Something that will play a big role towards the success of the defense on Sunday will be the play of the linebackers. There has been a lot of shifting in the players in the middle this year and the trend will continue into Sunday. The most recent change comes with rookie Moise Fokou filling in for the injured Chris Gocong.
Fokou was in the rotation to fill in for the MLB position when Stewart Bradley went down this year. However, he was one of many of the short term solutions that didn’t work out. With the injury to Gocong, Fokou gets yet another chance to fill into a starting position on this team.
The Cowboys know they have Will Witherspoon who is not a natural MLB and a rookie in this starting lineup and will look to exploit them all game. Witherspoon is undersized for a MLB so I expect to see a lot of Marion Barber pounding it up the middle early in the game. If they can continually pick up yardage pounding the ball up the middle, it will make for a long game. I think we may see more Jeremiah Trotter if the Cowboys show that they really want to run the ball.
The linebackers are also going to need to stretch the field when they see the ball in Felix Jones’ hands as he will look to turn the corner and make a play with his speed. I look for Dallas to try to swing him out of the backfield as well and set up the screen to try and get him in the open field. Our linebackers are going to need to fight off their blocks quickly and not let a big play develop.
Jason Witten must be watched closely as well. If he gets going, it’s hard to stop him. It should be interesting to see how the Eagles choose to cover him throughout the game. If he lines up on the line, I hope whoever is lined up against him gives him a good bump if he’s releasing. This helps slow down the play and throw off timing.
The defense is going to need a complete effort to win this game; however, I see a lot of pressure on the linebackers due to recent circumstances.