The Gap

Posted: April 10th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles won the Super Bowl (in case you forgot).

The Cowboys missed the playoffs.

The Eagles are the favorites to win the NFC East again this year, but how big of a gap is there between the two teams? Bucky Brooks wrote a piece covering several NFL items, including his thoughts on the Eagles and Cowboys.

The football world snickered earlier this week when Jerry Jones suggested that the Dallas Cowboys weren’t that far away from the Philadelphia Eagles, but the bodacious owner’s assessment of his squad is on point.

“I think that if the gap is defined as them winning the Super Bowl and [us] not even getting in the playoffs, then we’ve got to close the gap,” Jones said recently, via ESPN’s Todd Archer. “I think that we should’ve been in the playoffs. We weren’t. But I don’t believe that us not being in the playoffs this past year is the size of the gap.”

Guess what? He’s right. The Cowboys are legitimate contenders in the NFC, with Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott buoying their chances of making a run at the title this season. Now, I know the Cowboys‘ overall performance is tied to more than just the play of No. 21 and No. 4, but the dynamic duo has the capacity to mask all of the flaws on the team’s roster when they’re on the field together. Just look at the numbers.

In 2016, the Cowboys surged to a 13-3 record behind an offense that averaged 26.3 points per game, surrendered just 19.1 points per game and owned a plus-5 advantage in turnover differential. Those numbers dipped in 2017 when Elliott missed six games due to suspension. The team finished with a 9-7 mark, scoring just 22.1 points per game, allowing 20.8 points per game and posting a minus-1 turnover differential.

Those numbers support the notion that the Cowboys are an offensive-minded squad fueled by the play of their QB1 and RB1. When Prescott and Elliott play well, the Cowboys are nearly unbeatable, and that’s why the Jones isn’t off base when he suggests his squad is right there with the Eagles.

 The Cowboys do have some really talented pieces and that could be a very good team this year.

At the same time, Brooks says some strange things. He talks about Dallas being nearly unbeatable when Prescott and Elliott play well. Okay. Nearly unbeatable would seem to be a very generous description of a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2014, when both stars were still in college.

In 2016, they needed a big comeback to beat an Eagles team with Jordan Matthews going 11-65-1 and Dorial Green-Beckham going 5-55 as the leading receivers. With a rookie starting at RT. With Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll as the CBs. In a 3-week span, Dallas beat the Skins by 5, the Vikings by 2 and lost 10-7 to the Giants. Quite the juggernaut.

The 2017 Eagles won five games by 23 or more points. The 2016 Cowboys won two such games.

The Eagles were the best team in the league and overcame a slew of obstacles on their way to winning the organization’s first Super Bowl. Dallas had a lot of favorable circumstances in 2016. They couldn’t take advantage of having a healthy team.

Dallas had Elliott and Prescott for 10 games in 2017. The team went 6-4, with one win being a 6-0 victory over Eagles backups at the end of the season.

To be fair, Brooks did talk about Elliott and Prescott playing well. But what does that mean? Prescott played like a star in 2016 and then struggled for much of last year. Which of those is the real Prescott? My guess is that the 2016 version is legit and not an anomaly, but we can’t ignore last year’s struggles. I mean, if he needs great protection and a great running game and strong defense…that diminishes his value.

Troy Aikman had great talent around him, but he delivered great results. Prescott was just a rookie, but he lost his one playoff game. And he lost to a team that didn’t have their best WR and was using a backup WR as their RB. Dallas was at home and well-rested, but they couldn’t beat the Packers in a shootout, losing 34-31.

Dak Prescott is a good QB. Zeke is a great RB. They give Dallas a terrific 1-2 punch and the foundation of a good team.

What about coaching? Brooks glosses over that topic. He does mention that Dallas is making their offense more “Dak friendly”. Dallas wants to take advantage of his skills. Okay, that makes sense. But why do it now? Why not adjust the offense last spring? It feels like this is Dallas looking at the Eagles success and trying to adjust on the fly. There is nothing wrong with stealing ideas. Heck, the Eagles do that better than anyone.

I’m just not sure I buy this as a magic elixir that guarantees Dallas gets back to their success from 2016. The Eagles coaching staff did a brilliant job in 2017 and got the most out of their players. The gameplans, play-calling and execution were something special. I just don’t see Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan suddenly coaching like that. Garrett has been around long enough that we know he’s okay, but hardly a difference-maker as a coach. Linehan is a good OC, but he’s never done anything special.

It is fair to question if the Eagles can repeat the great 2017 performance, but I think Brooks is over-selling the Cowboys here. They might take a huge step forward in 2018, but there are no guarantees. I don’t really see any signs that the team is ready to suddenly be great. They finished 13th in DVOA last year. The Eagles were 5th in 2016, which told you there was a solid foundation in place and that an increase in talent could lead to something special. That’s exactly what happened.

Has Dallas made any substantial additions? Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson could help at WR. I would hardly call them compelling additions, though. I think most people would agree that the Eagles have had the better offseason to this point.

It will be interesting to see how all of this shakes out. I expect the Eagles to be Super Bowl contenders once again. I expect Dallas to be good, but I’m not sure how good. They are more of a mystery than a certainty to me at this point.


One Comment on “The Gap”

  1. 1 百约不得姐 said at 8:43 PM on April 10th, 2018: