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Eagles-Buccaneers: What to watch

Paul Domowitch provides what everyone will be watching for when the Eagles take on the Bucs in Tampa.


he Eagles haven't been able to get off the field on third down this season. They are 21st in the league in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 39.7 percent of their third-down chances. In the last six games, opponents have converted 37 of 72 third-down tries, or 51.4 percent. In those six games, opposing quarterbacks have a 152.4 third-down passer rating. The only good news is the Bucs are 26th in third-down offense (34.0).


Andy Reid made official this week what everyone already pretty much knew - that rookie Nick Foles will be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season. Foles is coming off his best performance, completing 22 of 34 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys. He hasn't thrown an interception in 91 attempts, but has had several near-misses. This week, he's going up against the league's 32nd-ranked pass defense.


Incredibly, the Eagles have won just one turnover battle all season (Week 4 vs. Giants). They are 31st in turnover differential (minus-18) and 31st in giveaways (28), including a league-high 16 fumbles. The Bucs, meanwhile, are sixth in the league in turnover differential (plus-11). Despite being last in the league in passing yards allowed, they are fourth in interceptions with 17.


Jim Washburn is out and Tommy Brasher is in as defensive line coach. Wash's shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later wide-nine is out, Brasher's read-and-react approach is in. Will it matter? We'll see. The Eagles, who led the league with 50 sacks last year, have just 20 through 12 games and are 26th in the league in sacks per pass play. They've had more than two sacks in a game only twice this season.


Rookie Bryce Brown is an incredibly talented runner, as his 347 rushing yards and four touchdowns the last 2 weeks have shown. But he also has three fumbles in his last 33 carries. If the Eagles actually were in contention for a playoff spot right now, Brown would be on the bench. Going forward, the Eagles need him to learn how to take better care of the football.

- Paul Domowitch