Dallas Cowboys: Week 3 defensive plan for success

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /
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. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys’ defense just refuses to stay healthy. Dorance Armstrong and Carlos Watkins have already been ruled out for the team’s week three matchup. Keanu Neal, and as of Friday, Bradlee Anae are currently on COVID-19 protocol leaving both their availabilities for Monday’s game in question. Dan Quinn will, once again, have to reach in his bag of tricks to contain another offense led by a second-year quarterback.

Fortunately, the quarterback isn’t in a former rookie of the year or a top 10 quarterback in the league!

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts provides his own set of difficulties to manage, but the Cowboys were able to shut him down the lone time they played him last season. Even with the current health of the defense, it’s possible the talent on the defense is still better than the defense that played Hurts in week 16 of the 2020 season.

That said, Hurts has gotten better as well, the question is how much better?

The Eagles went out and grabbed the offensive coordinator from the Indianapolis Colts hoping to recreate the short passing, combinational running offense that worked so well for the team in 2017. The only problem, they shipped off the quarterback largely in charge of that team to Indianapolis.

Pretty immediately, Jalen Hurts was thrust into the QB1 spot and has improved… or so we think?

Former Bleeding Green Nation writer Michael Kist explained the Jalen Hurts phenomenon quite well: no passes over the middle, reduce the Average Depth of Target (ADoT), and let him sit in the pocket.

Hurts’ 7.9 air yards per attempt and184 total air yards are19th and 26th in the league respectively while the Eagles pass blocking win rate, 78 percent, is the second-best in the league. With the exclusion of recently injured Brandon Brooks, the Eagles offensive line has returned to its 2019 form and now they have recently extended Jordan Mailata playing left tackle. These factors are a big reason why Jalen Hurts is averaging 3.02 seconds per snap-to-throw.

The game plan for this week seems quite simple then? Harassing Hurts early should theoretically leave him unable to go through his progressions as slowly as he does. The defensive backs should play press coverage to disrupt the receivers’ timing out of their releases leaving Hurts unable to trigger.

But how do you do that with the team’s current defensive line and cornerback depth?

Today I am attempting to figuratively install the Dallas Cowboys defense as they face America’s least favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Last week, I had correctly predicted that by using Micah Parsons more as an EDGE defender, the team would revert to more base defense looks. Perhaps this week, I can tap into the mind of Dan Quinn and guess how he’ll handle this week’s opponent.

Or maybe it’s the other way around?