Seahawks' defense a tougher test for Eagles despite similar schemes to Falcons

Seahawks' defense a tougher test for Eagles despite similar schemes to Falcons

If the old saying that the sequel is never as good as the original holds true, the Eagles' offense might be in for a letdown against the Seahawks this Sunday.

Last week, the Eagles scored 24 points and hung 429 yards of total offense on a Falcons defense led by Dan Quinn, who runs essentially the same scheme he used in Seattle and is utilized there to this day. There's a line of thinking that the knowledge and experience quarterback Carson Wentz and his teammates gained in that victory could be useful when they take the field against the Seahawks.

"Possibly," Wentz said on Wednesday. "There's a lot of carryover as far as how we're seeing things, from a protection standpoint, from route concepts, lot of carryover from a play-calling standpoint."

Eagles coach Doug Pederson discussed carryover as well, and seemed to agree there are some similarities between the two opponents.

"See what carries over from the plan in Atlanta that we didn't use in that game," Pederson said. "I think it's important to have carryover, so that you are not reinventing the wheel every day."

Yet obviously, there's a stark difference between the 28th-ranked scoring defense from Atlanta and the No. 2 unit in Seattle littered with All-Pro players and Super Bowl champions. While a lot of the looks undoubtedly will be the same as last week, the talent and execution of the scheme should be vastly superior.

Right off the bat, the Eagles can probably forget about going for 200-plus yards on the ground for a second consecutive week. The Seahawks are ninth against the run and third in yards per attempt, limiting opponents to 3.5 yards per carry.

It was the ground attack that keyed the Eagles' victory over the Falcons, but it will be difficult to lean on in Seattle.

"This group stunts in games and they’re fast," Pederson said. "Their linebackers are downhill. Safeties are involved. It's still an eight-man box. You are going to see [Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor] down around the box a lot, and he's an extremely big, physical player.

"That's what they do. They try to take that run game away from you. They have been successful doing that. That's why they get you into those longer yard situations where you might have to throw the ball. And then they get that pass rush after you."

Once the Seahawks shut down the run, they have a Pro Bowl-laden secondary in the Legion of Boom that is arguably still the best group of defensive backs in the game.

"They're fast," Wentz said. "They fly around. Obviously Richard Sherman is a great lockdown corner. Earl Thomas, that guy can cover ground. If any of you want to go watch tape, it's impressive. Chancellor down there in the box, he does some really good things.

"They just have a combination of a lot of good guys that can make plays, so we've got to be sharp."

Speed is something both Wentz and Pederson mentioned multiple times. The Seahawks' secondary also has tremendous size, though. Atlanta featured at least three defensive backs that measured 5-foot-10 or shorter. With the exception of Thomas, most of Seattle's corners and safeties are at least 6-foot, several upwards of 6-2.

Not only are they bigger and possibly faster than the Falcons' DBs, they're also more experienced, too.

"They just have guys that have played in the system longer," Wentz said. "They understand it a little better, they mix it up a little more and they're just more aggressive with it.

"You have a lot of young guys with Atlanta's defense that played a lot of softer coverage, were more tentative so to speak just as far as in the passing game. These guys are just a little more aggressive and they fly around a little faster."

The Seahawks' ability to stop the run means opponents get into situations where they're forced to throw a lot. Then that Seattle secondary is all over the place, and quarterbacks become hesitant. Combined with one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL (see story), it's a recipe that bodes well for rushing the passer.

"They feed off of their crowd at home," Pederson said. "They want you in third downs. They want you in third-and-longs. That's where they get most of their hits on the quarterback in those situations. So in game planning, we've got to be a little more specific in those areas and how we're going to attack and how we're going to handle that type of rush."

For what it's worth, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll quickly dismissed any notion that the Eagles playing Atlanta the previous week would be helpful.

"We see them, they see us," Carroll said. "I don't think there's any advantage to anybody."

That's probably because everybody knows what Seattle's defense is all about. The scheme and most of the key personnel haven't changed since the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2013. Playing the Falcons doesn't prepare anybody for that.

All the Eagles' offense can do is try to play mistake-free football, punt the ball, hope the defense can hold and come back to grind out enough big plays and points for a shot at the upset.

"The biggest thing is just that I take what they give me," Wentz said. "You don't force things because they're a big-play defense. They still get their turnovers and things, but you just have to take what they give you and be smart with the football and protect the ball."

Ever wonder how many Philly natives played for the Eagles?

Ever wonder how many Philly natives played for the Eagles?

When the Eagles signed Will Parks, who grew up at 2nd and Allegheny and attended since-shuttered Germantown High School, it got me wondering how many Philadelphia natives have played for the Eagles.

The answer is not many. Especially recently.

Going back to 1940, we found 14 Philly natives who played in at least one regular-season game for the Eagles.

We’re not including players from the suburbs [Vince Papale, Josh Adams, Matt Bahr] or Philly natives the Eagles drafted who never got into a game [Raheem Brock, Steve Ebbeke].

Anybody missing?

SHAREEF MILLER [2019]: You don’t have to go very far back to find the last Philly native to play for the Eagles. Miller, their 4th-round pick last year, graduated from George Washington High up in Somerton, and he did play for the Eagles last year – two special teams snaps against the Bills.

BRUCE PERRY [2005-06]: Perry, also a George Washington graduate, was the Eagles’ 7th-round pick in 2004. He played five games with the Eagles and had 16 career carries. On the last day of the 2005 season, he ran 15 times for 70 yards against the Redskins, a 4.7 average. He never had another NFL carry.

