Cowboys - Eagles: What to Watch

Make no bones about it, Donovan McNabb hasn't had the best start to his 2003 season. Today, we take a look at what to look for this weekend when the first place Dallas Cowboys take on the struggling Philadelphia Eagles.

GAME PLAN: The Cowboys have lost to the Eagle six straight times largely because of penalties and turnovers. The Eagles were better but they also had help from a mistake prone Cowboys team. The Cowboys must take care of the ball. They have done a great job so far. They are third in the league with only five turnovers.

Quarterback Quincy Carter must continue that trend on Sunday and also make the Eagles pay for their blitzing with big plays. Defensively, its stop the run, contain Donovan McNabb and make the Eagles beat you with their suspect passing attack.

With Donovan McNabb struggling, the Eagles are expected to come out running and try to have enough success on the ground to force the Cowboys to bring up their safeties in run support, then attack them with the pass. Defensively, the Eagles know the Cowboys will try to attack them deep with the pass. Defensive chief Jim Johnson is expected to blitz young quarterback Quincy Carter early and often and force him into mistakes.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Eagles blitzing defense vs. Cowboys offense. The Eagles will bring the blitz no matter what. They come from all directions, safeties, corners, linebackers and the Cowboys must be ready.

That they haven't been is a reason the Cowboys have lost six straight to Philadelphia by an average margin of 23.5 points. Coach Bill Parcells works on the blitz protection everyday in practice so they should be ready for it. That the Cowboys have an offense that can make teams pay for the blitz is another factor in 2003.

The Cowboys are third in the league in the number of plays of more than 20 yards or more this year. Quincy Carter has been accurate getting the ball to speedy receivers Joey Galloway, Antonio Bryant and Terry Glenn. The question is whether they will make the Eagles stop blitzing or make them pay if they don't.

* Eagles LG John Welbourn v. Cowboys RDT La'Roi Glover. Glover is the club's best defensive lineman. If Welbourn can control him, the Eagles should be able to run on the Cowboys.

* Eagles LDT Corey Simon v. Cowboys RG Andre Gurode. Simon is off to the best start of his career. His ability to get inside push on the quarterback will go a long way in determining whether the Eagles can shut down the Cowboys' passing attack.

* Eagles CBs Troy Vincent, Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard v. Cowboys WRs Terry Glenn, Joey Galloway and Antonio Bryant. All three Cowboys receivers are averaging 18-plus yards per catch.

INJURY IMPACT: Dallas: TE James Whalen is listed as questionable for the Eagles game with a strained hamstring. He sat out of last week's game with the injury. The Cowboys missed Whalen because he is their best special teams player. They hope to get him back on the field for the Eagles game because he will help make up for the loss of TE Jason Witten (fractured jaw) by taking snaps in the regular offense.

* TE Jason Witten will be out at least one week with a fractured jaw. The Cowboys signed Tony McGee to take Witten's place this week but they don't think Witten will be out long.

Philadelphia: FS Brian Dawkins (foot sprain) is still on crutches and won't play this week.

* CB Troy Vincent (hamstring) practiced Wednesday and will play Sunday.

* CB Bobby Taylor (plantar fasciitis) is expected to miss his fourth straight game.

* RT Jon Runyan (lower back contusion) didn't practice Wednesday, but should be able to play Sunday.

* RB Correll Buckhalter (knee contusion) practiced Wednesday and will play this week.

* QB Donovan McNabb (leg contusion) practiced Wednesday and will play this week.

* DE Jerome McDougle (high ankle sprain) will miss his fourth straight game.

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