Eagles-Cowboys: Stopping Dak Tops Eagles’ To-Do List
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Ezekiel Elliott is suspended and seemingly out of the country while perhaps the Cowboys' most talented offensive and defensive players -- left tackle Tyron Smith and linebacker Sean Lee, respectively - are unlikely to play Sunday night.
That means the 8-1 Eagles are the hammer set to strike the nail that is Dallas' 2017 season.
The Cowboys (5-4), though, are going to show up at AT&T Stadium and perhaps the one player that can change what looks like an inevitable narrative on paper is Dak Prescott, the second-year dual-threat quarterback that Jim Schwartz heaped praise upon earlier this week.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better thrower on the run than Dak Prescott,” the Eagles defensive coordinator said Tuesday.
Considering Schwartz used to be the head coach in Detroit and played Aaron Rodgers twice a year there is a little Lou Holtz-style hyperbole there but the embellishment is being used for good reason, Prescott is a lot like Carson Wentz in that he can hurt a defense at any time with unscripted offense tied to his ability to extend plays.
“He can throw scrambling to his left. He can throw scrambling to his right. There are not many quarterbacks that can do that," Schwartz explained. "He can threaten the whole field on the run. He doesn’t have to reset the throw, and he’s very accurate on the run. There are a lot of mobile quarterbacks and a lot of guys that can throw from the pocket. There are a lot of guys that can run read option. But I think what really makes him stand out is that he can throw on the run."
Through 25 regular-season starts, Prescott is a gaudy 18-7 as the on-field leader of the Cowboys and has had a hand in 50 touchdowns, 39 through the air and 11 on the ground.
Wentz and Prescott will likely be linked together for years moving forward because they came from the same draft class and landed as rookie starters in a high-profile rivalry.
Wentz has the better pedigree as the No. 2 overall pick and Prescott landed in the better situation to start at least, something that has shifted quickly due in large part to Wentz's effect on the Eagles.
"At the end of the day we are playing the Dallas Cowboys," Wentz said when asked about the comparisons.
Although Prescott wasn't in the rarified air of Wentz or No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff in the 2016 draft process, the Cowboys' starter still received high praise from Philadelphia dating back to its pre-draft preparation.
“I had very, very high grades on Dak in every aspect,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “I thought his college tape was really, really good. I really liked the way he threw the ball, his timing and anticipation. When he came in here and we sat down and interviewed him, it was really high in all areas. Then you could just tell he had that X-factor as far as natural leadership ability. So I enjoyed getting to know him a little bit.”
Wentz also enjoyed his interaction with Prescott.
"He's a good dude," the MVP candidate admitted.
Not the typical acrimony you often see in the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry but that doesn't mean Philadelphia isn't relishing the opportunity to put the NFC East out of Dallas' reach.
Without Smith last week in Atlanta, Prescott was sacked eight times -- six by Adrian Clayborn -- and lost two fumbles as the Falcons routed the Cowboys 27-7.
The main issue was the play of Chaz Green at left tackle and the Cowboys could move toward Byron Bell this week. Either way, the highly-regarded Eagles' defensive line is likely champing at the bit after watching the film.
“You can’t just assume we’ll have a good day rushing based on what (the Falcons) did last week," Schwartz insisted. "I’m sure they’ll work really hard to shore up some of their spots. They know us pretty well. We know them pretty well.”
And Schwartz knows who can beat him.
“Some guys will scramble and you have time to chase a guy in coverage or to plaster your coverage or chase him and get an extra guy to him,” the DC said. “With Prescott, he doesn’t give you that opportunity. The ball could come out at any time, and you have to be ready for it at any time. ...And for a young player, he makes very few mistakes, and that’s impressive.”
973espn.com Prediction: Eagles 34, Cowboys 17 ((2017 Prediction Record: 7-2, vs. spread 5-4)
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen