Eagles at Cowboys: Our (cough) expert predictions

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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

Eagles draft CB Sidney Jones with 2nd-round pick (43rd overall)

Eagles draft CB Sidney Jones with 2nd-round pick (43rd overall)

Eagles Draft Tracker

The way the Eagles look at it, they've selected two of their 14 favorite players despite having just one first-round pick.

The Eagles selected promising but injured Washington cornerback Sidney Jones with the 43rd pick in the draft Friday evening.

"When we started this process, he was one of the guys we were talking about with the 14th pick in the draft," Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said.

"Great character, great player. The injury was a factor here, but we spent a lot of time with our doctors … talking about this situation. For us, it's about what we believe this kid brings to our football team moving forward.

"To get two of our top 14 players in the whole draft? We thought it was a really good opportunity for our football team. … He's a difference maker at cornerback. That's something we've been looking for."
  
Jones, originally projected as a first-round pick, dropped out of the first round when he tore an Achilles tendon during his pro-day workout in mid-March.
 
Jones, who stands 6-foot, 180 pounds, underwent surgery and has said he expects to be healthy and ready to play at some point during the 2017 season.

"We anticipate a full recovery," Roseman said. "We don't know the timetable, but we believe he can be an impact player for us when we do get him on the field."
 
Jones had nine interceptions, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 8½ tackles for loss, 145 tackles in 40 career games.

He was the third member of Washington’s secondary to be selected in Friday’s second round. Corner Kevin King went No. 33 overall to the Packers and safety Budda Baker was the No. 36 pick overall to the Cards.

"The steal of the draft," King told CSN's John Clark of Jones. "He could've been a top 10 pick."
 
Eagles senior director of college scouting Anthony Patch was at Jones' pro day when he got hurt and immediately called Roseman and let him know that not only had Jones gotten injured but he had a tremendous workout before the injury.
 
Roseman said the Eagles' medical team studied numerous players from football and other sports who suffered similar injuries to measure their recovery timetable and determine what Jones' chances of a full recovery were.
 
"Our doctors and training staff not only looked at corners, but we reached out to teams in other sports," he said. "That gave us a lot of confidence here.
 
"There's no insurance for this, but we feel really confident that with our medical team when he gets here he's going to be able to be the exact same player he was before the injury."
 
When will we see Jones on the field?
 
"There'll be no rushing back from this," Roseman said. "We'll do whatever's in the best interest of getting Sidney Jones 100 percent. Whatever the timetable is. We'll defer to the doctors. That will not be our decision."
 
Jones is only the second cornerback the Eagles have taken in the first two rounds in the last six years. They drafted Eric Rowe in the second round in 2015 but traded him to the Patriots, where he became a starter last year and won a Super Bowl ring.
 
Before Rowe, the last time the Eagles spent a pick in the first two rounds on a cornerback was 2002, when they took Lito Sheppard in the first round.
 
The Eagles cut ties with both of their starting cornerbacks from last year, Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin. They signed journeyman Patrick Robinson this offseason and return Jalen Mills, who was their third corner last year.
 
The Eagles ranked second-to-last in the NFL last year allowing 27 pass plays of 30 yards or more.
 
"We just got a first-round talented corner and he's somebody that as Howie alluded to we're not going to rush," head coach Doug Pederson said. "(We're going to) make sure he's 100 percent before we put him out on that football field. This kid is dynamic. He's extremely special on the field."
 
The Eagles have addressed the defense in each of the first two rounds, taking defensive end Derek Barnett at No. 14 overall and Jones in the second round.
 
This is the first time since 2012 the Eagles have gone defense with their first two picks. They took Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks in the first two rounds.
 
Jones is the first University of Washington player the Eagles have drafted since defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim in the third round in 2010 and the first they've taken in the first two rounds since center Ray Mansfield in the second round in 1963.
 
Washington had a home game the day before the Eagles played the Seahawks in Seattle this past fall, and Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas, in town for the Eagles-Seahawks game, saw Jones in person that day.
 
"They played against Arizona State, and the entire secondary played well," Douglas said.
 
"The thing that jumps out most about Sidney is his length, his feet. Very smooth mover, can easily flip his hips, can carry guys down the field.
 
"He's very instinctive, very route-aware. He has a really good gauge on what the receivers are going to do on the top of their routes. I think he has ideal ball skills."

Forever linked to Reggie White, Derek Barnett wants to create own identity

Forever linked to Reggie White, Derek Barnett wants to create own identity

Derek Barnett was 4 years old when Reggie White played in his final NFL game.

Nonetheless, the two are inexorably linked. And probably always will be.

Barnett broke White's University of Tennessee career sack record this past winter, and on Thursday — 25 years after White played his final game in an Eagles uniform — Barnett joined the team White spent his first eight NFL seasons with.

Barnett said Friday he's actually been in contact with White's widow, Sara, who contacted him after he broke Reggie's Volunteers sack record in the Music City Bowl against Nebraska in Nashville this past Dec. 30.

"She gave me a phone call about a week after the bowl game after I broke the record," Barnett said. "She just congratulated me on everything I've accomplished.

"Even though I broke the record, I told her, 'Reggie's still Reggie. I don't think I'm better than Reggie.' I told her thank you a lot and I really appreciated it.

"It meant a lot. She went out of her way. She didn't have to call me, but I'm glad she did."

Barnett recorded 33 sacks in his college career. White had 32.

Now, let's be realistic. Barnett is not White. Nobody is. White recorded 124 sacks in 121 games as an Eagle — more than one per game.

Add in his six years with the Packers and final season with the Panthers, and White had 198 sacks in his career. That stood as the NFL record until Bruce Smith finished with 200. White still ranks second all-time.

White, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, his first year of eligibility, died the day after Christmas in 2004.

It was Sara White who spoke for White at his Hall of Fame induction in Canton, Ohio, and Barnett said he can't wait to meet her in person.

"She lives in Nashville, so when I get the chance, I will go over there and meet with them," Barnett said. "But Reggie White, in Knoxville, is a legend. He's all over the place in the state of Tennessee."

Since White left Philly for Green Bay, the Eagles have drafted exactly one defensive end who's ever had double-digit sacks in a season. That was Trent Cole, a fifth-round pick in 2005.

One guy in a quarter of a century.

Barnett said he actually watched old film of White while he was in college to try and learn from his arsenal of pass-rush moves.

"I watched tape of him at Tennessee because I was trying to put the hump move in my game," Barnett said. "As a pass rusher, I feel like everyone has their own moves and I think that move is for him, probably not for me."

None of this is really fair to Barnett, who found himself being compared to maybe the greatest defensive player in NFL history before his NFL career was 24 hours old.

In an open letter to NFL teams published in the Players' Tribune this week, Barnett said he's proud he broke White's record but ultimately wants to be known for more.

"You might know me as the kid who broke Reggie White's sack record at Tennessee, but that's not the only thing I'm going to be remembered for by the time I leave this game," he wrote.

"Achieving that sack record definitely meant a lot to me, but I would have traded it away in a heartbeat to have won a championship while I was in college."