EAGLES WANT WIN SUNDAY, COWBOYS WANT INJURY-FREE GAME-TONY ROMO TO PLAY

Al Thompson
Fans will see most of the Cowboys outstanding offensive line Sunday but after the first quarter, not much else. 
Photo by Jesse Simmers / contrastphotography.com
Fans will see most of the Cowboys outstanding offensive line Sunday but after the first quarter, not much else. Photo by Jesse Simmers / contrastphotography.com

The Eagles will be trying to win their seventh game of the year when they take on the NFC No. 1 seed Dallas Cowboys (13-2) at Lincoln Financial Field (1 p.m. FOX) in the regular season finale for both teams.

The Cowboys have nothing to gain Sunday and everything to lose if they play their starters. Rookie quarterback sensation Dak Prescott has been quoted that his is starting and that was backed up by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones earlier in the week.

But Friday several reports indicated Tony Romo, who has missed the entire season after suffering a back injury in the preseason and then being demoted because of the play of Prescott, is expected to play
Sunday against the Birds (6-9), Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

That appears to be a change in plans for the Cowboys, who had previously indicated that they wouldn’t risk an injury to Romo in a meaningless game and go with Mark Sanchez if they decided to give Prescott some rest Sunday.

According to dallascowboys.com writer Bryan Broaddus all three quarterbacks with see playing time with Prescott starting the game.

Emmett Cleary will make his first NFL starting at left tackle in place of the injured Tyron Smith.

While every Eagles player on the roster will want to play, the Cowboys will be resting many for sure.
It remains to be seen how much playing time players like rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott or oft-injured linebacker Sean Lee, who many believe his injury-free season is a big reason for the Cowboys success.
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The Cowboys declared seven players “out” on Friday. CB Morris Claiborne, LB Justin Durant, OT Tyron Smith, DE DeMarcus Lawrence, DT Cedric Thornton, DT Terrell McClain and DE Tyrone Crawford will all be out on Sunday afternoon.

The Eagles, according to their head coach Doug Pederson are ready to go.

“We’re actually pretty healthy,” Pederson started his press conference with. “Everybody is going to practice today. Allen (Barbre), he’ll be limited today. We just want to keep testing that hamstring with Allen. Jordan Hicks with his ankle will be good. He’ll practice. “We’ll list him as questionable right now. Jordan Matthews, the same way, he will practice today, but he’s questionable.
“Isaac [Seumalo] is doing extremely well, and he’ll be fine; listed as questionable. And then Big V [T Halapoulivaati Vaitai] is probably the best of all of them, and he’s good to go.”
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Here is the rest of Pederson’s Friday press conference.
Q. Do you have a roster move yet?
DOUG PEDERSON:
We haven’t yet. Now that we’re later in the week, obviously today being Friday, probably anticipate – we’ve got to get through practice today – but anticipate probably [RB] Terrell Watson potentially being that guy up to give us depth at the running back spot. But we’ve got to get through practice today.

Q. Will he be an emergency kind of guy or will you try to get him involved?
DOUG PEDERSON
: Right now, going in more as an emergency. I would obviously love to see [RB] Byron [Marshall] quite a bit in this last ballgame, see what you’ve got there. But he [Watson] definitely will be there in case of … And then situational, some situational football, as well. So, we’ll see where he’s at.

Q. If Barbre is healthy, will he start at left guard?
DOUG PEDERSON:
If Allen [Barbre] is healthy, yes.

Q. Is he listed as questionable?
DOUG PEDERSON:
Actually we listed him [Allen Barbre] today as doubtful. We just want to make sure that hamstring is good.

Q. So, who would start in his place?
DOUG PEDERSON:
Wiz [C/G Stefen Wisniewski]. And then of course Isaac [Seumalo] and Big V [Halapoulivaati Vaitai] would be the sixth and seventh [offensive linemen], with probably looking at Isaac playing, as well.

Q. You’ll get Isaac into the game?
DOUG PEDERSON
: I would love to, yes.

Q. At left guard or in that extra tight end spot?
DOUG PEDERSON:
No, probably more so at the guard position than the tight end, and I want to see him in that situation.

Q. There’s a report that Cowboys QB Tony Romo is going to play in this game. Is that a little bit of a surprise to you?
DOUG PEDERSON:
I mean, anything is possible in this last game. Of course I would expect … It doesn’t surprise me knowing where they’re heading and going into the postseason, obviously getting him some snaps would be beneficial. And that would be something that I’d even consider in that situation, if we were in that situation, doing that with our backups.

Q. How come?
DOUG PEDERSON
: One, you don’t risk injury to your starter, obviously, and then two, just your backup needs to be ready in those crucial moments. We were faced with it just a week ago with [QB] Chase [Daniel]. Having him play and play extensively would be very beneficial going into the postseason, and getting snaps this late in the season because they haven’t played really since preseason.

Q. This is your first full season calling plays in both halves. Is it something that you’ve enjoyed doing? Do you feel that you’ve done well in terms of also managing the game? Do you think it’s something you’ll continue to do?
DOUG PEDERSON:
Obviously I’ll evaluate that quite extensively here in these next coming weeks, but I’ve enjoyed doing that, Number One. From a game-management standpoint, I don’t think it’s interfered with anything from a decision standpoint, because I’m also getting a lot of information from other coaches and guys in the box. [In terms of] crucial decisions, I feel like we’ve handled those well; I’ve handled those well. Are there calls that I would do differently [when] looking back? Sure, there are a few plays this year that I would take back [and] call a different play. I think that’s part of the learning process for me in my first year going through it and making myself better in the future.

