Eagles-Bengals scouting report: Even matchup despite Cincy's record

Eagles-Bengals scouting report: Even matchup despite Cincy's record

Eagles at Bengals
1 p.m. Sunday on FOX
Pick-em; over/under 42

In the easiest of the Eagles' five remaining games, they're on the road to face a desperate Bengals team and a head coach trying to avoid getting fired.

The way the Birds have played and coached lately, no game is a gimme. It's telling that the Eagles aren't favored against a 3-7-1 Bengals team missing its two most explosive playmakers.

No A.J. or Gio
The first player that comes to mind when you mention the Bengals is All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green, who will miss Week 13 with a hamstring injury. Green hasn't yet been officially ruled out, but considering the most movement he's done since the injury is a light walk, he's not playing Sunday.

This is obviously a huge benefit for the Eagles because defending Green requires a double-team on most plays and almost always a safety over the top. 

In the same game the Bengals lost Green, they also lost Giovani Bernard, their version of Darren Sproles. Andy Dalton likely would have relied even more on Bernard in the short passing game with Green out, but the RB tore his ACL in Week 11 without anyone noticing until afterward.

Thus, Cincinnati is a much simpler team to defend this week. With Green and Bernard out, the Bengals skill players to worry most about are tight end Tyler Eifert and speedy second-round WR Tyler Boyd.

Eifert, finally healthy after a series of injuries late last season and in the offseason, has 20 catches for 303 yards and two TDs in his last four games. 

Boyd, in the two games without Green, has 11 catches for 116 yards and a TD. 

Better than their record?
The Bengals haven't won since Week 7 — Oct. 23 against the Browns. Since then, they tied the Redskins in London, lost to the Giants by one point, the Bills by four and the Ravens by five. Cincinnati has been competitive in games, just unable to finish.

At this point, you can't reasonably call the Eagles a better team than the Ravens, Giants or Redskins ... and maybe even the Bills. 

So yes, this is a 3-win team the Eagles are facing, but in reality it's about an even match, especially with Cincy's holding home-field advantage.

Wentz and Dalton
Last season was by far the best of Dalton's six-year career, but he's been just mediocre in 2016. With many more weapons than Carson Wentz has, Dalton has similar stats across the board. 

Dalton's completed 63.5 percent of his passes, averaged 7.5 yards per attempt, thrown 12 TDs and six INTs, and has a QB rating of 89.7.

Wentz has completed 63.5 percent of his passes, averaged 6.6 yards per attempt, thrown 11 TDs and eight INTs, and has a QB rating of 83.4.

But Wentz is a rookie with the worst wide receiver group this side of Chicago. Dalton is an experienced quarterback in a familiar system with running backs and pass-catchers he's shared the field with for several years.

Pressuring Dalton
Affecting Dalton with pressure should be easier than doing the same to Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is a master of getting the ball out quickly, and his offensive line has afforded him time all season. According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers has been given 2.6 seconds or more in the pocket 49 percent of the time. Dalton has gotten that much protection just 36 percent of the time, one of the lowest figures in the NFL.

And, per PFF, Dalton has been sacked 23 percent of the time he's been pressured — the highest rate in the NFL. (For reference, that's double the rate of Dak Prescott, Derek Carr, Eli Manning and Kirk Cousins.)

The Eagles, who have just six sacks total in their last five games, should be able to get home on Sunday. Brandon Graham, their best edge rusher, has a juicy matchup against 2015 first-round right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, who has allowed eight sacks and 29 QB hurries this season.

Wentz's options
Can Nelson Agholor, after spectating on Monday Night Football, do the unthinkable and have a positive impact on the game?

Going to go out on a limb here and say ... yes. Jordan Matthews (ankle) is banged up, so Wentz might not look his way as often as usual. And pass coverage is the weakness of this Bengals defense. The Bengals' top three corners — Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and Josh Shaw — are decent, but not spectacular. 

It's also another game where, at least on paper, utilizing Zach Ertz makes sense. The Bengals have been one of the NFL's worst defenses against tight ends, allowing the fourth-most receiving yards (760) and fifth-most touchdowns (six). 

That's owed in large part to the struggles in coverage of linebackers Vontaze Burfict, Karlos Dansby and Rey Maualuga. Burfict and Maualuga are bigger LBs who are better against the run; Dansby has long been one of the better coverage LBs, but he's 35 years old.

Heck, hometown kid Brent Celek might even get involved. Celek hasn't been a part of the Eagles' offense at all, catching just seven passes all season and averaging 4.4 yards per game the last nine weeks.

The over/under is just 42 and I'm not expecting a whole lot of points. 

The Eagles are reeling, the Bengals are reeling, but when it comes down to it the Eagles enter this game healthier and should be able to keep Cincy's offense in check. 

Eifert is the Bengals' most dangerous weapon at the moment and the Eagles have been pretty good defending the seam with Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham and the safeties.

Eagles 20, Bengals 16

NFL rumors: LeSean McCoy says Eagles had interest before he signed with Bucs 

NFL rumors: LeSean McCoy says Eagles had interest before he signed with Bucs 

For months — well, years really — LeSean McCoy seemed excited about the possibility of returning to Philadelphia, where his No. 25 has remained available. But that didn’t happen. 

Shady signed with the Buccaneers and will join Tom Brady in Tampa (Tompa) Bay. 

But on a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday, Shady said the Eagles were showing him interest even just before he signed with the Bucs. 

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles had expressed some interest in veteran running backs and the three they were linked with most were Carlos Hyde, Devonta Freeman and McCoy. The only one of the three that remains available is Freeman. 

The Eagles feel pretty comfortable with the running back group they have right now and are ready to roll with some younger players. Their top two running backs are Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. After that, they have Corey Clement, Elijah Holyfield, Mike Warren and Adrian Killins. 

Coming into training camp, the Eagles wanted to get an extended look at some of those younger players. For instance, they had a draft able grade on Holyfield last year and had a draftable grade on Warren this year. 

McCoy is 32 now and it seems like his best days are behind him. Even though he was with the Chiefs last year, he didn’t play in the Super Bowl. 

But he’ll always be remembered as an Eagle. The Birds drafted him at No. 53 in 2009 and he played six seasons in Philly before Chip Kelly traded him to Buffalo. McCoy is a six-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro and the Eagles’ all-time leading rusher. 

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 

Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

4 new roster rule changes that could affect Eagles in 2020

4 new roster rule changes that could affect Eagles in 2020

As a part of the agreement between the NFL and NFLPA for the upcoming 2020 season during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a few important roster rule changes that could affect the Eagles. 

With the pandemic, the league has found ways to create new roster rules aimed to help teams as players might either test positive or come into contact with those who have. 

In either case, the league wants to be better prepared. 

Here are four changes for the 2020 season: 

1. Practice squad expanded to 16 players 

In the original collective bargaining agreement, the practice squad was limited to 12 players in 2020 and 2021 and would expand to 14 in 2022. But with the pandemic, the league and the players union agreed to expand the practice squad immediately to 16 players for the upcoming season. And if there are still COVID-19 protocols in effect for 2021, the practice squad will remain at 16 players. 

Six of those 16 players on the practice squads have no limit of accrued seasons, meaning the team can keep six veterans on the practice squad. 

Think about how the Eagles have used their practice squad in recent seasons. Heck, last year, the Eagles called up multiple players from their practice squad, including Greg Ward Jr. and Boston Scott, who played a ton down the stretch. 

2. Practice squad protected list 

Each Tuesday after 4 p.m. before a Sunday game — so not during the bye week — the Eagles will be allowed to protect up to four members of their practice squad. Typically, practice squad players are allowed to sign to any team’s 53-man roster at any time. 

In the past, the only way to protect a player on your practice squad was to sign them to the active roster. The Eagles have done that in recent seasons with QB Nate Sudfeld and OL Sua Opeta. 

3. IR designated for return 

Beginning on Sept. 6 at 4 p.m., teams are allowed to bring back an unlimited amount of players from Injured Reserve as long as those players have missed three regular season games. 

Once a player has been designated to return to practice, teams have 21 days to activate that player. 

Previously, the NFL capped the number of players allowed to return from IR and players were forced to miss a minimum of eight games. 

4. COVID-19 corresponding exemptions 

There’s an addition roster designation of Reserve/COVID-19, which we’ve already seen get used. The Eagles placed three players — Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata and Nathan Gerry — on the list earlier this training camp. 

There’s no definite amount of time players spend on the Reserve/COVID-19 list but they have to clear protocols before return. 

- If a player gets put on the Reserve/COVID-19 list before 4 p.m. on Saturday before a Sunday game, the team can replace that player with any free agent or practice squad player. 

- If a player gets put on the list after 4 p.m. on Saturday, they have until up to 90 minutes before kickoff to promote a player from their practice squad. 

That last part is a big change from the previous rule. In other years, teams had to call up practice squad players by 4 p.m. the day before a game. There are added protections because of COVID-19 this year. 

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 

Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles