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

Source: Eagles showed interest Anquan Boldin before he signed with Detroit

Source: Eagles showed interest Anquan Boldin before he signed with Detroit

Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin is signing with the Detroit Lions to replace future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson. 

He could have replaced Riley Cooper instead. 

A league source told CSNPhilly.com's Reuben Frank that the Eagles had some mild interest in Boldin, but never talked numbers or made an offer. 

NFL Network's Ian Rapaport, reported earlier that the Eagles and Saints were two teams that had "real interest" in Boldin's services before he reached a deal to join Detroit. 

The Eagles' reported interest in the 35-year-old wideout could show some concern with the current group of receivers, which includes Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Josh Huff and Chris Givens. While Matthews has blossomed into a pretty good slot receiver, Agholor is coming off a disappointing rookie season and Huff hasn't lived up to his potential. Meanwhile, Randle and Givens are veteran question marks. 

Boldin, originally a second-round pick of the Cards in 2003, ranks 12th in NFL history with 1009 receptions in 13 seasons, 17th with 13,195 receiving yards and 30th with 74 touchdown receptions.

He’s had seven 1,000-yard seasons, most recently with the 49ers in 2014. Last year, he caught 69 passes for 789 yards and four touchdowns for the 49ers. 

Eagles training camp Day 2: 10 observations

Eagles training camp Day 2: 10 observations

Still not a ton of exciting stuff going on at training camp yet. 

With just 38 players on the field again Tuesday — the rest of the team reports Wednesday and practices Thursday — a bunch of mostly rookies practiced in shorts again. Really, not many of these players have a shot to make the roster. 

It’s still football, though, and we love football. 

So here are 10 observations from today’s practice: 

• A ton of drops today during the 7-on-7 portion of practice. They came from a few different players — Hunter Sharp, Byron Marshall, Xavier Rush, to name a few. It wasn’t pretty, but remember this: Most of these players aren’t going to make the final 53-man roster.

• One receiver who had a pretty good day was Paul Turner out of Louisiana Tech. The 5-foot-10, 193-pound rookie isn’t too physically imposing but showed off some impressive hands and worked in the slot for a while. 

• Turner was on the receiving end of the best play of the day. Sam Bradford hit him on a 25-yard pass down the right sideline, hitting him in stride over his shoulder. JaCorey Shepherd had tight coverage, but the throw was better. (More on Shepherd here.)

Bradford had a very good day. 

• Another tough day for quarterback-turned-tight end McLeod Bethel-Thompson. (Bethel-Thompson is a camp arm, but thanks to a lack of numbers right now, has been playing tight end.) Bradford tried to hit him with a pass in 11-on-11s, but overthrew him. Bethel-Thompson got a hand on the ball, but just tipped it to former CFL cornerback Aaron Grymes, who picked it off and went the other way. Quarterback-on-quarterback crime. 

• Not long after that play, Bethel-Thompson settled into a route and was wide open. Carson Wentz fired a ball to him, but linebacker Travis Long made an impressive diving pass breakup. 

A note about Long: It’s hard to believe, but this is Long’s fourth straight training camp with the Eagles. In 2013, he ended up on the practice squad. He tore his left ACL during training camp in 2014. He tore his left ACL again during the preseason finale last year. Now, he’s back again, although he probably isn’t a fit for Jim Schwartz’s defense. 

• Here’s a Wentz note because we know you care: He might not be the sharpest quarterback on the roster just yet, but he’s clearly the most athletic. On one play during 11-on-11, the pocket collapsed and Wentz didn’t hesitate to take off downfield. He did it again during goal-line work. That’s one aspect of his game that Bradford clearly doesn’t have. 

Aside from that, saw some inaccuracy from Wentz today. That’s probably the area of his game that needs the most work. 

• An up-and-down day for Marshall, the undrafted running back out of Oregon. During 7-on-7s, he had a ball from Wentz tipped away by corner C.J. Smith, then on the next play, dropped a ball on an out pattern. Later in the morning, he did redeem himself by catching a ball in traffic during 11-on-11s. Marshall’s hands are what make him stand out. He caught 97 passes for 1,293 yards and eight touchdowns in 46 games at Oregon. 

Marshall played running back and receiver for the Ducks, but said the Eagles haven’t asked him to play wideout in Philly. They want him to strictly focus on being a running back. 

• Jalen Mills, of green hair fame, made another big play today. This time he broke up a deep pass down the sideline from Chase Daniel. Mills can definitely play in shorts. Now, I want to see him do the same when the pads come out on Saturday. 

• It’s fun getting to watch offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland coach up close. It's just be the beginning of training camp, but he’s in midseason form. Today, he got on rookie OG Darrell Greene a little bit. 

