Around mid-week, the message coming from the Dallas Cowboys locker room was this was a “must-win game.” The believability in that message was validated during a pre-game scuffle that involved defensive back Coach Kris Richard, his players and members of the Philadelphia Eagles. Dallas played maybe its more complete game of the season to push them to 4-5 and tied for second in the division. This win showcased many things we already knew about this team and some interesting questions that will arise further down the line. So here are the five things to take away from the Cowboys 27-20 victory over the Eagles.
Leighton Vander Esch is the solidified starter
With Sean Lee slated to miss at least another three weeks, there is growing confidence in the fact Vander Esch can hold down the fort. However, his performance last night justified a growing consensus that Vander Esch snaps should not decrease once Lee returns. His 13 tackles and first-quarter interception provided a glance into what the future of this defense will look like with him paired alongside Jaylon Smith. At 6’4, 250 pounds, LVE is the prototypical NFL linebacker you want in the middle of your defense. On a crucial 3rd-and-2 deep in the fourth quarter with the Cowboys up 27-20, Vander Esch displayed an elite sense of instincts and awareness when he sniffed out a screen to the near side of the field. The loss of yardage forced the Eagles into a 4th-and-7 in which they were unable to convert.
Amari Cooper proves why #1 Receivers are important
Amari Cooper’s 6 reception 75-yard performance may not be enough to impress many from just glancing at the box score but it is significant. As customary as one would believe this is for an NFL offense, Cooper became the first Cowboys receiver to have back-to-back 5-plus catch games since Dez Bryant in week 5 and 7 of 2017. That daunting statistics shows how inept the Cowboys offense has really been in a pass-happy league. Cooper wasn’t brought here to have 10 grabs for 100 yards, but him taking advantage of 1-on-1 coverage spells nothing but great things for the overall performance of this offense.
Connor Williams is not the best option at Left Gaurd…Yet
It’s true. The rookie second-round pick is not this season’s best player to play in between Tyron Smith and Joe Looney. That isn’t to say Williams will not reach his potential here in Dallas. At 6’5 298, as listed on DallasCowboys.com, Williams has struggled with adapting to the strength of NFL defensive tackles. It’s not something new that we’ve heard about first-year players. Xavier Sua-Filo just showed the difference between a five-year pro and a rookie who’s making a transition from tackle to guard.
Where’s the love for Zeke in the passing game?
Ezekiel Elliott tied for a team-high six receptions Sunday night. It was his highest total since his seven-reception performance against the Houston Texans in week 5. We all know Elliott is a dynamic runner, but the Cowboys have failed to utilize him in their passing game. He has four touchdowns, 35 receptions and 262 yards receiving this year. That total sits him at 1.093 all-purpose yards. Not far-fetched to see him as a true multi-purpose back.
Dallas defense is good, not elite
This defense is a really solid unit. They’ve shown that through nine games this season. The problem comes with the play making. On the final Eagles drive, Wentz nearly led a game-tying drive to send it to overtime. Through the last three-quarters Wentz tallied up more than 300 yards while only being sacked once. He also did it with a 72% completion percentage. Though these players have shown an ability to make plays, they have yet to become play makers.
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