Both teams are desperate.
Neither team features an offensive line at full strength. Both teams are desperate.
Something has to give Sunday night, when the Dallas Cowboys (3-3) host the Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) in a battle for first place in the NFC East.
As with most games, this one should be decided in the trenches. But given the state of each team going in, it’s just about impossible to determine if anyone has an advantage.
Both Cowboys starting offensive tackles, La’el Collins (knee) and Tyron Smith (ankle), as well as right guard Zach Martin (back, ankle), are injured. Neither tackle played in last week’s game against the hideous New York Jets, who handed the Cowboys their third straight defeat.
Left tackle Jason Peters (knee) is not expected to play for the Eagles, which would clear the way for rookie first-round pick Andre Dillard to make his first career start.
Right tackle Lane Johnson said one of his biggest adjustments as a rookie was “the road games, trying to get off the snap. I had difficulty. I was always late off the snap, and it put me in bad positions right away.”
Naturally, AT&T Stadium is the largest in the league, with a capacity of more than 100,000. That means noise. Lots of noise. Especially if the retractable roof is closed.
As if Dillard didn’t have enough to worry about with the potential for false or late starts that the crowd creates, he also must contend with Cowboys defensive end Robert Quinn, who has a team-high 5.0 sacks. That is, unless Quinn switches sides with DeMarcus Lawrence, who’s off to a slow start this season (2.5 sacks) but is one of the league’s most accomplished pass rushers.
Johnson knows better than to expect anything less than Lawrence’s best.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “He’s a good competitor and he’s ready to go. He’s got a mean cross-drop move and he’s got an inside spin to go with it too, so those are two things I’m trying to look at and trying to well against.”
At full strength, the Cowboys’ offensive line is tough to penetrate.
With both tackles out and Martin battling through pain, all bets are off.
Still, much like Johnson knows with Lawrence, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox believes that as long as Martin is across the line of scrimmage from him, nothing will come easy.
“He’s a tough guy,” Cox said. “Sometimes you’ll see him go out of the game with a certain type of injury, but the next thing you know, he’s right back in. I look forward to going against him every year.”
A different animal
Once linebacker Alex Singleton learned how to be a pro, the rest was just patience, the newest member of the Eagles’ active roster said Thursday.
Promoted from the practice squad the day before, Singleton enters this weekend as a member of an NFL team in a regular-season game for the first time in a pro career that began in 2015.
That’s when he went undrafted out of Montana State, signed with the Seahawks but failed to make the team, then wound up on the practice squads of the Patriots and the Vikings by the end of the season.
Singleton spent the next three seasons in the Canadian Football League, where he was an all-star in 2017 and 2018 and named the league’s most outstanding defensive player in 2017.
He gave the NFL another try after signing with the Eagles last January, landing on their practice squad in September after failing to make the final cuts.
Now the 25-year-old is finally where he wants to be.
“It’s one of those things you kind of wait for your whole life,” he said, “so it’s kind of cool to have happen.”
Singleton calls himself 100% ready.
“I’ve been ready since the last preseason game,” he said. "You know, I’ve been ready to play for this team probably since OTAs. I’m just excited to go out there and continue to do what I’ve done in practice and the preseason.
“... I didn’t know much [coming out of college]. I didn’t know how to study — not that I wouldn’t have said I was ready to be a pro — but myself now ... I’m so much more prepared now, I know how to prepare. And like I said, I’ve been ready for the last six weeks for this.”
Dissension in the ranks?
In a quote that would seem out of character for any Eagle, including recently released linebacker Zach Brown, jettisoned on Monday for reportedly not buying into the program, an unidentified player reportedly told ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Wednesday that he was upset the Eagles didn’t land cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a trade.
“We dropped the ball,” he said. “I don’t even want to talk about that (!@#^). Everybody knew what it was going to take to get him. I could’ve told you that.”
Ramsey instead was traded by Jacksonville to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round draft picks and a fourth-round pick.
LB Nigel Bradham (ankle), WR DeSean Jackson (abdomen), DT Timmy Jernigan (foot), CB Avonte Maddox (concussion, neck), T Jason Peters (knee) and RB Darren Sproles (quad) did not practice.
CB Ronald Darby (hamstring) was limited.
DT Fletcher Cox practiced without restriction after being out ill on Wednesday.