Can the Philadelphia Eagles overcome their plethora of injuries and take down the Seattle Seahawks?
And not only do the Eagles have a lot medical issues, they also have to deal with MVP candidate Russell Wilson, who is playing the best football of his career.
Oh boy …
EAGLES PASSING GAME VS. SEAHAWKS PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 89.7 PASSER RATING (18/32), 215.1 YPG (24/32)
Sea- 86.8 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (10/32), 271.8 YPG ALLOWED (29/32)
Carson Wentz was 20-of-40 for 214 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ 17-10 loss to the Patriots last week. While he did make some pin-point throws into some tight windows, the accuracy also wavered and he missed a critical 3rd-and-10 to Zach Ertz late in the game.
The Eagles went 1-of-9 on third and long (3rd-and-6 plus) as their receivers were unable to create consistent separation against the No. 1 ranked defense of New England. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said there’s been an emphasis on making the third downs more manageable on Sunday.
“I think we were in too many second and longs. I think we had 12 or more. I think second down and eight, nine plus, and then third and eight we had like another eight or nine of those in the game Sunday. You can’t — it’s hard to overcome.
So that’s an emphasis this week. We’ve have to do better on first and second down; obviously that helps third down. If you can create more first downs to eliminate the third down overall, that’s even better.
But we know that we have to keep it a little bit more manageable.”
Seattle, however, hasn’t boasted a shut down defense this season like the Patriots have. Not only does it have the No. 28 ranked pass defense, its also allowing the fourth most yards to tight ends this season, which is obviously the strength of the Eagles’ offense. Miles Sanders was also taken out of the Eagles’ game plan by the New England defense. The wheel and seam routes that had worked in weeks prior, didn’t on Sunday.
The Seahawks’ 20 sacks this season are tied for the fourth fewest in the NFL, but the pass rush has come on lately. Jadeveon Clowney has been a menace the last three weeks, recording two sacks and nine quarterback hits. Wentz took five sacks last week.
Right tackle Lane Johnson, who exited last Sunday’s game with a head injury, has yet to clear concussion protocol. Andre Dillard will start in his place if he can’t go.
“One of the things we loved about Andre is not only his durability but flexibility, his versatility to play both left and right,” Pederson said. And even though he’s been limited on the right side, he’s primarily a left tackle for us, this will be a great week of preparation for him to really kind of hone in his skill and be a swing tackle in that case.
But he’ll do a great job this week. He’ll prepare and it’s just a matter of, honestly, you’re playing on the right side. Movement skill is kind of the opposite from the left; you’re more to the right, unless you have to step down, things like that.”
Dillard is going to be matched up against Clowney a lot and while he has had his moments this season, he struggles against power and Clowney possesses a lot of it.
“They’re moving him around a lot,” Pederson said. “He’ll play a D-end, he’ll play a spinner, he’ll play to the tight end, he’ll play away from the tight end, he’ll drop in coverage. They’re really utilizing him a lot and using his athleticism, and he’s very disruptive, as you know. We obviously played him last year with Houston and he was disruptive in that game, so [we] definitely have to know where he’s at.”
Alshon Jeffery was limited all week in practice with an ankle injury he suffered against Chicago three weeks ago prior to the bye week, while Nelson Agholor is day-to-day with a knee injury he sustained against New England.
EAGLES RUNNING GAME VS. SEAHAWKS RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 4.2 YPC (19/32), 122.7 YPG (11/32)
SEA- 4.7 YPC ALLOWED (26/32), 99.1 YPG ALLOWED (11/32)
Jordan Howard has yet to be cleared for contact and I’m not expecting him to play.
If he can’t go, who gets the bulk of the carries?
The Eagles are 4-1 when they run the ball 30-plus times, but they only ran it 20 times last week. Not only did the injury to Howard hurt, but so did the loss of Johnson.
“It affected the run game a little bit from the standpoint of him and [G] Brandon [Brooks] working together and getting those reps during the week,” Pederson said. “I still have a lot of confidence obviously in Big V [T/G Halapoulivaati Vaitai]. He filled in there. But it’s a loss. You’re taking about a Pro Bowl caliber right tackle and he and Brandon together do some great things and so it affects you a little bit with the run game.”
Jay Ajayi was signed days prior to the New England contest and he didn’t play last Sunday, but I think we see him get the ball at least 10 times on Sunday as the in between the tackles runner.