• I watched rookie long snapper John DePalma snap the ball into an orange-padded goal post for about five minutes. Training camp must be lonely for a long-snapper with no one to snap the ball to. 

Healed from torn ACL, CB JaCorey Shepherd eager to show how time off helped

Healed from torn ACL, CB JaCorey Shepherd eager to show how time off helped

The hardest days were game days. Sunday afternoons. When his teammates were playing football and JaCorey Shepherd was stuck on the sidelines watching.

“It was tough, man,” Shepherd said Monday. “I never had to miss a season. I never had to really miss a game. Missed two games in college but other than that, I never missed anything.

“Game days were the toughest. Sitting on the sideline and I couldn’t do anything. Practice was tough, but I got used to it. But games? That was the hardest.”

Shepherd, then a rookie sixth-round cornerback out of Kansas, was having a very good preseason last year when he tore his right ACL during practice in early August in a sideline collision with running back Darren Sproles.

Season over.

“Second half of the season it started to get easier because the season was starting to wind down,” Shepherd said. “I’m in the moment, but I was also looking forward to moving forward.”

There are two ways to go when you’re hurt. You can feel sorry for yourself, tune out and wait to get better. Or you can make use of every single moment available to you during your rehab.

Shepherd, always a workaholic, always a film hound, always the hardest worker on the roster in college, didn’t hesitate to make the right choice.

As disappointed as he was, he made sure his 2015 rookie year didn’t go to waste.

“JaCorey, you could tell it was really hard for him to not play,” said veteran corner Nolan Carroll, whose 2015 season was also cut short. “But he made the best use of his time last year.

“Chip (Kelly) let the injured guys stand on the sidelines for games and even brought them to road games, and when me and Walter (Thurmond) and Malcolm (Jenkins) would come off the field, he was always right there listening when we went over what just happened with (defensive backs coach Cory Undlin).

“You could see that he wanted to make the best of his situation and learn as much as possible, even though he couldn’t play. That’s not always easy for a young guy to do, but JaCorey, you could tell he just wanted to learn as much as possible.”

You have to give some credit to Undlin — Kelly’s defensive backs coach last year and still here this year under Doug Pederson — for taking the time to coach up a rookie sixth-round pick who was on injured reserve.

“Coach Cory, he always made the time for me,” Shepherd said. “The defense would come off the field and he would be like, ‘Watch this on this side,’ ‘Watch this route concept,’ just making sure I’m staying in tune.

“They kept me occupied and busy and preparing like I was still playing. ... The older guys would always question me to make sure I was on my P’s and Q’s so that way when I got back, I had the mental part down and it was really just a matter of getting my feet down under me and I’d be ready to go.”

Now that training camp is here, Shepherd is fully healed, 100 percent healthy and certainly not lacking in confidence.

His practice Monday on the opening day of training camp for rookies, quarterbacks and players who finished last year on injured reserve was his first real workout in a year.

“Two years I haven’t played in a game, man,” he said. “So it feels real good just to be out here. This has been a big test for me, but I think it’ll pay off. I learned some patience. That’s one thing I’ve always needed to work on, my patience, and being a smarter player.

“I feel like I’m a lot smarter than last year after sitting on the sideline for a year having to pay attention and learn. I feel like I’m a better player this year than last year even though I didn’t play a snap.”

Along with guys like Jalen Mills, Randall Evans, Jaylen Walker, Eric Rowe and Denzel Rice, Shepherd is one of a number of promising young corners on the Eagles’ roster.

Shepherd loves the competition. He embraces it.

“All of us love to compete,” he said. “That makes it fun. It’s not like, ‘Oh man, it’s a job.’ It’s fun because we’re all out there competing against one another and having fun together.

“We know we’re fighting for spots, but at the end of the day, if you’re having fun and just competing? You don’t want to be thinking about that. Especially around this time. You really can’t afford to because why are you worried about something you can’t control?”

How can Shepherd separate himself from all the other young corners?

After all, he’s not one of Pederson’s guys, he’s not one of Jim Schwartz’s guys. He’s a Chip Kelly draft pick, so he may have to do a little bit more than others just to open some eyes.

“All I can do is continue to do what I do and control what I can control,” he said. “You know? That’s the way the game is. There’s always going to be competition. Frankly, I love competition, so that doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve never been worried about competition, and I’m not going to start now. Just going to do what I do.

“If there’s not a job here, there’s a job somewhere else. All I can control is give it my all on every play.”

Shepherd said Monday’s initial practice was a big step for him, and another comes Saturday, the first practice of the summer in pads.

But the big one, the date circled on his calendar, will be Aug. 18, the preseason opener and Shepherd’s first game since Kansas-Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas, on Nov. 29, 2014.

“Everybody wants to know what JaCorey is all about,” he said with a laugh. “Keep watching. I’m planning on showing them.”