Good morning, Eagles fans. Here’s hoping you had a great Thanksgiving and are soon to embark on a weekend full of successful deal-hunting and leftover turkey. The Eagles are back in the building preparing for their Monday night matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. More on that later.
The team schedule is a bit different this week because of the holiday and the Monday night game. The Birds will practice Friday around noon, and again on Saturday before taking Sunday off.
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Keys to the game
1. Will Carson Wentz start this game? Will he finish it? It’s safe to say Wentz has never been on thinner ice in his NFL career than he will be going into this primetime matchup. He’s been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league this year, and all eyes will be on whether he’s able to rebound against a porous Seattle pass defense. Eagles coach Doug Pederson somewhat reluctantly reiterated that Wentz would be the starter during his Wednesday news conference, and said after the loss to the Browns that benching the franchise quarterback in favor of Jalen Hurts would send a message to the team that the season is over.
Still, Pederson’s departure from sharply deflecting any questions about Wentz’s role was a noticeable change, and another erratic outing from Wentz could further open the window for a swap. There’s also the possibility that Wentz puts together a resurgent outing and quiets the calls for his benching on football’s biggest stage.
2. Russell Wilson has never lost to the Eagles in his nine-year career, throwing eight touchdown passes to just one interception in five games, including last year’s Wild Card playoff game. Wilson is having an MVP-caliber season, leading the league in completion percentage above expectation, touchdown passes, and passing yards.
The Seattle offense has typically been centered around a consistent rushing attack, but Wilson has been unleashed this year, and the results have been impressive. They have the fourth-best passing offense, according to Football Outsiders, and Wilson is on pace to set a career high in passing attempts and should shatter previous season bests in touchdowns and passing yards. If the Eagles continue to struggle against Wilson, his undefeated record against the Birds won’t likely be in jeopardy.
3. DK Metcalf will get another in-person chance to make the Eagles regret taking JJ Arcega-Whiteside over him in the 2019 NFL draft. The Seattle receiver has become one of the most imposing wideouts in the NFL, and is among the league leaders in receiving yards per game and touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 229-pound receiver also averages 5.5 yards after the catch, so assuming Darius Slay shadows Metcalf, he’ll have his hands full getting him on the ground.
4. Jason Peters had one of his worst games in recent memory against the Browns last Sunday, but the left tackle job is still his. The 38-year-old was responsible for three sacks against Browns’ edge rusher Olivier Vernon, who was the latest pass rusher to give Peters fits. He also gave up two sacks against the Cincinnati Bengals and struggled against the Washington Football Team in the season opener, allowing five pressures. Jordan Mailata was far from perfect during his five-game stretch as the starting left tackle while Peters dealt with a toe injury, but the 23-year-old made a case to keep his job even before Peters started struggling. If Peters struggles again, Mailata could be called on.
5. This isn’t your your grandfather’s Seahawks secondary. Even with Jamal Adams on the back end, this is hardly a Legion of Boom. Seattle is ranked 27th in pass defense and has given up the most passing yards in the league this season. Tre Flowers, one of the team’s starting outside cornerbacks, has been targeted 45 times and given up 34 catches for 383 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Shaquill Griffin, who starts opposite Flowers, hasn’t been much better, giving up 29 catches on 43 targets for 389 yards. It’s worth noting the Eagles have gone up against similarly porous pass defenses and failed to capitalize.
6. Speaking of the Seattle corners, Travis Fulgham will be trying to reverse a dry spell against the pair of defensive backs. After a five-game stretch in which the wideout became one of the most productive receivers in the league, Fulgham has been held to just one catch for eight yards in each of the last two weeks. Pederson said the second-year player is starting to see the challenges that come from defensive coordinators and opposing cornerbacks keying in on him, but the team’s future at receiver is much brighter with Fulgham returning to his productive form. Against the shoddy Seahawks’ secondary, Monday night will be a good chance to turn things around.
7. Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay have both struggled recently and will have another tall order on Monday. Considering Metcalf’s seven-inch advantage over Maddox, it’s likely Slay will have to shadow Metcalf. If he does, it will arguably be the toughest matchup he’ll have all season. The bad news for the Eagles: Slay vs. Metcalf might not even be the biggest mismatch on the field. Maddox and whoever the Eagles line up at slot corner will split the matchup against Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett, who has also been incredibly productive this season. Lockett, who lines up both on the outside and in the slot, is eighth in the league with 67 catches and has eight touchdown receptions. Lockett actually leads the team with 88 targets, 11 more than Metcalf.
8. Fletcher Cox had one of his best performances last season in the team’s playoff loss to the Seahawks. Cox was consistently disruptive, generating four pressures and forcing a fumble in the 17-9 loss at the Linc. The Seahawks have shuffled their interior line since the teams’ last meeting, but Cox’s familiarity with the Seahawks could help him put together another strong performance.
What you need to know about the Eagles
Doug Pederson was a bit hesitant to name Carson Wentz his starter during his Wednesday news conference, a noticeable shift from his typical tone when asked about Wentz’s status, as Les Bowen reports.
Jason Kelce went out with an elbow injury midway through the Browns game but came back and is now on track to play again. As Bowen reports, this Monday would be his 100th consecutive start, a remarkable milestone for the veteran center.
Considering the way he’s handled Wentz this season, Marcus Hayes begs the question: Is Doug Pederson trying to get fired?
With Wentz struggling so much, Pederson is going back to the old hits, studying the 2017 tape and searching for answers, as yours truly writes.
From the mailbag
Why has the Eagles D seemed so ineffective against Russell Wilson through the last several years? — From Jeff (@eagsfan) on Twitter.
Good question, Jeff. Wilson is successful against just about every team, and he’s actually been more successful against plenty of other teams. The Eagles are one of only four teams to hold Wilson under 60% completion percentage, so it’s not as if he’s dominated them. But the record against the Eagles is still noteworthy.
I would say a big part of why the Eagles’ defenses haven’t been able to do better against Wilson is primarily because his athleticism neutralizes the Eagles’ strengths under Jim Schwartz: an aggressive pass rush. Wilson can punish teams with overaggressive rushers because he’s quick enough to maneuver through unoccupied rushing lanes, which makes linemen stay more disciplined. The Eagles scheme typically wants rushers to play downhill. But against Wilson that’s not really possible. Combine that with the lack of cornerback talent the Eagles have consistently had during the last several years, and it makes sense why Wilson has been able to make enough winning plays in his five games against the Birds.