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Eagles hope to welcome back CB Darby
The good news for the Philadelphia Eagles is that they take an NFL-best 8-1 record into Sunday night's important division battle against the 5-4 Dallas Cowboys.
The better news is that they will be getting an important part of their defense back. Cornerback Ronald Darby, who has been out since dislocating his ankle in Week 1, practiced fully Wednesday and is expected to be in the lineup against the Cowboys.
The Eagles' defense has done well without him. But he is the team's best cover corner and will come in handy against the Cowboys' Dez Bryant.
But defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz indicated this week that he probably is going to ease Darby back in.
"There is really nothing set in stone right now because we don't 100 percent know he's going to be back," Schwartz said. "He's trending the right way. He's back on the practice field.
"But we've gotten contributions from a lot of different guys this year. I would expect that to stay the same. But it will be nice (to have Darby back)."
The Eagles acquired Darby from the Buffalo Bills in an August trade. They gave up their most productive wide receiver, Jordan Matthews, for him, which tells you how much they valued and needed him.
Darby and Jalen Mills were the two starting corners in the Eagles' Week 1 win over Washington, with Patrick Robinson playing in the slot.
After Darby got hurt, Schwartz used Robinson on the outside in their base defense, which they play less than 30 percent of the time. In nickel, Robinson moved back inside and rookie Rasul Douglas played on the outside with Mills.
Without Darby, who is one of the league's better press corners, the Eagles played more off-coverage and focused on not giving up the deep ball and limiting yards after the catch.
Douglas, Mills and Robinson all are good tacklers. But defensive backs coach Cory Undlin put all of the Eagles' corners and safeties through tackling drills almost every day after practice. It has paid off.
The Eagles have 11 interceptions and have an impressive 52.3 opponent passer rating on third down.
Darby's return is going to force opposing quarterbacks to hang on to the ball a little longer, which is going to give their pass-rush, which already has 25 sacks, a split-second longer to get to the quarterback.
SERIES HISTORY: 113th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 62-50. The teams have split the season series the last four years. Last year, the Eagles lost to the Cowboys in overtime, 29-23, in Dallas in Week 8, despite holding quarterback Dak Prescott to a sub-50-percent completion percentage. The Eagles won a meaningless Week 17 rematch when the playoff-bound Cowboys rested most of their starters.