Eagles

5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Saints

5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Saints

The Eagles (4-5) head on the road this weekend to face the Saints (8-1), who just might be the best team in all of football. 

After losing to the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, the Eagles have gone from having Super Bowl aspirations to being firmly on the outside of the playoff picture. Meanwhile, the Saints have rattled off eight wins in a row and are scoring more points than any other team in the NFL. 

It’s not going to be an easy game for the Birds. 

Here are five matchups to watch: 

Drew Brees vs. Eagles’ depleted secondary
We already mentioned it, but the Saints are averaging 36.7 points per game, which is absurd. They’re averaging 14.7 points per game more than the Eagles. And it all starts with Brees. There are a ton of Brees stats we could throw out, but you get it. He’s really good. He was already a Hall of Famer, but at age 39 he’s putting together his best season yet. 

And now he’ll go against a secondary that has been decimated by injuries. The Eagles hope to have Sidney Jones back, but even if they do, they’re down other bodies. Rodney McLeod and Ronald Darby are both done for the season with knee injuries and Jalen Mills (foot) won’t be back this week. That means a lot of Jones and Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and Corey Graham. This isn’t ideal. 

Saints’ RBs vs. Eagles’ run D 
The Eagles gave up 187 total yards to Zeke Elliott last week and let him go for 151 yards on the ground. Even with that, the Eagles still have the NFL’s seventh-best run defense. But thanks to some shabby tackling last week, they certainly look more susceptible. For all the focus on Brees, the Saints use a two-headed monster of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Kamara has blossomed into an absolute star in this league, averaging over 100 total yards per game. He’s as dangerous as a receiver as he is a runner. 

While Elliott was really good last week, the Eagles also failed to tackle him several times. That seemed to bother Jim Schwartz more than anything. These two backs have a chance to do some damage. 

Jermon Bushrod vs. Michael Bennett
Saints left tackle Terron Armstead will reportedly miss a few games with a shoulder injury, which means the Saints will be turning to an old familiar face. Bushrod was once a Pro Bowl left tackle for the Saints in 2011 and 2012. He’s back this season as a backup but filled in nicely last week. The Saints will need that to continue against the Eagles and Michael Bennett this week. 

After failing to get a sack in the first three games of this season, Bennett has 5 1/2 in the last six games, including a two-sack performance against the Cowboys on Sunday. Without Derek Barnett, who hit IR, Bennett has been a starter and has easily become the Eagles’ best defensive end. 

Lane Johnson vs. Cameron Jordan 
Johnson wasn’t able to play last week because of a sprained MCL, so Halapoulivaati Vaitai played in his place. Vaitai wasn’t bad, but the Eagles clearly helped him more than they normally would help Johnson — and that can change things offensively. Even if Johnson is back, he’s worth keeping an eye on. 

Jordan is 29 now, but he still leads the Saints with six sacks this season after a career-high 13-sack season last year. He can be a handful. 

Carson Wentz vs. Saints pass defense 
In each of the last five games, Wentz has had a passer rating of over 100. Now, that doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does indicate he’s at least playing pretty well. The Eagles need more production out of him and the whole offense though. Against Drew Brees, 22 points ain’t gonna cut it. 

The good news for the Eagles is that the Saints have given up a 296 passing yards per game, making them the second-worst pass defense in the league. Some of that is misleading though. The Saints offense is so good, they get up on teams and force them to throw. And the Saints are still giving up just 25.8 points per game, which isn’t great, but it’s been more than enough for their explosive offene. If the Eagles have any shot on Sunday, Wentz is going to have to be incredible. 

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Doug Pederson's struggles at heart of disappointing season

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Doug Pederson's struggles at heart of disappointing season

It’s easy to dismiss this year as a Super Bowl letdown or Super Bowl hangover, whatever you want to call it.

Short offseason … injuries … coaching changes … it was inevitable.

All Super Bowl champs go through the same challenges a year later. They lose good coaches. They're faced with a much shorter offseason. They hit the banquet circuit and write books. They have the proverbial bulls-eye on their back the next fall.

But most Super Bowl teams don’t do this. 

The reality is that the 2018 season has become one of the most disappointing seasons in recent Eagles history because Super Bowl teams a year later rarely – very rarely – struggle the way the Eagles have struggled.

This year should have been about getting back in the playoffs and making another deep run. Not scuffling just to try to get back to .500, getting swept by the Cowboys and being unable to find any offensive consistency.

Since the NFL’s current playoff system went into effect in 1990, only nine Super Bowl champions have failed to reach the playoffs the next season, and only two have had a losing record – the 1998 Broncos and the 2002 Buccaneers.

Two in almost three decades.

Since the inception of the Super Bowl back in 1966, the average Super Bowl team a year later has had a .709 winning percentage, and the win totals have varied because of shorter seasons until 1977 and two strike seasons, but .709 in today’s NFL means roughly 11 ½ wins.

That’s what the typical Super Bowl team does a year later. Wins 11 or 12 games. Goes to the playoffs. Makes a run. Continues the momentum.

All of which really adds some clarity and perspective to just how disappointing this mess of a 2018 season is.

The Eagles are 6-7. Unless they win their last three games, they’ll be only 10th Super Bowl champion in half a century of Super Bowls not to register a winning record the next year.

If they lose two of their last three, which is certainly a possibility considering they face the 11-2 Rams and 9-4 Texans next, they’ll be only the third Super Bowl champ in the last 30 years to finish with a losing record.

