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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Eagle Eye podcast: These Band-Aids aren’t working

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Eagle Eye podcast: These Band-Aids aren’t working

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro are joined by Ray Didinger to break down Zach Brown’s release as a part of a more troubling trend. 

Why can’t J.J. Arcega-Whiteside get on the field? At least Miles Sanders is finding ways to produce. 

And some help is coming at the cornerback position. 

• See ya, Zach Brown 
• These veterans aren’t working 
• J.J. Arcega-Whiteside can’t get on the field 
• Miles Sanders is a deep threat … that’s good and bad 
• Some injured players are close to returning
• Andre Dillard settled in after a rough start 
• How will they handle the CB rotation? 
• Why did Doug Pederson say what he did?  
• Early thoughts on the Cowboys game 

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Hey, Jim Schwartz, why was Zach Brown released?

Hey, Jim Schwartz, why was Zach Brown released?

A day after the Eagles released starting linebacker Zach Brown, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wasn’t all that interested in explaining why. 

“Well, that’s probably more of a question for Doug (Pederson) and Howie (Roseman),” Schwartz said on Tuesday afternoon. “I will say this: We need more production from our linebacker position in general.”

Schwartz also mentioned that Kamu Grugier-Hill has been getting healthier coming back from his MCL sprain and it seems like he’s ready to take back his more significant role in the defense. A starting three of Nigel Bradham, Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry is probably what we’re looking at going forward, depending on the severity of Bradham’s ankle injury. During training camp, Bradham and Grugier-Hill were the Eagles’ linebackers in their nickel package. 

Still, it certainly seems unusual that the Eagles cut Brown a day after he played 58 defensive snaps (82 percent) against the Vikings. Brown, 29, started every game for the Eagles through six weeks. 

So was there something specific that happened to lead to Brown’s release? 

“I’ll just leave that to those guys,” Schwartz said. “They can address those roster decisions.” 

Of course, Brown did trash talk about Kirk Cousins heading into last weekend and then Cousins threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns against the Eagles. Perhaps that had something to do with his release, but that’s just speculation at this point. Pederson’s next press conference is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. 

Schwartz was also asked specifically about a role for rookie T.J. Edwards, who has played just 12 defensive snaps all season. Schwartz said the release of Brown could “maybe” mean more of a role for the rookie from Wisconsin. 

“All that kid has done when we put him in the game is made the plays that have come to him,” Schwartz said. “He’s been physical, he’s been a sure tackler and he’s been assignment-sound. Those are all three good things to be said about a linebacker.”

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