Eagles

Your in-depth Eagles vs. Vikings Week 5 preview

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The rematch is finally here.

Unlike last year’s NFC Championship Game, neither team has hit their stride coming into Sunday’s Week 5 showdown.

It’s an early gut check for both teams.

 

EAGLES PASSING GAME VS. VIKINGS PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 86.6 PASSER RATING (25/32), 246 YPG (17/32)
MIN- 105.9 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (28/32), 278 YPG ALLOWED (22/32)

There’s no more excuses.

Carson Wentz is back, Alshon Jeffery is back and not only are they back, they look fantastic. The offense, however, hasn’t taken the leap forward yet due to the abysmal play of the offensive line.

Eagles are struggling to protect Carson Wentz. They’ve allowed 12 sacks the last three games after giving up just two during their magical Super Bowl run. Nine have come the last two weeks. Wentz was also hurried 15 times and hit 11 on Sunday.

Johnson commented on the offensive line’s performance after the game Sunday.

“They just got home a lot. It starts with all of us. We’ll improve. We’ll learn a lot from this game. It’s a tough pill to swallow. We’ll go back to work and get it fixed.”

Wentz refused to throw his line under the bus.

“It’s part of the game. I’ll watch the film. There’s times where I hold onto the ball too long, there’s miscommunication, some protections that we can get called right.”

Here’s the truth about the offensive line, while they are an elite run-blocking unit, they aren’t in pass protection. Even dating back to last season, the line surrendered 36 sacks, which was 17th.

The way they’re playing right now, they’re going to get Wentz seriously hurt.

Wentz has thrown for 603 yards with three touchdowns and an interception so far through two games. He’s completing 66.7 percent of his passes and said during his press conference this week that he feels good in terms of catching up to the processing and in-game speed.

“Personally, I feel good where I’m at as far as processing and in-game speed, and even being comfortable with the guys out there. So, I feel good where I’m at as far as seeing all that stuff. And physically, I feel great. I feel I’m picking up [where I left off] on the field last year. To me, the knee thing is behind me, and now we’re going forward.”

Alshon Jeffery had an effective first game back, recording eight receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. He had a nice over-the-shoulder snag for 31 yards on his first catch of the game, and boxed out Malcolm Butler in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown on third-and-goal. It’ll be a fun match-up between Jeffery and physical cornerback Xavier Rhodes of Minnesota.

The Vikings normally vaunted defense, however, is struggling. They’ve gone from leading the NFL in points and yards allowed to being ranked 22nd and 21st, respectively. They just allowed eight pass plays of 20 yards or more to the explosive Rams, who had touchdowns of 70, 47 and 31 yards.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he’s never been on a team that has looked this poor in pass coverage.

“We’ve never been, probably anywhere I’ve ever been, we’ve never been this poor in pass coverage, so we’re going to look at everything we’re doing and get back to doing things correctly.”

Minnesota is allowing 85 yards more per game through the air this season than last. In 2017, the Vikings surrendered 192.4 pass yards per game, which was second. Right now the 277.5 yards per game mark is 26th.

 

EAGLES RUNNING GAME VS. VIKINGS RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 4.4 YPC (12/32), 118.3 YPG (11/32)
MIN- 3.9 YPC ALLOWED (10/32), 104.0 YPG ALLOWED (13/32)

The Eagles have run 292 plays through four games so far, with 184 called passes compared to just 108 rushes. They’re running the ball just 37 percent of the time, which is 23rd. And it’s not like the Birds are struggling to generate traction on the ground,

The easiest way to take pressure off the offensive line is to simply run the football more. Right now the play-action isn’t fooling anybody and the Eagles aren’t recording big chunks down the field.

Pederson did run the ball in overtime Sunday, calling five runs on the Eagles’ nine-play field goal drive. They gained 42 yards on those five totes.

Obviously the Eagles have dealt with injuries in the backfield as Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement have all missed time with injuries. That’s no excuse, however, because Wendell Smallwood is averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Josh Adams is averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

It doesn’t matter who is getting the ball, positive yards are being gained.

You start running the ball more, we won’t be cringing as much watching Wentz get hit every play, the play-action will begin to function properly and the Eagles will start winning more football games.

As for the injury report this week, Sproles (knee) and Clement (quad) did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. It may be up to Ajayi, Smallwood and Adams Sunday.

 

VIKINGS PASSING GAME VS. EAGLES PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 92.7 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (14/32), 272 YPG ALLOWED (18/32)
MIN- 103.7 PASSER RATING (8/32), 246 YPG (17/32)

Kirk Cousins has a history of success against the Eagles.

The former Washington quarterback is 177-of-255 for 2,122 yards, 16 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 99.7 quarterback rating in seven career games against Philly. He is 4-3.

In four games at Lincoln Financial Field, Captain Kirk is 2-2 with a 112.0 passer rating and a touchdown-interception ratio of 12:3. He threw for over 300 yards in three of those contests.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz remains firmly behind Jalen Mills despite his recent struggles. Here’s what Schwartz had to say about the Green Goblin.

I’m firmly behind Jalen Mills as a corner. One of the reasons we had a big parade on Broad Street was Jalen Mills. He’s played a lot like a 2-2 corner (this season), we’ve played a lot like a 2-2 defense, we’ve played a lot like a 2-2 team right now. There’s been inconsistencies all around, but it’s our job to help him through that. It’s his job to get out of that.

I’m firmly behind Jalen Mills. That guy has played a lot of good football for us and he epitomizes a lot of things we’re about defensively, toughness and competitiveness and ability to bounce back. And I’m confident he will.

The numbers don’t look pretty. Mills has allowed 20 catches on 27 targets for 276 yards and a robust quarterback rating of 118.8. But it’s not just Mills, the defensive line needs to get more pressure, the safety play needs to be better and Schwartz may need to make some adjustments.

“Confidence, we don’t have to worry about that. But I do think there’s a combination of scheme, technique, other things that go into that. That’s part of the position coach’s job, that’s part of the defensive coordinator’s job. Our guys play with a lot of confidence, we don’t have to worry about that with them. We just need to be more consistent.”

It’s not going to be any easier for Mills and Ronald Darby this week with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs coming to town.

Graham did not play well either and Schwartz admitted that his 71 snaps were unsustainable.

Damn right they’re unsustainable. I guess that means we might see more Avonte Maddox and less single-high.

VIKINGS RUNNING GAME VS. EAGLES RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 3.4 YPC ALLOWED (2/32), 63.8 YPG ALLOWED (1/32)
MIN- 3.5 YPC (30/32), 63.0 YPG (32/32)

The Vikings are dead last in rushing, while the Eagles are first in stopping it.

Minnesota is the only team in the NFL without a rushing touchdown or a running back that has eclipsed 100 yards. Eleven running backs have more rushing yards than the Vikings have as a team (252).

Head coach Mike Zimmer believes it starts up front.

“It’s about creating space and then trying to get to the second level.”

Dalvin Cook has been dealing with a hamstring injury that he suffered in the tie against Green Bay. He was limited in last Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.

 

PREDICTION: This game is going to be won in the trenches, which is usually the Eagles’ greatest strength, but hasn’t been so far this season. The defensive line might finally be able to get back on track against Minnesota’s shoddy offensive line and they’re going to have to with the secondary struggling. The offensive line needs to show up because the offense has all of their pieces back. I’ve got the Birds at home in a nail-biter, the lines will play better.

27-23 Eagles

 


You can follow Adrian Fedkiw on Twitter (@AdrianFedkiw) and e-mail him at adrian@phillyinfluencer.com. Subscribe to The Bitter Birds on YouTube here.

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