UHURU HAMITER [2001-02]: Hamiter was a defensive end who played at Mastbaum High in Kensington, leading the Panthers to the 1996 Public League championship. After playing at Delaware State, he went undrafted in 1998, but he signed with the London Monarchs of the World League and had seven sacks. The Eagles brought him into training camp that summer, and although he didn’t make the roster, he did resurface in 1999 with the Saints and played five games. He returned to Philly and played in eight games.

CHUCK WEBER [1959-61]: Weber went to Abington High, but he grew up in Philly, so we’ll keep him in the Philly section. Weber was actually the Eagles’ middle linebacker in 1960, when Chuck Bednarik played outside. Weber had six INTs in 1960, most by an Eagles linebacker until William Thomas had seven in 1995. In a 1960 game against the Cowboys at the Cotton Bowl he became the first linebacker in NFL history with three INTs in a game. He remains one of only six Eagles with three interceptions in a game and the only linebacker. Kurt Coleman is the last to do it.

EDDIE BELL [1955-58]: Bell went to West Philadelphia High and played at Penn. The Eagles drafted him in the 5th-round in 1953, and Bell, one of the first African-Americans to play in the NFL, had nine INTs in four seasons with the Eagles before spending time in the CFL and then the AFL with the New York Titans, who eventually became the Jets.

JOHN MICHELS [1953]: Not to be confused with the John Michels who was once traded for Jon Harris, this John Michels was a guard who went to West Catholic and then played at Tennessee. He was a 25th-round draft pick in 1953 and played 11 games for the Eagles.

JESS RICHARDSON [1953-61]: Richardson was from East Falls and went to Roxborough High. He was the Eagles’ 8th-round pick in 1953 as a defensive tackle out of Alabama. Ray Didinger tells me Richardson grew up blocks away from the Kelly family and was friends with Grace Kelly, who became Princess of Monaco. He played nine of his 12 NFL seasons with the Eagles, made a Pro Bowl in 1959 and started on the 1960 NFL Championship team.

WALT STICKEL [1950-51]: Stickel went to Northeast High and played at both Tulsa and Penn before the Bears drafted him in the 21st round in 1945. He finished his career with the Eagles, playing in 11 games.

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Nate Sudfeld confident in his ability to be Eagles’ backup QB

Nate Sudfeld confident in his ability to be Eagles’ backup QB

Had Nate Sudfeld not fractured his non-throwing wrist last summer, there’s a very good chance it would have been him attempting to lead the Eagles to an improbable playoff win against the Seahawks instead of 40-year-old Josh McCown after Carson Wentz suffered a concussion. 

But Sudfeld’s injury in August forced the Eagles to go out and lure McCown out of retirement. And once they did, even when Sudfeld was healthy, McCown wasn’t going to be the Eagles’ third-string quarterback. 

It was literally a bad break for Sudfeld. 

The 26-year-old quarterback didn’t technically hit free agency this year but he got close. Sudfeld at least got to test the waters of free agency during the legal tampering period before agreeing to a one-year, $2 million contract the day before the start of the new league year. 

When asked if the Eagles offered him any assurances about being the No. 2 quarterback, Sudfeld did not answer directly. But it seems like there’s a really good chance he’ll finally be Wentz’s No. 2 in 2020. 

“I don’t want to get into specifics but I’m very excited about the opportunity to come back and feel really good about coming back to Philadelphia,” Sudfeld said on a conference call this week. “Really excited to get back to work.” 

Will the Eagles bring in another veteran quarterback or draft a rookie to compete with him? It’s unclear. 

I think the NFL is obviously a meritocracy,” Sudfeld said. “As people have said before, it’s really ‘What have you done for me lately?’ What are you doing at each step? You have to keep proving yourself and you have to keep proving. 

“I definitely have a ton of confidence if I’m ever in a situation where I’m head-on-head competing with somebody. I have a lot of confidence in myself. I haven’t ever really had that opportunity so I’m looking forward to that if that comes.

The debate about whether or not Wentz is an injury-prone player has become trite at this point and it’s really not worth getting caught up in. But the fact remains that the final snaps in each of the Eagles’ last three seasons have been taken by his backup. 

Because of that, maybe it would have made sense for the Eagles to go out and grab a backup quarterback with some significant experience, sort of like what they did when they were forced to last year, signing McCown. 

Sudfeld might be great. But we just don’t know. 

Even he admits that. 

“The crazy thing about quarterback, especially, is you never really know about a guy until they’re thrown in there,” Sudfeld said. “The only way to get experience is to get experience.”

The Redskins drafted Sudfeld in the sixth-round out of Indiana back in 2016, but he left after one year to join Doug Pederson and the Eagles. At every turn, the Eagles have shown faith in him. They brought him in from Washington, they promoted him to the active roster that season to avoid losing him, they left him as the backup to Nick Foles in 2017 and 2018 after Wentz went down. And now they’ve brought him back as a free agent. 

And there’s a lot to like about Sudfeld. He’s 6-6 with a big arm and the ability to move in and out of the pocket. He’s shown his skills in practices and in the preseason. 

But in four NFL seasons, he’s thrown a total of 25 passes in the regular season. 

General manager Howie Roseman said that with the unique challenges of this offseason — we still don’t know if there will be spring practices — it was important to bring back a guy who knows the offense. Roseman said they really like him as a player too. 

With the NFL’s open negotiation period last week, Sudfeld got a chance to gauge interest from other teams and learn what they value in his game. It was a good experience, he said. But, ultimately, he felt like there was more left to do in Philly, at least for 2020. 

“Obviously, I want to be a starter someday,” Sudfeld said. “I want to play in this league. But I understand that it’s a process to get there and you have to get on the field.”

In a few months, he might be one injury away. 

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