And the first two were the 1999 Broncos – in the first year after John Elway retired – and the 2003 Buccaneers, who haven’t won a playoff game since their 2002 Super Bowl title.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

If you win a Super Bowl, you’re an elite team with elite players and elite coaches and you don’t find yourself sitting 6-7 and searching for answers with three weeks to go.

And there’s no one easy reason the Eagles find themselves likely to go down as one of the bigger disappointments among Super Bowl champions throughout history.

Carson Wentz is clearly not all the way back physically. The injuries that have decimated the defense can’t be ignored. The losses of Frank Reich and John DeFilippo hurt a lot.

But ultimately it all goes back to Doug Pederson.

He’s just been a bad coach this year.

That magical concoction of aggressiveness, confidence, swagger, and daring has disappeared. The magic play-calling touch is gone. The ability to brilliantly utilize all the Eagles’ offensive personnel has evaporated.

The Eagles consistently found ways last year to take over games because Pederson had this uncanny instinct for finding ways to apply tremendous pressure on opposing defenses with his creativity and innovation.

What happened to that? It’s just gone. When’s the last time an Eagles’ play call wowed you? Or caught an opposing defense completely off-guard?

A year later, Doug’s offense looks predictable, uninspired and conventional.

Stale.

This team week after week is unprepared and out of sorts for the first quarter or first half.

This is all on Doug.

Now, Doug’s not going anywhere. Not for a while.

Super Bowl LII earned him at least a couple more years to get this thing going again. But I do expect changes on the coaching staff, and offensive coordinator Mike Groh is an obvious candidate.

But what really has to change is Doug. He has to rediscover that magical touch that carried the Eagles last year or next year won’t be any better.

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Eagles’ defense plays record number of snaps

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Eagles’ defense plays record number of snaps

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cowboys were on the field for 45:33 in the Eagles’ 29-23 overtime loss at AT&T Stadium on Sunday afternoon. 

It was the second highest time of possession ever against the Eagles. 

And it certainly showed up in the snap counts. 

The Eagles’ defense played an incredible 99 total snaps. Thirteen of those plays came in overtime, but even if this game ended in regulation, the Eagles still would have played a season high. 

As it turns out, the 99 defensive snaps is the most the team has played under Jim Schwartz or previous defensive coordinator Billy Davis. The previous high under Schwartz was 89 vs. the Giants in 2016. Davis’ defense once played 95 against Oakland in 2013. 

This game came the week after the defense played just 45 snaps, the fewest in the Schwartz Era. 

Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Rasul Douglas and Nigel Bradham played all 99 on Sunday.

Other defensive snap count notes: 

- Josh Sweat left the game with an ankle injury after six snaps, which left a three-man DE rotation. Brandon Graham played 83, Michael Bennett 74 and Chris Long 58. 

- Fletcher Cox played 79 snaps. His previous season-high was 65. But, then again, a lot of players had season highs in snaps on Sunday. 

- Sidney Jones played 37 snaps before getting pulled again late because of his lingering hamstring injury. De’Vante Bausby replaced him and played 61 snaps. Both players were beaten on touchdowns by Amari Cooper. 

Offensive snap count notes: 

- Darren Sproles led the way for running backs with 22 of 52 snaps (42 percent), while Josh Adams had 21, Wendell Smallwood had four and Corey Clement had four before leaving with a knee injury. Adams had a big run early but finished with just seven carries for 36 yards.

- Alshon Jeffery played 51 snaps and had six catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Nelson Agholor had 49 snaps with two catches for 49 yards. His long was a 42-yarder that set up the touchdown at the end of regulation. 

- Dallas Goedert played 31 snaps and made the most of them. He had four catches for 44 yards and a touchdown and should have had a 75-yarder that got called back for a bogus OPI. 

- Golden Tate played just 20 snaps (38 percent) and had one catch for seven yards. Hard to not look across the sideline and see what Amari Cooper did. He played 90 snaps and had 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Safe to say that trade is looking better than the Tate trade. 

Offense 

Brandon Brooks: 52 snaps (100 percent)
Lane Johnson: 52 (100)
Carson Wentz: 52 (100)
Jason Peters: 52 (100)
Alshon Jeffery: 51 (98)
Nelson Agholor: 49 (94)
Jason Kelce: 49 (94)
Zach Ertz: 44 (85)
Dallas Goedert: 31 (60)
Stefen Wisniewski: 30 (58)
Isaac Seumalo: 25 (48)
Darren Sproles: 22 (42)
Josh Adams: 21 (40)
Golden Tate: 20 (38)
Jordan Matthews 11 (21)
Wendell Smallwood: 4 (8)
Corey Clement: 4 (8)
Richard Rodgers: 2 (4)
Halapoulivaati Vaitai: 1 (2)

Defense 

Malcolm Jenkins: 99 snaps (100 percent)
Corey Graham: 99 (100)
Rasul Douglas: 99 (100)
Nigel Bradham: 99 (100)
Brandon Graham: 83 (84)
Fletcher Cox: 79 (80)
Michael Bennett: 74 (75)
Cre’Von LeBlanc: 71 (72)
Kamu Grugier-Hill: 64 (65)
De’Vante Bausby: 61 (62)
Chris Long: 58 (59)
Haloti Ngata: 46 (46)
Sidney Jones: 37 (37)
Treyvon Hester: 32 (32)
Tre Sullivan: 31 (31)
Nate Gerry: 29 (29)
Bruce Hector: 20 (20)
Josh Sweat: 6 (6)
LaRoy Reynolds: 1 (1)
Deiondre’ Hall: 1 (1)

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