Ben DiNucci Can’t Joe Webb The Eagles
By Rob Maaddi
Ben DiNucci has plenty of talent around him in his quest to Joe Webb the Eagles.
Jim Schwartz can’t let it happen.
The only way the Cowboys beat the Eagles with their third-string quarterback in Sunday night’s battle for first place in the NFC East is if Schwartz lets up on a seventh-round pick from James Madison University.
The Cowboys certainly have several weapons in Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Even Cedrick Wilson has a pair of 40-yard TD catches. But those passes were thrown by Dak Prescott.
DiNucci wasn’t even invited to the NFL Combine. He’s not ready for prime time. Schwartz has to be aggressive and not allow the rookie a chance to settle in, complete short passes, build confidence.
“Anybody that makes an NFL team is good enough to play, so I think you start there,” Schwartz said. “That’s going to get your respect right away. You’re good enough to make a 53-man roster, that deserves our respect.”
That was the best Schwartz can say about DiNucci.
Going from No. 3 QB to starter is an overwhelming task. DiNucci talks a confident game but a couple early sacks, hits, hurries and pressures will change that quickly.
“I think in the span of 10 days I went from being in a sweatshirt and sweat pants to here we are my number could be called so I’m taking it in stride,” DiNucci said. “I’m the most confident person in myself and the guys around us. So I’ve got no fear, no worries about being able to lead this team on Sunday night and doing what we got to do and get a win.”
The defense has to dominate this kid.
If you’re wondering who the heck is Joe Webb. He filled in for an injured Brett Favre and led a 5-win Vikings team to a 24-14 upset over Michael Vick and the Eagles in December 2010. The Eagles had already won the division but the loss cost them a chance at a first-round bye and they lost to Green Bay in a wild-card game.
Here’s three more matchups to watch:
1. Elliott vs. Eagles Run Defense
Elliott still doesn’t have a 100-yard game this season, the longest the two-time rushing champion has gone without reaching that number. He had never gone more than two games without one. The Cowboys should want to rely on Elliott to keep the ball out of DiNucci’s hands. But the Eagles have been solid against running backs this season. They’ve struggled when other players run the ball. Philly’s philosophy has to be stopping Elliott and forcing DiNucci to beat them.
2. Cooper vs. Eagles CB Darius Slay
The Eagles acquired Slay to shut down No. 1 receivers and he’s played well for the most part. Cooper has 53 catches for 583 yards and two TDs. He has 25 catches for 422 yards and 3 TDs in four games vs. Philly, though he wasn’t even on the field for a crucial play in Week 16 last season when the Eagles beat Dallas.
Slay is pumped up about getting his first taste of the rivalry.
“It’s like Super Bowl or die,” Slay said when I asked him about it Wednesday. “Y’all are serious about this. Let’s turn up then.”
Dallas has an advantage with Lamb against Avonte Maddox and Gallup against Nickell Robey-Coleman so it’s even more important for Slay to shut down Cooper. He held him to two catches for 33 yards in a game last season.
3. Carson Wentz vs. NFL’s Worst Defense
Wentz and the offense scored 57 points against two of the stingiest defenses in the NFL and still lost to Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Now they’re facing a unit that allows 35 points per game. Jalen Reagor’s return should give the offense a boost. This is an opportunity to play a complete game start to finish and put up impressive numbers. Just like last week against the Giants, no excuses. Get it done.