Good morning, Eagles fans. On behalf of everyone here at The Inquirer, I’d like to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Hopefully you’ll be reading this just before you spend some time with the special people in your life, or at least some time thinking about what you’re thankful for. I’m thankful for lots of things, including your readership.
There’s plenty to be thankful about in regard to the Eagles, even though they’re on a two-game losing streak. They’re still very much in the playoff race thanks to the Dallas Cowboys’ ineptitude, and they’ve got a handful of very winnable games in the near future. First up is the Miami Dolphins this Sunday. The Eagles won’t be having any availability today, so no need to scan Twitter until Friday for the latest on the team. There’s plenty to read up on, though, so take a moment between your second helping and dessert to check our coverage.
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— EJ Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It’s been two weeks since Marcus Epps made his trek to Philadelphia, but he’s already curried the favor of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
The Eagles ended up with Epps after the Minnesota Vikings waived the former Wyoming standout in favor of Andrew Sendejo, whom the Eagles let go a day earlier. Essentially being traded for Sendejo, Epps joined the Eagles after the bye week.
In his second game with the Birds, he earned the third safety role in Schwartz’s defense, playing 17 snaps when the Eagles used sub packages against the Seattle Seahawks.
“I thought I did solid,” Epps said. “I felt like I did my job and was in good positions, so something to build off of for sure.”
The Eagles have used defensive back Avonte Maddox as a safety in the past, but kept him at his primary slot cornerback spot on Sunday.
Schwartz said having faith in Epps, as well as a desire to keep Maddox in the slot against Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett, played into Epps’ getting the nod at safety.
The decision paid off. Lockett’s only catch came against Jalen Mills, a 38-yard grab in the fourth quarter.
“We liked Avonte where he is,” Schwartz said. "And we have confidence in Marcus. We got him up in the swing of things and he was able to roam that middle of the field.”
Epps has proven to be a quick study. The 6-foot, 190-pound safety said there were similarities in the Eagles’ coverage schemes and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s system. Being on his second playbook has helped him pick up the Eagles’ playbook so quickly, too.
“Just having that process of going through one NFL defense, I feel like once you do that, after that it’s easier to pick up on the next one,” Epps said.
What you need to know about the Eagles
As Les Bowen writes, Carson Wentz has identified plenty to improve upon coming off Sunday’s loss.
From Marcus Hayes: Eagles fans: Give thanks for Carson Wentz, no matter what Michael Vick says
Wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is going to have a bigger role in the Eagles’ offense moving forward, as Bowen and I detail here.
Traveling for the holidays? Be sure to listen to our latest Eagles podcast on your trip.
Paul Domowitch broke down the numbers and detailed how the Eagles’ resurgent corners have helped improve the defense’s blitz production.
The write-in ballots are in, and Nick Foles has edged out Carson Wentz in the polls, according to Chris Brennan.
From the mailbag
How would you rank the difficulty of the Eagles’ final five matchups? — From @Art_Vanderlay4 on Twitter.
Good question, Art (if that’s your real name). Obviously, the Cowboys game is the hardest. I would put this upcoming game against Miami as the second most difficult simply because the Eagles have struggled with Ryan Fitzpatrick in the past. Unlike Giants rookie Daniel Jones and Washington rookie Dwayne Haskins, Miami’s QB is a veteran who is more likely to keep his composure with more complex coverages and a steady pass rush. It might not matter if the Eagles defense continues to play as well as it has the last two weeks, but the Eagles have shown respect to Fitzpatrick this week. I’m sure it’s partly just to avoid making headlines about lacking respect for him, but he did have success against them last year, throwing four touchdowns as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback.
From there, I’d fear the Giants a little more than Washington, but think they’re very similarly ranked. The Giants still have Saquon Barkley and some solid receivers. If Jones takes a leap in the coming weeks, it could make them a tougher out than some expect. Especially to close out the regular season. Haskins could also get hot and make Washington better, but I’m more skeptical of that team figuring things out. The Redskins just don’t have as much talent as New York does.