In this week’s Opposing Gab segment, I was able to speak with Alex Weston of Cowboys Gab. He told me his thoughts on new coach Jason Garrett, what he’d do to try to contain Michael Vick, and where each team will have the advantage in the match-up.
In the end, Alex gives us a final prediction on the game.
EaglesGab: The Cowboys are finding a lot more success since they fired Wade Phillips and promoted Jason Garrett. What do you attribute that to?
CowboysGab: I think Jason Garrett has come in and changed the culture of this team. The Cowboys looked like they had quit on Phillips and Garrett has them buying into his message. Garrett has also had them practicing in pads on Wednesdays, which might not sound like much, but the team feels that it has gotten them into a more physical rhythm that has translated well to the field.
EG: The Cowboys offense won’t have Dez Bryant the rest of the year. What type of impact will that make?
CG: As a team it will be felt, but I don’t think in a major way. It will effect their special teams productivity more than anything. Bryant has been strong at times on offense and been invisible at others. We have to remember that he is still a rookie and while analysts and the media think he is irreplaceable, the Cowboys have some good young guys behind him like Sam Hurd and Kevin Ogletree that can step in and be productive.
As far as Bryant goes, he is likely out 3-4 months which is a setback in his development. Jason Garrett listed a laundry list of things that Bryant still needs improvement on and this injury will certainly set him back in that regard.
EG: The Cowboys ran the ball 46 times against the Colts, all with Marion Barber not even playing. Should the Eagles expect to see more of the same?
CG: I think the Cowboys are at their best when they are a balanced “power” football team. If the score is close the Cowboys will be committed to running the ball. If the offensive line can get momentum blocking down the field instead of passing they play to their strength. If the Eagles get up early, it might force the Boys to abandon the run and go more pass heavy, which I think favors the Eagles defensive front.
EG: The Cowboys rank horribly against the pass and allowed Reggie Wayne to catch 14 passes for 200 yards last week. What is going on with the Cowboy’s secondary right now?
CG: I think the biggest problem is the lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. When quarterbacks have time they will find someone. The Cowboys have really only had one pass rusher this year, DeMarcus Ware. When he is shut down it makes it very difficult on the secondary. They are also banged up with nagging injuries that they are playing through, but they seems to be affected by them. I also think there is a little bit of a swagger that is missing from the back end as well. They seemed to have lost a lot of confidence and sometimes it takes a while to get it back. Don’t forget, they did have 4 interceptions against the Colts, but when it comes right down to it, Manning and Wayne typically get their plays.
EG: Jon Kitna and Tony Romo have very similar numbers this season in roughly the same amount of time. How would you evaluate the play of both quarterbacks and what do you expect out of Romo in the future?
CG: Romo was playing well before he got hurt. I think because they weren’t winning that a lot of people point to Romo, but when he was back there they had the second overall passing attack and the 4th overall offense. So, I think he was playing well. Kitna stepped in and has managed the game well for them. He has spread the ball around to everyone and has made the offense unpredictable. It took him a couple of games to shake the rust off but he has been very serviceable since. He is a great backup.
As for Romo’s future, I’m not too convinced we see him again this season. He is still having pain in his shoulder when sleeping which tells me he is still a little ways from returning. I just don’t see the point of having him come back. I think you let Kitna play a little more and then move to second year man Stephen McGee and see what he can do. The Cowboys are likely out of the playoff race unless something ridiculous happens, why not take a chance.
EG: If you are drawing up the defensive game plan for the Cowboys this week, what do you do to try and stop Michael Vick?
CG: Vick is a tough guy to stop, but if I had to plan for him I would keep my rushers in their rush lanes and try to take away the possibility of Vick stepping up and running with the ball. The d-line has to stay disciplined when you play against a guy with his kind of speed and ability. I would mix in some plays where I “spy” him with a linebacker and allow my d-line to go after him. You need to pressure him, but not allow him to step up. I would also use a lot of different looks to try to challenge him on the mental side of things. All this sounds good, but is very difficult to execute.
EG: On Sunday, where will the Cowboys have an advantage on offense? On defense?
CG: I think the areas that the Cowboys are stronger in are their TE’s versus the Eagles LB’s and safeties. I think Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett both provide a very difficult match-up for the Eagles defense. No one has been able to shut Witten down and I don’t see that happening this week either. On defense, I think it is the same match-up. I think the Cowboys linebackers can take away Celek and McCoy and force Vick and the wide outs to beat them.
EG: Where will the Eagles have an advantage on offense? On defense?
CG: On offense it is speed. The Eagles are so fast at the skill positions. I think if Vick runs on Sunday the Eagles will be successful. If he uses his legs to buy time and scramble now and then it will make the Cowboys defense very susceptible to the big plays. Dallas struggles against mobile quarterbacks (i.e. Vince Young) so if Vick can use his legs there will be plays for him to run and to hit Jackson and Maclin deep. On defense, the advantage will go in the front seven. I think the Eagles have the ability to take away the run and pressure Kitna. It will depend on whether they show up to do so.
EG: What player could be a potential x-factor for the Cowboys on Sunday?
CG: Tashard Choice. He has been begging for the ball all season and when he got it last week he took advantage of it. I think he is a combination of Barber and Jones and teams underestimate him. I think the Eagles will do the same.
EG: Give me a score prediction.
CG: This game can go two ways, either the Eagles blow the Boys out or, what I think will happen is the Cowboys will sqeak one out 31-28.
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