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Your in-depth Eagles vs. Colts Week 3 preview

Frank Reich is coming back to town, but it’s not his return to Philadelphia that has everyone excited.

Carson Wentz is back!

PHI- 79.7 PASSER RATING (24/32), 119 YPG (31/32)
IND- 96.4 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (16/32), 249 YPG ALLOWED (18/32)

Where should the bar be set?

Is Carson Wentz going to step in right away and fire touchdowns seamlessly 9 1/2 months removed from a torn ACL and MCL? How much can he actually help this underwhelming offense? Is he the answer to all of the Eagles’ problems?

There’s a lot to dissect.

Let’s start with a little history lesson. As a rookie, Wentz cracked his rib in the preseason opener and essentially didn’t practice much in the lead-up to the regular season while also missing his final three exhibition games. He went and threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns in his first NFL game against the Cleveland Browns.

Grant it, he missed just a month instead of 9 1/2. Point is, don’t doubt Ginger Jesus. The logic says that Wentz will need a couple games to get re-acclimated to the speed and trusting his knee.

Just don’t be surprised if Wentz defies it.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson believes it will take some time to get used to the flow of the game again. I agree.

“I think there’s going to be maybe an issue or two. It’s going to take some time to get back into the rhythm and the flow of the game. The speed of the game is different than the speed of practice. We do everything we can to try to simulate that during the week and try to prepare him that way. And listen, he’s a guy that will be totally prepared. He comes in early, studies the tape as do all the quarterbacks, stays obviously late in the day, asks a lot of questions, and has a lot of ideas. He’s going to be prepared mentally. Now it’s just a matter of the physical part taking over.”

Pederson said that Wentz will not have any restrictions.

“In my mind, and we all felt the same way that; he’s cleared, he’s cleared and there’s no need to hold back. Now, we’re still going to have conversations. It’s no different [than] when he was healthy. We’re still going to have conversations about protecting yourself as we do with all the quarterbacks and making sure we do the right things there, but there [are] no limitations.”

Wentz doesn’t have much to work with. The Eagles had just three healthy wide receivers on the roster, Nelson Agholor, Shelton Gibson and Kamar Aiken, prior to adding Wentz’s buddy Jordan Matthews on Wednesday.

Matthews spent four years with the Eagles between 2013-16 and caught 73 passes for 804 yards and three touchdowns during Wentz’s rookie season in 2016. Due to the lack of depth at wideout, bringing in a receiver that knew the playbook and could contribute right away was key.

“We’re excited to get him back. He knows our offense. I think it’s huge. It has a comfort level for the quarterback knowing that you got another receiver that we brought in from the outside who has worked with him in the past. I just think it can be a benefit to Carson.”

Matthews, however, is strictly a slot receiver and Agholor has flourished there recently. Does Matthews’ signing mean Agholor is moving back to the outside?

“I don’t get into slot, inside, outside. The only reason I say that is because we move our guys around so much. You see [WR] Nelson [Agholor] inside, you see Nelson outside, and that could be by formation, just matchups and different things.

Yeah, his (Matthews) career he’s primarily been an inside receiver. We understand that. We’ll see where he is at and see how he fits into the game plan this week.”

But is Agholor as effective outside as he is inside?

“Nelson has been a really big part of the offense so far and in both spots, inside and outside. He’s obviously done a great job blocking in the run game, and then in the passing game be able to be outside as well.

So, moving him around has been beneficial for us.”

Zach Ertz is going to have to be the one to step up his game. He had 11 receptions for 94 yards against Tampa Bay, but struggled with drops in the opener against Atlanta.

Seeing some more of Dallas Goedert will be beneficial as well, but he saw just 17 snaps in Week 2 compared to 26 for Joshua Perkins. Here was Pederson’s reasoning for giving Perkins more snaps Sunday.

“Some of it is game planning. We lose receivers, we start having to use the second or third tight end. Listen, it’s a complex thing when you start moving bodies around. Without getting real specific with the game plan, just one part that goes down, you have to adjust everybody else. A lot of times it’s easier with (Perkins) in the game. Dallas played, but at the same time, it didn’t change our receivers on the outside. Those guys are in their same spots.

It’s complicated because you (the media) don’t know the plan. When you don’t know the plan or the formations, where we move guys and have guys specifically in the game plan, when one guy goes down, it shuffles the whole thing. So we can keep it real consistent by just moving one part and many parts.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Groh stated that the Eagles would like to get Goedert more involved.

We have a talented player in Dallas, and we need to find more ways, as you stated, to get him involved. We need to get him involved more. We had some extenuating circumstances the other day, for a variety of reasons. He just wasn’t in there in the spots where we were getting the ball to.

We’re going to continue to try to monitor that and make sure that he is going to help us win games here.

I’ll never forget what Nick Foles did for the Eagles, but Wentz is a different breed. The misreads will be minimized, he’ll be more consistent, he’ll make the proper pre-snap reads, he’ll make the correct audible, he’ll get the ball downfield and he’ll be the king of third down again.

