Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Cowboys week. The Eagles travel to Dallas this week and are ready for redemption after having their season ended their last year.
In preparation for the game, I asked Jeric Griffin of TheCowboysCentral.com a series of questions about the match-up. We talked about the recent success of Jason Garrett, what the Cowboys will need to do in order to stop Michael Vick, and where both teams will have an advantage on Sunday.
As always, we end the interview with a score prediction. Enjoy! Also, don’t forget to check out the questions he asked me here.
BirdsFan: The Cowboys are finding a lot more success since they fired Wade Phillips and promoted Jason Garrett. What do you attribute that to?
TheCowboysCentral: Unlike Phillips, Garrett holds the players responsible for their actions. He’s still the offensive coordinator, but Garrett’s play-calling has become much more balanced since taking over the head coaching position. A combination of newfound discipline and better execution under Garrett has made the Cowboys a much better team.
BF: The Cowboys offense won’t have Dez Bryant the rest of the year. What type of impact will that make?
TCC: Just like they have in the past four games, the Cowboys will have to turn more to the running game. Tashard Choice proved against Indianapolis that he is a very reliable part of the Cowboys’ backfield and he will be called upon more as the season progresses. In addition, Roy Williams and Jason Witten will have to become even more involved in the passing game with defenses now keying on Miles Austin.
BF: The Cowboys ran the ball 46 times against the Colts, all with Marion Barber not even playing. Should the Eagles expect to see more of the same?
TCC: Absolutely. Dallas is finally doing what it should have been every game this season. Unfortunately, Barber probably won’t be a factor in the running game again this week, but Garrett must continue to get the ball in Choice and Felix Jones’ hands to have a chance to win.
BF: The Cowboys rank horribly against the pass and allowed Reggie Wayne to catch 14 passes for 200 yards last week. What is going on with the Cowboy’s secondary right now?
TCC: With the release of Ken Hamlin in the offseason, Alan Ball and rookie Akwasi Owusu-Ansah were expected to man that free safety spot along with Pro Bowl corners Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman. However, Owusu-Ansah has been placed on injured reserve and Alan Ball is having much difficulty with his transition from cornerback to safety. Jenkins and Newman haven’t gotten beaten one-on-one that often, but Ball has failed to save them when they have.
BF: Jon Kitna and Tony Romo have very similar numbers this season in roughly the same amount of time. How would you evaluate the play of both quarterbacks and what do you expect out of Romo in the future?
TCC: The two quarterbacks are extremely different. Romo is the soft-spoken gunslinger who could put up career high or low numbers on any day. Kitna is the fiery veteran leader who commands respect from his teammates. Kitna is not as talented as Romo, but he’s smarter in the pocket and doesn’t make as many silly mistakes. Since Kitna is 38 and the Cowboys are paying Romo $8.5 million per year, it’s highly unlikely that anything will change next season. I expect Romo to be a much better leader next season having watched Kitna direct this team on the sideline the past seven weeks.
BF: If you are drawing up the defensive game plan for the Cowboys this week, what do you do to try and stop Michael Vick?
TCC: Vick has proven this season that he is capable of standing in the pocket and making accurate throws even while under pressure. Therefore, it would behoove the Cowboys to use outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer as spies for when Vick tries to run. Granted, I don’t expect anything to work in stopping Vick. However, my best attempt would be to spy and try to prevent him from running wild.
BF: On Sunday, where will the Cowboys have an advantage on offense? On defense?
TCC: On offense, the Cowboys should be able to use Choice and Jones on the ground along with short passes over the middle to Witten to try and lull that Philadelphia secondary to sleep. Then Kitna will need to look deep to Austin on every play that he is not double covered, which I don’t expect to be many. On defense, the Cowboys have no advantage. It will be critical for the defense to make enough stops for the Dallas offense to keep pace on the scoreboard with the Eagles’.
BF: Where will the Eagles have an advantage on offense? On defense?
TCC: On offense, the Eagle’s passing game is huge advantage. The Cowboys have never had much luck against mobile quarterbacks or running backs that are great at catching the ball out of the backfield. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the Eagles have both of those things. Defensively, the Eagles’ secondary is a big key to a Philadelphia victory. I mentioned that Kitna is a smart quarterback, but the sheer athleticism of the Eagles’ defensive backs trumps Kitna’s 38-year-old reflexes. It may be a little humorous, but it’s true.
BF: What player could be a potential x-factor for the Cowboys on Sunday?
TCC: Jason Witten. Everyone is expecting me to say Roy Williams or Tashard Choice, but those are obvious and the Eagles will be looking to stop them. To be honest, you can’t stop Witten. That’s not bragging or smack talk; it’s just fact. With Bryant out, the Eagles can really focus on both Austin and Williams and of course all eyes are now on Choice following his first 100-yard running game as a pro. Witten could be a potential difference-maker in this game.
BF: Give me a score prediction.
TCC: Vick is too good for Dallas to stop. McCoy is the kryptonite to the Cowboys’ defense. Dallas will hang in there with some gutsy throws from Kitna, but Vick will work his magic late. Eagles 41, Cowboys 34