Another week, another Eagles game that is hard to figure out. On one hand, our reaction should be overwhelmingly positive: the Eagles beat their hated rival and retained control of first place in the NFC East. On the other hand, the Eagles struggled offensively despite playing one of the worst defenses in the NFL and it was another ugly game overall from the Birds. Eagles Frenzy will have more coverage of the game and what to make of it throughout the week, so for now we'll simply accept the fact that a win is a win and take a look at the studs and duds from another confounding Eagles win.
STUD: T.J. Edwards
Oh my goodness, the Eagles had a real linebacker on the field in Week 8. Before we jump in, we'll add the caveat that yes, the Cowboys were down to their third-string QB who was making his first NFL start, so the performance of the defense should be taken with a grain of salt. However, the Cowboys still have a ton of offensive weapons and the defense can only play who is put in front of them, and there's no denying that the defense won the game Sunday night.
Now, back to Edwards. Seeing his first action since the Week 4 win over the 49ers, Edwards was all over the field Sunday night. He finished with 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a QB hit. He also forced the fumble that helped the Eagles seal the win. Going from Nate Gerry, who routinely found himself on the duds list and was actively hurting the Eagles to Edwards, who was flying around the field making all sorts of positive plays, was incredibly refreshing.
DUD: Carson Wentz
Yikes. After three consecutive weeks where Wentz was taking clear steps forward, it all came crashing down Sunday night. Against a terrible Cowboys defense Wentz managed the following line: 15/27 for 123 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a QB rating of 61.4. He also fumbled twice, and you simply cannot have your quarterback accounting for four turnovers in a game. Wentz continued to make poor decisions and to hold on to the ball for way too long.
There's no way around it, Wentz's play has become a serious concern. In year five, he's still making rookie mistakes and seems incabable of addressing areas that need improvement. He looks nowhere close to the player he was in his 2017 MVP-caliber season, and even a date with the lowly Cowboys defense couldn't cure whatever it is that is ailing him. Yes, injuries and near constant roster turnover at the other offensive positions are probably a factor here, but Wentz is also causing plenty of problems on his own. The Eagles need Wentz to get his mojo back ASAP.
STUD: Fletcher Cox
Anytime we get mulitple Fletch army crawls in a game, it's a good sign for the Eagles. Cox only had three tackles on the night, but they were impactful ones. Two of them were for a loss, and he added a sack and two QB hits to his night's work. Several times he sniffed out and distrupted trick plays from the Cowboys, and he was a disruptive force throughout the night.
DUD: John Hightower
Hightower failed to secure a catch on three targets Sunday night, with one of the passes thrown his way resulting in an interception. That's not to say the interception was his fault, or at least all his fault, but watching the play it's hard not to think he certainly played a role. It's likely that the wind played a role, and Wentz may also have misfired on his throw, but Hightower also appeared to struggle to track the ball, the second time Sunday night he did so. He had single coverage, and the worst case scenario on that play has to be an incompletion. Again, not all Hightower's fault, but still. Regardless of that one play, zero catches is just not good enough. And it's not just the literal lack of production, it's that with each missed connection and each catchless game, opposing defenses can pay less and less attention to Hightower, making it harder for his teammates to make plays.
There are plenty of Eagles analysts and Eagles fans who maintain belief in Hightower, that he has the goods to be able to play in the NFL, and maybe they are right. I just don't see it. I see another Eagles deep threat that isn't very good at tracking the ball, and we all know how that story ends by now.
STUD: Brandon Graham
BG continued his stellar season. He finished with four tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack, and a QB hit. He was flying around and making an impact for the defense just as he has been all season. Get this man a Pro-Bowl appearance, even if they aren't actually playing the game this season.
DUD: Greg Ward
Ward was another receiver who came up short Sunday night. He was targeted five times, coming up with three catches for just 10 yards. He also dropped a key third-down pass that he should have caught, a rare miscue for one of the more sure-handed receivers the Eagles have had during the past two years. Ward's emergence as a legitimate player has been huge for the Eagles, but he didn't produce enough Sunday night.
Having your quarterback and two wide receivers on the dud list is concerning. It also raises the question of whether the QB was bad because of the receivers or the receivers were bad because of the QB. That's probably best left for another article and some more in-depth film study, but my gut tells me Sunday night was more of the latter. Regardless of who is at fault, the Eagles need to get Wentz and these receivers on the same page.
STUD: Travis Fulgham
One receiver who does appear to have some chemistry with the QB and who continues to step up for the Eagles is Travis Fulgham. Fulgham continued his impressive run with another six catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. He had the Eagles' longest catch of the night with a 32-yard reception and he and Wentz failed to connect on only one of the seven targets that went Fulgham's way. It's been incredible watching this guy, and it continued Sunday night.
STUD: Rodney McLeod
McLeod has been great all season, and that continued Sunday night. He wasn't quite as active in terms of tackling, securing just a single takedown, but he continued to make a big impact for the defense. McLeod had two passes defensed and made the heads up play to scoop up a loose ball and return it for a touchdown when nobody seemed quite sure what was going on. Big-time credit to him for flying to the ball and playing until he hears a whistle, and his touchdown put some much-needed cushion on the scoreboard.