The Dallas Cowboys came up short in their first "litmus test" game of the season, but fans are markedly more confident for Sunday's clash against the Philadelphia Eagles, whom they trail by 1.5 games in the NFC and NFC East.
Fortunately for Dallas, the Eagles' secondary can be had. In Week 8, Sam Howell completed 19 of his first 20 passes and finished with 397 passing yards (!) and four touchdowns to one interception. That's great news for Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb, both of whom are coming off their best games of the season.
Lamb, though, turned in the best performance of his career, catching 12 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. The All-Pro receiver lined up all over the field and the Rams had zero answer whether they were in man or zone coverage.
Mike McCarthy should continue moving Lamb all around, but No. 88 could feast in the slot on Sunday as Eagles nickel starter Bradley Roby didn't practice Wednesday with a shoulder/pec injury that's ailed him for weeks.
Cowboys' CeeDee Lamb in store for another big game in Week 9 if Eagles' Bradley Roby doesn't play.
This is a potentially huge development for the Cowboys.
Darius Slay and James Bradberry form one of the best CB tandems in the league, but both players play primarily on the outside. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, Bradberry's played 321 snaps on the outside compared to just 91 in the slot. Bradberry hasn't played more than four slot snaps in a game since Week 4.
Slay's slot usage is even lower than Bradberry's. This season, Slay has logged 410 snaps on the outside compared to just eight in the slot. You're more likely to see Slay line up in the box than in the nickel, and even that's a rarity.
Roby suffered a pectoral strain in Week 6 and hasn't played since. The fact he was a non-participant in Wednesday's walkthrough (and Thursday's practice) isn't a good sign for his chances to suit up Sunday. The Eagles signed Roby a month into the season amid a rash of injuries in their secondary, and he's played almost exclusively in the slot -- 49 in the nickel compared to 3 on the outside.
It speaks volumes that noted Cowboys hater Shannon Sharpe dragged the Eagles like this. Philadelphia's secondary woes are undeniable at this point.
We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but Roby's potential absence on Sunday could allow for another CeeDee Lamb explosion. It's no secret Dak Prescott is at his best when he and Lamb are clicking and their connection has never been better. Dak is completing better than 80% of his passes when throwing to Lamb, per Patrik Walker of DallasCowboys.com.
It's mouthwatering to think No. 88 could line up against Sydney Brown or Eli Ricks all game.
Advantage Cowboys if that ends up being the case.