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Your in-depth Eagles vs. Panthers Week 7 preview

Thank God Pete Morelli isn’t the referee this time.

Instead, Clete Blakeman will officiate the pivotal Week 7 showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers.

Morelli and his crew flagged the Eagles 10 times for 126 yards during Philadelphia’s 28-23 win over Carolina last year in Charlotte. The Panthers, meanwhile, had just one accepted penalty for a single yard.


PHI- 96.1 PASSER RATING (13/32), 256 YPG (19/32)
CAR- 88.7 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (10/32), 256 YPG ALLOWED (15/32)

Wentz was 26-of-36 for 279 yards with two of his three touchdowns going to Alshon Jeffery, who snagged eight of his 12 targets for 74 yards.

Jeffery’s presence last year allowed to ball to be evenly distributed, but this season with a thinner receiving core, he’s been targeted 23.9 percent of the time. So far he has 18 receptions for 218 yards and three touchdowns in three games.

Following the 34-13 Eagles win over the Giants last Thursday, Jeffery said that starting fast was important.

“We always preach ‘start fast.’ The past couple of weeks we weren’t able to start fast but tonight we were able to get things going.”

And how about that electrifying touchdown on the Eagles’ opening possession?

“It was a scramble drill. Carson did a heck of a job keeping the play alive and I just scrambled. He just threw it. He made a heck of a play. We have faith in each other.”

Jeffery’s success should continue Sunday with a favorable matchup against James Bradberry. It may be tough for the tight ends to get going, we’ll see. Zach Ertz will be going against a 37-year-old Mike Adams, but the Panthers have solid linebackers in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis too. Wentz is at his best in the intermediate game, but the Panthers are a zone team that likes to get a lot of depth and keep plays in front of them. It’ll be a fun chess game to watch.

Wentz was sacked just once after being sacked 15 times in his last four games coming in. It was better from the offensive line, but they’re still far from perfect. Jason Peters suffered a biceps injury in Thursday’s win, but he is going to attempt to play through it. Doug Pederson addressed the matter earlier this week.

“There’s something there. He definitely can play so there’s no concern injuring him any further or anything like that. All the confidence in the world with him and he’ll be ready to go.”

I’m not sure if I have a lot of confidence in him. When Peters exited Thursday and Halapoulivaati Vaitai replaced him, Big V was doing a much better job. Besides the opener, Peters has been a mess in 2018.


PHI- 4.2 YPC (18/32), 110.3 YPG (14/32)
CAR- 4.6 YPC ALLOWED (23/32), 102.4 YPG ALLOWED (15/32)

Corey Clement talked to Howie Roseman before last Thursday’s game and said the Eagles didn’t need a running back following Jay Ajayi’s ACL injury.

Howie told Clement to prove it.

The Eagles averaged just 3.5 yards per carry during their win against the G-Men. The pass-run ratio appeared to be better, Philly threw it 36 times and ran it 31, but it really wasn’t. Through three quarters, the Eagles called 35 passes compared to 20 designed runs. Those 20 designed runs went for 84 yards, a solid 4.1 yards per carry.

Wendell Smallwood had a career-high 18 carries, but he totaled just 51 yards. Clement, meanwhile, ran it 11 times for 43 yards and a score. Smallwood said he felt good taking on the load while talking with reporters last week.

“It felt good taking on that load. I felt that me and Corey stepped up to the plate and we were able to go in and just do our jobs. That’s all we were worried about. We weren’t trying to do too much. We just did our job today.”

In my opinion, Clement should be the lead dog and not Smallwood. There’s more explosion turning the corner on the outside zone and sweeps when Clement has the ball in his hands. Smallwood keeps his legs churning and is better as the in between the tackles runner. Clement, though, is also better in pass protection and as a pass catcher.

Here’s the thing, though, it might be tough running on the Panthers considering the Eagles like to attack the edges. With Davis and Kuechly in the linebacking core, they are at their best going sideline to sideline defending the run. Well, the outside zone and sweep play right into Carolina’s strengths. The Panthers, however, have been allowing 4.6 yards per carry on the season.


PHI- 96.5 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (19/32), 277 YPG ALLOWED (22/32)
CAR- 93.2 PASSER RATING (17/32), 222 YPG (26/32)

Cam Newton’s 65.9 percent completion percentage is the best of his career, but he’s averaging just 6.8 yards per attempt, which is 27th among quarterbacks with at least 90 attempts. He’s completed just one pass over 20 yards out of 14 attempts.

When asked about the downfield passing game Wednesday, Newton was noticeably perturbed.

“We good. We are good. I don’t know if these questions are just kind of rubbing me the wrong way, but look, we are good. Ain’t no need to worry about whatever hasn’t happened or what we need to do. We don’t need to change nothing. We just need to shore up some things.

Everything was all good just a week ago, but now, all of a sudden we have one loss or a loss that we know we were capable of winning the game, then everybody wants to kind of ask questions about deep passes, ask questions about certain players.”

So Carolina is struggling through the air and the Eagles are making positive strides forward in defending it. Jim Schwartz has made some adjustments the last two weeks, with the cornerbacks playing closer to the line of scrimmage instead of playing off most of the time and seeing more two-deep safety looks.

Slot cornerback Sidney Jones left with a hamstring injury Thursday. This led to Avonte Maddox switching from the single-high safety role into the slot and Rasul Douglas moving to safety.

Odell Beckham was limited to six receptions for 44 yards on 12 targets last week. Ronald Darby simply blanketed him.

The double move is Jalen Mills’ Kryptonite, but with one Carolina receiver catching a pass over 20 yards, maybe this is the week he finally doesn’t get beat with one! As bad as he’s been in between the 20’s, he’s excelled in the red zone.

Mills is part of the reason why the Eagles have the No. 1 red-zone defense in the NFL. They’ve surrendered just eight touchdowns on 23 possession in the red zone. Mills has allowed just one catch on nine targets inside the 20.

PHI- 4.1 YPC ALLOWED (13/32), 79.8 YPG ALLOWED (2/32)
CAR- 5.0 YPC (6/32), 139.4 YPG (4/32)

Christian McCaffrey has carried the ball 71 times for 349 yards to go with 34 receptions for 238 yards and a touchdown.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera compared McCaffey to Eagles running back Darren Sproles during a conference call with reporters this week. Here’s what he had to say via

“First of all, Darren is a heck of a young man, so is Christian. Both are very good football players. They study the game, they work hard at the game.

“Darren is a threat out of the backfield, Darren can run the ball pretty well inside. I don’t think people realize that or recognize that. I’ve always believed Darren was a terrific inside runner. And he’s very scary out of the backfield.”


PREDICTION: The Panthers are talented and 3-2, but they’ve played better football in the last few years than they have to start 2018. The Eagles haven’t started sharp either, but last Thursday’s win over the Giants was a step in the right direction potentially for the offensive line. They allowed just one sack after surrendering 15 in the four games coming in. If the offensive line can continue to keep Carson Wentz upright, the Eagles should be able to move the ball against a suspect Carolina secondary.

Eagles 27-24


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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