PHI- 4.0 YPC (16/32), 102.0 YPG (18/32)
IND- 4.0 YPC ALLOWED (19/32), 83.0 YPG ALLOWED (9/32)

Jay Ajayi (back) and Darren Sproles (back) haven’t practiced this week and it’s unclear whether either will play. Pederson said during his presser that both are “day-to-day.”

“Both of them are day to day — Darren is a little bit longer. Jay is day to day. We’ll see where he is at the end the week. That’s kind of where we are with those two guys.”

Then there was the scare Friday with Corey Clement injuring his hamstring, but it sounds like he’ll be good to go. Josh Adams was called up from the practice squad to give the Birds an extra body in the backfield.

I was shocked to see Wendell Smallwood get as many carries as he did last week. I get that Ajayi got hurt, but he should not be out-toting Clement. Smallwood carried the ball seven times for 28 yards, but had opportunities for bigger gains had he chosen the proper holes. Clement gained 30 yards on six rushes.

PHI- 97.1 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (18/32), 309 YPG ALLOWED (28/32)
IND- 87.3 PASSER RATING (18/32), 241 YPG (18/32)

Ryan Fitzpatrick had just six incompletions against the Eagles secondary Sunday, completing 27 of his 33 tosses for 402 yards. The trio of Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills and Malcolm Jenkins got torched. Jackson finished with 129 yards on four receptions, Mike Evans totaled 10 catches for 83 yards and a score and Chris Godwin added five snags for 56 yards and a touchdown for Tampa Bay.

Mills allowed eight receptions on eight targets for 165 yards and a perfect quarterback rating, but that 75-yard touchdown was on Jenkins.

Schwartz commented on that play.

“There was a lot of layers to it. I mean, and I said, it’s never one. I think when you first look at it, everybody is blaming the corner and then Jenks [S Malcolm Jenkins] steps up and acknowledges his role in it. But if you went across the board, there are about four or five other opportunities where we might have been able to get to that quarterback before the ball came out.

I think that across the board, and I’ll just speak for defensively, we were a sloppy team, and when I say sloppy team, we were a sloppy defense in that game. Our tackling wasn’t as good as it normally is, our technique wasn’t as good as it normally is. Our pursuit and things like that got a little bit sloppy at times. You can’t blame the weather on that. We need to do a better job — we had very few missed assignments, just like just blown things. We had a couple, one of which cost us the touchdown in the red zone.

But we were sloppy in our technique, and that led to plays like that. It’s very rare that it’s one person’s fault when you’ve got 11 guys trying to do a job, and I think that that play is a good example of that.”

And what about the two 75-yard touchdowns allowed, were they aberrations?

“It wasn’t in this game, and that’s all we have to go on. I think we’re on the wrong path if we just say that, if we just say it’s an aberration. The one was on a blitz and one was considered to be a pretty safe zone, and both of them were the same result, and it just goes to show you, you can’t let your guard down on any play.

There is a risk of blitzing. I know most of the — every time I step on to the field, or come out of the tunnel, all I hear is, “Schwartz, you’ve got to blitz every play, you’ve got to bring it every play.” And I understand, they mean you have to pressure the quarterback, which we’re all for, but there is some risk inherent to that. We took a risk on the first play, we paid dearly for it. We didn’t execute very well on a 75-yarder, a lot of different layers to that. It’s never one person’s fault, but then we also didn’t tackle very well.

I think that the first play is probably off of that because we never laid a glove on him, but the second play, we had chances, and we didn’t look like ourselves a lot of times. There were sometimes where running backs and wide receivers were dragging us for two and three extra yards, and you generally don’t see that from us. We need to get back on track to playing physical football and tackling well.”

Mills has gotten all the heat this week from Eagles fans and he’s one who struggles against faster wideouts. Well, it’s not going to get easier this week with T.Y. Hilton coming to town.

Andrew Luck has thrown for 498 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions in two games so far this season for Indy.

PHI- 2.9 YPC ALLOWED (1/32), 58.5 YPG ALLOWED (1/32)
IND- 3.6 YPC (28/32), 89.5 YPG (24/32)

The Colts used the trio of Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines at running back last week, but Mack is out this week with a foot/hamstring injury.

The rookie Wilkins has looked like the best of the three. He has good vision but isn’t particularly explosive.

Philadelphia’s run defense is once again statistically the best in the NFL.

PREDICTION: Like Tampa Bay last week, Indianapolis doesn’t possess a potent secondary, so it’s a good week to have bad receivers. It’s also good to have Carson Wentz back to potentially make those bad receivers look good. I say he throws for three scores and the Eagles win.

27-16 Eagles


You can follow Adrian Fedkiw on Twitter (@AdrianFedkiw) and e-mail him at [email protected]. Subscribe to The Bitter Birds on YouTube here.

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