“Yes, I think there is a role. And this week, if Jordan can’t go obviously again, then that role would increase. Don’t take what I’m saying here — we signed Jay because of [RB Darren] Sproles,” Pederson said.
The Patriots’ defense came in susceptible to the run, but the Eagles couldn’t take advantage of it as they averaged less than four yards per carry and both Sanders and Scott struggled with not only their vision to see cutback lanes but also their decisiveness in hitting the hole to maximize yardage. Like New England, Seattle also struggles to stop the run.
SEAHAWKS PASSING GAME VS. EAGLES PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 89.6 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (15/32), 237.5 YPG ALLOWED (17/32)
SEA- 114.9 PASSER RATING (1/32), 255.9 YPG (10/32)
The numbers for Russell Wilson are eye-popping.
The MVP candidate is sporting a whopping 114.9 passer rating and has tossed 23 touchdowns as opposed to just two interceptions. What makes him most dangerous and what will give Philadelphia fits is his ability to adlib, escaping the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield to find open targets.
“Number one, I think he’s healthy and playing at an extremely high level,” Pederson said. “The run game has really helped him. I think they’re averaging over 130 yards a game running the football. Obviously, he’s a part of that.
And then his ability to create plays outside the pocket, that’s something early in his career he was successful doing it, and now he’s able to do it again. A lot of that has to do with I think just being healthy and being able to move.
The thing is with Russell, he can beat you from the pocket and he can beat you from out of the pocket. So from a defensive standpoint, try to limit those, corral him the best you can, try to limit the out of the pocket stuff, but when he does, we have to do a great job of trying to, again, limit the yards gained and/or the explosive plays where a lot of explosive plays come from.”
Wilson is 3-0 in his career against Philadelphia, firing eight touchdowns and no picks.
“Well, there’s scrambling quarterbacks, there’s running quarterbacks, there’s drop-back quarterbacks, there’s quarterbacks that are good from the pocket, there’s quarterbacks that are good outside of the pocket, there’s quarterbacks that can throw on schedule, there’s quarterbacks that can create on their own. And he’s all of the above,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “So I think that you layer all those things together, and it makes it a tough challenge. You have to defend perimeter plays like boots and play actions. You have to defend RPOs and zone reads. You have to defend off-schedule plays.
But he can also be as good as anybody in the league when it comes to just dropping back and throwing it. He’s very talented that way, and he can scramble not just for 1st downs, but he can scramble for big plays down the field. Just an excellent competitor, and it’s a great challenge this week for us.”
The Eagles’ secondary has come on as of late with Ronald Darby seemingly fully healthy and Jalen Mills playing light’s out since he’s returned from his foot injury. They’ll be tested this week by the trio of Tyler Lockett, Josh Gordon and rookie D.K. Metcalf, who is averaging 17 yards per reception. All of these guys have speed and the biggest weakness for the cornerbacks is the double move, which is something Lockett is effective at doing.
“Jalen is playing at a high level all across the field,” Schwartz said. He’s tackling well, he’s covering well. He’s up to the challenge of covering guys, and he brings us a lot of spirit and a lot of competitiveness and toughness. I think you’ve seen the level of defensive play increase since he’s been back. He’s always been a respected member of our defense and a guy that the coaches and players both have a lot of confidence in. He was down for a while. He worked really hard to get back, and I think all that hard work is paying off for him. I’m really proud of him.”
SEAHWKS RUNNING GAME VS. EAGLES RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 3.8 YPC ALLOWED (6/32), 87.3 YPG ALLOWED (4/32)
SEA- 4.3 YPC (14/32), 133.2 YPG (6/32)
Seattle is one of five teams in the NFL which runs the ball over 30 times per game.
Chris Carson, who is averaging 4.3 yards per attempt, hasn’t run for over 100 yards in three of his last four games after going for 100-plus in three straight. The Eagles, of course, are a top five run defense so I wouldn’t expect much daylight for Carson on Sunday.
So that means the Seahawks are probably going to be in a lot of third-and-longs, which continues to be an issue for the defense. Even last week in an impressive performance against the PAtriots where they were limited to 17 points, New England was 5-of-13 on 3rd-and-6 or more.
PREDICTION: If Jordan Howard and Lane Johnson were definitely playing, I’d feel a lot better that the Eagles can get the job done Sunday. If the Eagles can’t run the ball well enough to put themselves in more manageable third-down situations, I don’t think they win. Containing Wilson is also going to be a daunting task.