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Who's winning Eagles-Cowboys trade that gave each team a franchise player in DeVonta Smith, Micah Parsons?
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Who's winning Eagles-Cowboys trade that gave each team a franchise player in DeVonta Smith, Micah Parsons?

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Eagles Cowboys photo to go on B1 for Sunday, Sept. 26

Rookie linebacker/defensive end Micah Parsons says every quarterback the Cowboys will face is on his “hit list. I want all of them. (Jalen) Hurts is on the hit list now, too.”

It seems unfathomable that a draft day trade between the arch-rival Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys could end up giving both teams the franchise players both had coveted.

Yet that’s exactly what has happened when the Eagles traded up two spots with the Cowboys, going from No. 12 in the first round to No. 10 to leapfrog the Giants at No. 11 so they could pick Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith.

The Cowboys were willing to trade back because they knew that the Giants wouldn’t take the player they wanted, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. The Eagles also gave the Cowboys a third-round pick that they used on edge rusher Chauncey Golston.

As the two teams play each other for the first time this season Monday, Smith and Parson will have prominent roles.

Through two games, Parsons has made more of a difference for the Cowboys. He has even shown an ability to play defensive end last week when injuries decimated the Cowboys’ depth there.

Parsons had a sack, four QB hits and eight pressures in Dallas’ 20-17 win over the Chargers.

“I can’t say enough about Micah and what he’s done on the field,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said in a conference call with reporters who cover the Eagles. “He’s been flexible in the way we’ve been able to play him ... I love the way he plays, his physicality and his explosiveness. Football comes pretty damn natural to him.”

It comes natural to Smith, too, but it’s widely believed among NFL executives that wide receivers need a longer period of time to adjust to the pro game.

Still, Smith leads the Eagles with eight receptions through two games, for 87 yards. His first career reception was a 19-yard touchdown against Atlanta in Week 1. Smith had 6 receptions for 71 yards that day, the most for an Eagles rookie in his debut since 1990.

It didn’t go as well last week. Smith was held to just two receptions on seven targets for 16 yards in the Eagles’ 17-11 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

“I had a lot of opportunities last game, and I just didn’t make the most of them,” Smith said. “Every team that you play is not going to play you the same way. The Falcons played more zone. The 49ers played more man. That was the only difference.”

It’s expected that NFL teams would try to be physical at the line of scrimmage with Smith, who’s listed at 170 pounds.

That’s something coach Nick Sirianni said the Eagles are working on with Smith. But Sirianni said Smith does have one advantage over many wide receivers making the transition from college to the NFL:

“To be honest with you, the SEC (Alabama’s conference) is the closest thing to the NFL for a receiver because the coverage is tight,” Sirianni said. “So it’s not completely different ... Those are the things that you got to get used to. And we do our best to simulate that in practice. And he’ll get used to that and keeping working on his game.”

But the Eagles don’t have a veteran receiver who can help Smith. The other main receivers are Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins, who were taken in the first and sixth rounds of the 2020 draft, respectively.

So all three are learning on the fly. Smith said they talk constantly about what they’re seeing, along with quarterback Jalen Hurts.

“Just going in there watching the film and knowing what people are doing,” Smith said. “You can’t make the checks that you want to make if you don’t know the defensive plan, the disguises they give, any little details they give away to show you that they’re playing a certain coverage.

“So you have to dial into those certain things.”

Parsons’ transition has been more seamless, mainly because the Cowboys need him to do so much. That includes putting pressure on Hurts, whether it’s from the linebacker spot or defensive end.

Parsons wasn’t afraid to put Hurts on his so-called “hit list.”

“Every quarterback (we face this season) is on the hit list,” Parsons told reporters. “I want all of them. (Jalen) Hurts is on the hit list now, too. You got to look at it like you’re trying to be like ‘The Terminator’ out there.”

Terminator? Slim Reaper? There’s a good chance this could be the first of many matchups between the two, all made possible by a draft day trade that helped both bitter rivals.

Easing in Ezekiel

Ezekiel Elliott has been the Cowboys’ featured running back ever since he was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 draft.

That’s not the case anymore as Elliott is sharing time in the backfield with Tony Pollard. Elliott isn’t even the Cowboys’ leading rusher. Pollard has 123 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per carry. Elliott has 107 yards, averaging 3.9 yards.

Elliott averaged 109 yards per game as a rookie, when he rushed for 1,641 yards. Those numbers have gradually declined until last season when there was a precipitous drop from 84 yards per game in 2019 to 65 yards per game in 2020.

It’s easy to see why. Elliott is 26 years old, and he had at least 242 carries in each of his previous five seasons. That takes a toll.

But McCarthy said that wasn’t the reason.

“It’s the way we want to play,” McCarthy said. “We recognize it’s a tremendously long season, a little longer than it’s been in the past. We just want to get these guys touches ... The one-two punch with Zeke and Tony is a strength of ours.”

The Eagles have noticed this, too.

“I mean Zeke is real downhill and a bruiser,” defensive tackle Javon Hargrave said. “Pollard can hit them edges and pretty fast, real fast. So it’s different speeds when both of them are in the game.”

Still, that could be a tough adjustment for a lead back like Elliott. McCarthy said that’s not the case.

“My experience with Zeke is he’s about as big a team player as we have,” he said. “He has a great understanding of everything we’re doing on offense. At the end of the day, Zeke has had individual success in this league, and he’s like the rest of us — it’s all about winning a championship.”

Prediction

It’ll be an interesting matchup of the Cowboys’ banged-up defensive line against the Eagles’ banged-up offensive line. Dallas won’t have star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and possibly Dorance Armstrong, while the Eagles’ line will be missing starting left tackle Jordan Mailata and right guard Brandon Brooks.

The Eagles can do well enough offensively if Hurts is able to move around the pocket and buy time to get the ball downfield to Watkins. But the Cowboys’ secondary is better than in the past with Trevon Diggs.

The Eagles, however, will be hard-pressed to stop the Cowboys’ offense behind quarterback Dak Prescott, Elliott and Pollard and wide receivers Amari Cooper, who averages 87.7 yards per game against the Eagles, and second-year player CeeDee Lamb.

And it could be tough for the Eagles defensively without Brandon Graham, who’s out for the season with a torn tearing his Achilles.

Score: Cowboys 29, Eagles 20.

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