Eagles

Your In-Depth Eagles at Panthers Week 6 Preview

Charlotte Observer - David T. Foster

Are the Philadelphia Eagles for real?

We may not find out the answer to that question on Thursday night when the Eagles travel to Carolina to take on the Panthers, but we’ll be a lot closer to obtaining it. In a matchup of division leaders and 4-1 teams, Thursday night’s game is the juiciest matchup in a while.

We’ll see if the game itself lives up to the hype.

 

EAGLES PASSING GAME VS. PANTHERS PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 97.7 PASSER RATING (8/32), 259 YPG (8/32)
CAR- 98.1 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (25/32), 194 YPG ALLOWED (5/32)

Carson Wentz leads the NFL with a 137.7 passer rating on third down and comes off a 34-7 Eagles victory where he converted 9-of-12 on the down, completing 11 of his 12 pass attempts for 225 yards and three touchdowns. It’s a remarkable turnaround after finishing 28th in third down passing during his rookie season last year. Last Sunday was also Wentz’s first three touchdown game and he had a trio of throwing scores following the first 15 minutes. He finished with four touchdowns in all on 21-of-30 efficiency and threw for 304 yards.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson delved into Wentz’s improvement on third down during his postgame press conference Sunday.

I think the personnel that we have on offense helps that. I think the offensive line protection in some of those areas helps that. But this is one of the things that we talk about all spring and summer with him was the third downs and emphasizing the third downs. He does an outstanding job — he and [C] Jason Kelce both with protection — redirecting protection because there were a couple extra blitzers today that Carson either side-stepped or got the ball out. Then, listen, a credit to the guys down the field. There were some big plays made today that we expect — we don’t want to be in those long situations, but we do expect to execute that way and hopefully stay on the field.

Alshon Jeffery has squared off against Josh Norman, Marcus Peters, Janoris Jenkins, Casey Hayward and Patrick Peterson in his first five games, so he should be chomping at the bit going against second-year cornerbacks Daryl Worley and James Bradberry. That’s if they even play. Both were on the Panthers’ injury report on Tuesday.

Jeffery hasn’t recorded more than 100 yards receiving all season, but that may change Sunday. It also can’t be understated the impact his presence has made for others in the offense like Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz. Agholor is the only player in the NFL right now with two 50-plus yard touchdowns this season after hauling in a 79-yarder on Sunday, while Ertz is leading all tight ends with 387 receiving yards.

With the Panthers having an unproven secondary, this is the area the Eagles must attack, but will Wentz get the time to stand in the pocket without Lane Johnson at right tackle? He’s most likely not going to play after sustaining a concussion during Sunday’s game. That means Halipoulivaati Vaitai would get the start and he’d have to go against Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers, certainly not an easy proposition. Big V did improve as his rookie season went along last year, however. Pederson explained why the short week is playing a big factor whether or not Lane Johnson will play.

It’s tough based on the protocol and what the players have to go through. So, again, I’ll find out more this afternoon, but it’s hard on a short week.

The Eagles are 2-8 in the final 10 games that Johnson has missed and 9-2 when he plays.

EAGLES RUNNING GAME VS. PANTHERS RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 4.5 YPC (9/32), 138.8 YPG (5/32)
CAR- 4.0 YPC ALLOWED (17/32), 79.8 YPG ALLOWED (6/32)

The run and pass ratio was great again last Sunday. Wentz threw the ball 30 times and Pederson called 28 designed runs, including 26 for the running backs, who totaled 114 yards. LeGarrette Blount carried the ball just twice for six yards in the first half, but turned it on in the second with 12 totes for 68 yards. As a 250-pound bowling ball that’s when he should be seeing the rock, in the second half when defenses are wearing down. His highest yards per carry average is in the fourth quarter at 4.6.

The Eagles’ rotation continues at left guard, but Stefen Wisniewski should see all of the snaps. I’m just simply not seeing enough out of Chance Warmack. Philly scored on each of its first three possessions with Wiz out on the field and punted on its next two with Warmack out there. Wisniewski has done a phenomenal job so far in the screen game.

