Sunday might could end up being a game where the Eagles defense proves that they can play like they did in 2017. This week, PhillyVoice’s Jimmy Kempski tweeted a picture of a collection of quarterbacks that have outplayed or played as well as Dak Prescott in their last collective 16 games (some spanning several seasons).
Among those listed, Tim Tebow, David Garrard, Blake Bortles, Geno Smith, and Kyle Orton have all arguably played better. One name that stands out the most to me is Tony Romo. Romo’s stats in his last 16 starts are pretty eye-popping when you consider he didn’t have Ezekiel Elliot to handoff to. Looking at those numbers, Eagles fans everywhere should thank Jerry Jones for being delusional enough after Prescott’s unreal rookie campaign to stick with him over Romo. Hindsight is always 20/20, but wow what a bad move that turned out to be.
So now we look to Sunday night and try to project what the Eagles will be able to do against Prescott. After two and a half seasons, there’s plenty of game tape on the Dallas quarterback, so scheming for his tendencies shouldn’t be any trouble for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, despite missing his starting outside cornerback Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones, whose main role comes in nickel packages. Assuming Corey Graham comes back versus Dallas, I expect to see Avonte Maddox filling in for Jones in the slot, and Rasul Douglas in for Mills.
Looking back, the Eagles defense in 2017 was pretty good at taking the ball away. They ranked 4th in the NFL with 31 total takeaways last season. In 2018, it’s been a much different story. The team is currently tied for 26th in the league with just seven total takeaways through eight games.
The good news is that Rasul Douglas has been known to be a ballhawk in his limited play since last season. In for just two defensive snaps versus Atlanta in the season opener, Douglas managed to pick off quarterback Matt Ryan. One of his few downsides as a football player is that he only seems able to play on the outside — two positions currently firmly held by Mills and Ronald Darby. With Mills out, Darby will likely slide to the right side, and Douglas will take Darby’s usual spot.
Going into Sunday night’s match versus Dallas, the Eagles defense is 5th in points per game, so we know they can limit the amount of scoring an offense does. The question that remains is if this new rotation of defensive backs can create problems for Prescott. Considering Dallas is 26th in passing touchdowns, 24th in passer rating, and 24th in completion percentage, it’s safe to say the Eagles defense is primed for a monstrous performance, and even get Prescott on the ground often.