By Matthew Postins
The Dallas Cowboys (3-3) travel to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Wednesday marks the traditional start to the NFL work week. So here are the five stories you should follow leading up to the game:
Which way will these Cowboys run: Well, many Dallas Cowboys fans were waiting for the other shoe to drop on DeMarco Murray and it happened against Washington. He got hurt. Not seriously, it would seem. But Murray was putting up some nice numbers and showing his versatility before spraining his knee. There is some question as to whether Murray will play on Sunday, so the Cowboys may need to look elsewhere in the short term. Of the remaining players on the roster, rookie Joseph Randle received the most work after Murray left the game. He carried 11 times but gained less than 30 yards. He did score a late touchdown, but needed center Travis Frederick to practically push him into the end zone. The Cowboys need a running game this weekend against the Eagles. If Murray can’t go, and that seems likely, the Dallas Cowboys are going to have to turn to their most inexperienced back, along with Phillip Tanner, to get anything they can out of the ground game. Are they up for it? That will be the big question all week, and that insecurity may lead the Dallas Cowboys to bring in a street free agent for a week or two as insurance.
These fast Eagles: Chip Kelly’s system is getting a great test in Philadelphia. It’s basically offense as a track meet and a fire drill combined. And you know what? It’s working. The Eagles are third in total offense, first in rushing offense, seventh in plays from scrimmage and fifth in points per game. The system is designed to overwhelm opponents with quick scores and maximize total possessions in a game. No one is prepared to call it a success yet. But Kelly is showing he can do it with two different quarterbacks in Michael Vick and Nick Foles. The Eagles’ aims on offense aren’t much different than what the Denver Broncos did two weeks ago. Kelly just uses more read option and spread formations than the Broncos. Take the Broncos’ hurry-up offense and facets of what the Washington Redskins did Sunday night and you have a comparable offense. In this respect, the last two weeks have prepared the Dallas Cowboys from a game plan perspective. But are they prepared from a conditioning perspective, especially up front where they are seriously depleted? That will be on the mind of many question-askers this week.
Jay Ratliff: The Cowboys are on the clock, as Jay Ratliff is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list this week. The Cowboys have up to three weeks to determine whether they want to activate him or move him to injured reserve, ending his season. On Sunday night Michelle Tafoya asked Jones about Ratliff and said that Jones’ body language, along with is subjective answer, told her that Jones seemed unsure if Ratliff would ever play again for the team. What did Jones say after the game? “Our plans are to visit, not only with him but medical, look and see what we’re going to do with our timing with any PUP or IR considerations,” Jones told reporters. “We’ve still got a lot of working decisions to make there.” It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of Ratliff’s readiness to play. It’s unclear if the Cowboys will make a decision this week, but it’s clear it will be a distraction until they do.
The trade deadline: The NFL trade deadline is Oct. 29, and there will start to be talk this week about whether the Dallas Cowboys intend to make a move. Why? Well the Cowboys are staring at serious depth issues on their defensive line and could use at least one solid player to put into the rotation. Now, for most of this season, I’ve written about how the Cowboys need to address their depth here and all they’ve done is sign guys you’ve never heard of. One has to wonder if the injury to DeMarcus Ware causes the Cowboys to finally go after a free agent like Kyle Vanden Bosch, who is available, or make a trade. The Cowboys now have a couple of assets they could move – wide receiver Miles Austin and center Phil Costa. Austin will be nearly impossible to move due to his cap figure, unless you find a team with oodles of cap space that needs a wide receiver long term and likes Austin’s makeup. Costa might be more manageable, as he costs less and Travis Frederick is now firmly entrenched at center. It’s more likely the Dallas Cowboys will move a pick for a player, if they decide to make a deal. But shopping both players would be smart, just to see what they might get in return.
Cole Beasley: He’s really starting to become a real asset in this pass offense. Did you know that Beasley already has nearly as many receptions after four games (12 – he didn’t play in the first two games) as he did in 10 games last year (15)? He also scored his first NFL touchdown against Denver. He’s earned Tony Romo’s trust, and that’s as valuable an asset as his hands. As the Dallas Cowboys try to keep Dwayne Harris fresh for special teams, look for Beasley in the slot more and more.