Q. Did you feel that streamlining the play calling by going from you directly to the quarterback was beneficial?
DOUG PEDERSON:
Very beneficial. I did that obviously in Kansas City. It’s just the ease of getting the play [to the quarterback] in a timely manner is very beneficial to the offense.

Q. Is there one specific area that you’ve seen the most growth from Carson in the time he has been here?
DOUG PEDERSON:
I think with Carson, these last couple of weeks, the way he has been able to kind of spread the ball around to different [players]. He’s getting through his progressions better; he’s not getting stuck on a receiver; he’s utilizing his backs and you’re seeing that a little bit more; [he’s using] his tight ends underneath and things like that. Those are things you learn once you really get comfortable with the offense and understand where guys are going to be. I think that’s the [area] that he’s taken really big strides in here in these last couple of weeks. [It’s] something we can build on this offseason.

Q. In talking to us last week you said there were about six or seven plays that really changed the outcome of the season. Which plays are the ones that are really going to bother you this offseason?
DOUG PEDERSON:
Looking back, there were maybe some fourth-down situations that I [would] call a different play. I still like the decisions to go for it. I think back to the [first] Giants game: running Carson in that situation in fourth-and-2, [I’d] probably call a different play. The decision to go for it I think was okay. The play design, not so much. Even looking back on a third-down situation where — and again, specifically, I’m just thinking of down-and-distances in [terms of] those third-and-5 [situations], not necessarily one specific [play] — but I know where maybe I’ve thrown the ball in that situation as opposed to running it in that situation, because teams will usually anticipate a throw, normally. Those are decisions that are in-game decisions that you [make] to kind of help your offense stay on the football field.

Areas of the field where we start crossing that plus-40-yard line, you see teams — and I’ve been on teams where that’s a good opportunity to take a shot to the end zone — try to get that quick score from that, which we did last week when we hit Nelson [WR Nelson Agholor] in that area. So those are things that I’ve learned this season where I would probably change the course of a couple of plays differently that way.

Q. As you look at the success Kansas City is having, in year four there, what can you take from where they are in their program and apply here?
DOUG PEDERSON:
Well, I think, number one, you look at them, and of course I was there for three years, just the progression of [Chiefs QB] Alex [Smith] in the system and how well now he is managing and playing quarterback with that team. The youth that the Chiefs have brought in, the [Chiefs TE Travis] Kelces and the [Chiefs WR Albert] Wilsons, the guys you see on offense that are really beginning to take stride and understand their roles, there’s something to be said about being in a system for multiple years, and now they’re in that year four, and things are really beginning to take off. Defensively I know they’re going through some injuries on defense, but [Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob] Sutton does a great job with his scheme. He keeps it very simple for those guys like most coordinators do, and they’ve got great pass rushers, obviously. Also, the emergence of [Chiefs RB Spencer] Ware in the backfield, to be able to run the ball, has helped that football team. Those are all recipes for success, but the fact is they’ve been together now for a few years, and they kind of know the ins and outs of everything that’s going on.

Q. Is that the model that you tried to apply here?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah.
You know, you do. And those are things each week when you game plan, you try to keep the same core concepts in the game plan so the guys are getting the same reps or the same plays. You might just window dress it a little bit differently with a formation or a personnel grouping, but the fact is the guys are getting that same rep each week. Carson is seeing the same things each week from the offensive structure, now we just have to apply it to the defense that we’re seeing.

Q. When Eagles Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie talked about what kind of coach he was looking for last December, he mentioned having the emotional intelligence to work with the locker room. You’ve spoken a lot about how that’s helped you because you’ve been in their shoes. Has there been a moment this year where you felt like that benefitted you, the fact that you were able to relate to the players?
DOUG PEDERSON:
That’s a great question because I really feel like we got to this point where if we were to win that game, we’re still giving ourselves an opportunity for the postseason. And then we slipped up and we got on that little losing streak right there before the Giants game. About three weeks ago, this team could have really flipped and gone the other direction. I think by understanding and knowing the dynamic of that locker room, you go around and you talk to the leaders of the team and the leadership council, and you just keep fighting, you just keep buying in, and I think that’s helped me these last few weeks, and you’re seeing how these guys have responded. Great win last Thursday. There’s no quit. The fight is there, the effort has been there, and that’s something that these guys have really bought into these last few weeks, so that’s been a defining moment for me this first year of these guys really buying into what I’ve been saying, keeping my messaging consistent with the team, and letting them kind of take charge of it.

Q. Has WR Jordan Matthews’ ankle really limited him a lot down the stretch?
DOUG PEDERSON: You’ve probably noticed it on the field. You know, it affected him, obviously, last Thursday, and really the last couple of weeks. It frustrates him as a player because he definitely wants to be out there and we want him out there, obviously, so we’ll find out more today where he’s at. Yeah, it’s something that’s bothered him, and he definitely wants to get through it and get over it.

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