field tackle against LeSean McCoy. Who cares? So have most of the DBs in the league. Besides, his main job is to cover receivers. Give me a corner that can stick an opposing team's No. 1 receiver over one that's a good tackler any day of the week.

With that said, Darby looked explosive in coverage. During the Bills' second possession on 2nd-and-10, Tyrod Taylor was looking for Anquan Boldin on a 10-yard out. Darby breaks up the play and there's so much to like about it. Darby is playing off man, giving Boldin a cushion. Darby has one eye on Boldin and the other on the quarterback. He's able to time it perfectly and use his speed to close the gap quickly. The only thing you'd like to see is him finish the play. It's an easy pick six if he does. 

Speaking of finishing, Darby didn't waste his second opportunity. Still, in the first quarter, Taylor decides to take a shot down the field after a LeGarrette Blount fumble. Boldin tries to beat him with a double move but Darby doesn't take the cheese (something he did often at Florida State). Taylor faces heavy pressure from the Eagles' front and heaves it up for grabs. Darby snags it and goes 48 yards on the return.

The most impressive thing on both plays is Darby's ability to keep his eyes on the quarterback while maintaining coverage. That's what allows him to anticipate throws and recognize routes so well. For years the Eagles have lacked a corner with the ability to turn around and play the football. Darby's unbelievable speed and foot quickness allow him to do so.

To keep this in perspective, Darby was facing a quarterback in Taylor that he saw an awful lot of over the last two-plus years. He was also covering the 36-year-old Boldin, who's been with Buffalo for a little over a week. But impressive none the less.

Does one preseason game mean Darby is the next Darrelle Revis? Of course not.

But he has a chance to be a pretty damn good corner.

Former Eagles' draft pick Jordan Poyer excited for opportunity with Bills

ap-jordan-poyer.jpg
AP Images

Former Eagles' draft pick Jordan Poyer excited for opportunity with Bills

And then there's the former Eagle on the Bills who is a little less famous.
 
It was cataclysmic when Chip Kelly traded LeSean McCoy to the Bills. It was historic when Howie Roseman traded Jordan Matthews to the Bills.
 
Jordan Poyer's journey from Philly to Buffalo is a little bit different and a whole lot less well-known. But the one-time Eagles draft pick has become an important part of Sean McDermott's defense.
 
Poyer, who signed as a free agent with the Bills this past offseason, was the second of three Eagles seventh-round picks in 2013. He made the team as a long-shot cornerback and played in three games as a rookie before getting released on Oct. 19 so the Eagles could sign running back Matthew Tucker off their practice squad.
 
The Eagles hoped to land Poyer on the practice squad, but the Browns claimed him, and he wound up spending four years in Cleveland, playing in 45 games and starting four last year with two interceptions before his season ended with a horrific injury — a lacerated kidney.
 
He finally escaped Cleveland this spring, signing a four-year, $13 million deal with the Bills that includes $7.4 million in guaranteed money and he goes into the regular season as the Bills' starting free safety.
 
Not bad for the 46th defensive back taken in the 2013 draft.
 
“Being in Philadelphia, starting my career here was huge," Poyer said Thursday night after the Eagles-Bills preseason game at the Linc.
 
"I’m in Year 5 now and you never know what would have happened if I didn’t start out here, start my career here. It was a big part of my foundation, learning the NFL game."
 
The Browns went 12-47 while Poyer was in Cleveland, and he played under three head coaches and four defensive coordinators during his stay with Cleveland.
 
“It was a challenge," he said, shaking his head. "We all play this game to win football games. That’s the name of the business, the name of the game. That’s why we start playing when we’re little. Anytime you’re not winning it’s always tough.
 
"I’m trying to put that time of my life behind me now, I’m here in Buffalo now and happy here."

But the one good thing that happened to Poyer in Cleveland was the switch from corner to safety.
 
“It's a lot different and it took some time," he said. "But I feel good about it, felt good about making the switch. Took it and ran with it and learned the position.
 
"It's still a new position, and I still have a lot of things to learn, but I feel like it was good for me. Really one of the best things to happen to my career."

In Buffalo, Poyer's head coach, McDermott, and defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier, are both former Eagles secondary coaches. Nobody has a better feel for the secondary than McDermott, who played in the same secondary as Mike Tomlin at William & Mary and worked under Jim Johnson for a decade in Philly before going to a Super Bowl with Ron Rivera in Carolina.

"It's a great situation for me with Sean and Leslie," Poyer said. "Sean coaches us every day, helps us get better, helps get the whole football team better. I learn something from him every day."
 
Poyer has played in more games than 24 of the defensive backs drafted ahead of him in 2013 and in more games than all but five of the 47 other seventh-round picks that year.
 
The only defensive back the Eagles have taken in the seventh round the last 50 years who's played in more career games is Kurt Coleman, another player who revived his career under McDermott.
 
To go from seventh-round pick to $7½ million in guaranteed money is quite a story, but Poyer is so grounded he said he doesn't really think about the big picture of his career arc.
 
“During the season, you’re moving so fast you don’t really have time to sit back and look at what you’ve accomplished or how far you’ve come," he said.
 
"At the end of the season or at the end of my career I’ll look back on it and soak in everything that I had to go through and got to where I am now, but right now, I'm just focused on getting ready (for opening day).
 
"Philly gave me a good opportunity, made a lot of good friends here and now excited to be here in Buffalo."