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Eagles Must Win Big In NFC East

Posted Nov 7, 2012

Playing catch-up is not an easy thing to do, but that's the challenge for the Eagles as the second half of the 2012 season begins. It's one of many things on my mind days before the kickoff against Dallas ...

Five of the remaining eight games come within the division and had the Eagles won a game or two more in the first eight outings, they would certainly be in advantageous striking position against the NFC East.

That's not the case, however, so the edict for the Eagles is to win at least six of their last eight games to have a chance at the playoffs. Hey, though, we have to take this one game at a time. A one-game winning streak is the immediate goal.

While the Eagles have their injury concerns -- Todd Herremans on Wednesday became the second starting offensive lineman, joining Jason Kelce, to go on season-ending Injured Reserve and starting left tackle Jason Peters remains out and right guard Danny Watkins didn't practice on Wednesday -- so do the Cowboys. Their starting center, Phil Costa, missed practice on Wednesday and likely won't play on Sunday. Running back DeMarco Murray didn't practice and is a longshot to go on Sunday. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff has an ankle injury suffered in Sunday night's loss in Atlanta and, while he could still play at Lincoln Financial Field, may not be all the way back from the injury.

The NFL is a battle of attrition, as we are again reminded. What has happened to the Eagles' offensive line has been extraordinary, of course, and the value of depth can never be overestimated. That's why every roster spot and every practice-squad position is so valued.

It's going to be interesting to see how the offensive structure changes with all of the chaos along the offensive line. The Eagles have to make some adjustments, don't they? Do they tighten the script to minimize potential damage? That would be playing, in a sense, "scared" football and that is not the way this coaching staff has ever operated.

But this coaching staff, never in the Andy Reid era in fact, has suffered so many injuries up front. Stability from tackle to tackle has been the hallmark of Eagles' offenses for many seasons. Since 2008, though, the Eagles have had to rebuild the group. They went the distance with veterans Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan at the tackle positions. Jamaal Jackson replaced Hank Fraley who replaced Bubba Miller at center, so the line of succession was always solid. Right guard rotated a bit too much after Shawn Andrews bottomed out, but the Eagles had some pretty strong stability through 2008.

Winston Justice never really made it at right tackle, nor did Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles pan out at right guard. Mike McGlynn was a try-hard guy at center in 2010, and then the Eagles blew up the line in 2011 and hoped they had found something to hang on to for a long time.

Had they all remained healthy, Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans could have been something really, really good this year. Instead, the Eagles are scrambling and hoping for the best against a physical, fast and at times ferocious Dallas defense on Sunday.

  • Lost in the concern about an offense averaging just 16 points per game this year is the season wide receiver DeSean Jackson. He has been focused, explosive and extremely reliable. Jackson probably won't put up the numbers to merit a Pro Bowl nod, but he's playing the best football of his career, I say. Let's hope the Eagles create ways to get him the football with challenges the offensive line presents.
  • David Sims had his ups and downs at safety on Monday night, but in the end he's going to be a much better player for the experience of starting and having a lot of responsibility in coverage against tight end Jimmy Graham. I don't quite understand that matchup, but Sims really improved as the game went along. The Eagles need a reliable third safety and Sims might prove to be that guy.
  • The throwback from Brandon Boykin to Riley Cooper was perfectly designed, and it's just a shame that Boykin didn't quite execute the play across the field. Credit to Bobby April for the design, though. It's just so hard to practice that play when it's not live action during the week.
  • I think that Bell is a better left tackle than he is a right tackle. He had been making some progress over on that side before Dunlap came back from his hamstring injury. Bell looked uncomfortable on the right side on Monday night.
  • Here's the deal with Peters: He is eligible to practice starting two days ago for the next three weeks. After that period of time, the Eagles must either add him to the active roster or put him on season-ending IR. There are no immediate plans to have Peters practice, though. I suspect a lot depends upon the team's won/loss record after Sunday's game and then the following week at the Redskins.
  • How will Todd Bowles rank the Dallas weapons? Is tight end Jason Witten first, followed by Dez Bryant and then Miles Austin? It's a tough matchup for the Eagles against Witten, who isn't particularly fast but who uses his body so well to box defenders out and make himself a wide target for quarterback Tony Romo.
  • I saw it when Dallas played on Sunday night and I wrote it then and it's worth mentioning again: I would think that Dallas will run some no-huddle offense in this game. Romo and the passing game looked great late in the fourth quarter on Sunday doing it after they played so well coming back against the Giants the week before. The Cowboys would be crazy to not give the no-huddle offense a try.

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