Pederson admitted Monday that Wiz will see an increased bulk of the snaps.

Going forward with the guard rotation, we will continue that. However, we do anticipate probably Wis [G/C Stefen Wisniewski] getting a few more reps in there just based on his play in the last couple of weeks … This guy works extremely hard and he does a nice job even when he’s not in there. When he’s in there, he is making the most of his opportunities, but it’s been the total body of work for him that’s been the most impressive.

Kenjon Barner impressed in limited action Sunday, running it five times for 23 yards mostly on that delayed draw, but it was this 76-yard punt return which got everyone’s attention.

 

PANTHERS PASSING GAME VS. EAGLES PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 97.0 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (22/32), 283 YPG ALLOWED (29/32)
CAR- 95.7 PASSER RATING (10/32), 229 YPG (17/32)

Wentz is playing some lights out football at the moment, but so is Cam Newton. In fact, he’s playing even better.

Newton has posted consecutive 300-yard passing performances with quarterback ratings of 130-plus in each against the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions, respectively. He’s completing 68.3 percent of his passes, which would destroy his previous single-season mark of 61.7 percent in 2013. It looks a lot more like the 2015 MVP Cam Newton than the abysmal 2016 one when he played the last couple games with a partially torn rotator cuff and completed just 52.9 percent of his tosses.

What makes Newton’s two-game ride even more impressive is that it’s come without his reliable safety blanket Greg Olsen, who has missed the last three games with a broken foot. Ed Dickson has filled in admirably, however, hauling in five passes for 175 yards in Carolina’s 27-24 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

The challenge for the Eagles’ cornerbacks, Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson specifically, will be handling the physicality of Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. They are 35-40 pounds heavier than Mills and Robinson. Maybe the Birds will go back to starting the 6’2, 210 pound rookie Rasul Douglas at one outside cornerback position. Robinson saw his snaps increase from 56 percent in Week 4 to 77 percent on Sunday as he took Douglas’ snaps when Philadelphia went into its nickel defense. Robinson has been a pleasant surprise so far and is currently the highest rated cornerback on Pro Football Focus.

Will the Eagles’ pressure be able to get to Newton? After recording eight sacks over their first two games, the Birds have put up just four over the last three games since. A lot of that has to do with opposing offenses countering the Eagles’ ferocious pass rush with a quick passing game, but I believe the Panthers’ offensive line can be had.

 

PANTHERS RUNNING GAME VS. EAGLES RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 3.9 YPC ALLOWED (15/32), 62.8 YPG ALLOWED (2/32)
CAR- 3.4 YPC (27/32), 98.6 YPG (32/32)

The normally-reliable Panthers rushing attack hasn’t been as vaunted this season. Jonathan Stewart carried the ball 18 times for just 21 yards against the Lions and he was contacted at the line of scrimmage or before it on 15 of those runs. The offensive line is struggling immensely in their run blocking.

Eighth overall selection Christian McCaffrey is averaging a measly 2.8 yards per carry and still hasn’t reached a 100 rushing yards on the campaign. Again, a lot of that has to do with the woeful run blocking of Carolina so far. McCaffrey’s impact has been felt as a receiver, however, leading the team with 27 receptions for 237 yards and a touchdown.

 

PREDICTION- The Eagles have been running the ball effectively and showcasing great balance the last few weeks, but this is a game where Pederson has to let Wentz rip it going against the suspect secondary of the Panthers. You could also say the same about Newton going against the Eagles’ cornerbacks, but I feel like the trio of Robinson, Mills and Douglas have been better than Worley, Bradberry and Captain Munnerlyn. And Worley and Bradberry might not even play after not practicing on Tuesday. This is a statement game for the Eagles and one I think they match up well in. I can see Jeffery breaking out in this one too. Give me the Birds!

27-24 Eagles

 

 

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