Eagles-Titans scouting report, prediction | Paul Domowitch
Rookie TE Dallas Goedert, who had his first TD catch Sunday against the Colts, is expected to see a lot of action again in multiple-TE sets vs. the Titans.
The Eagles will play the Tennessee Titans at 1 p.m. Sunday in Nashville. Here's how the Eagles match up on offense, defense, and special teams:
When the Eagles run the ball
The Eagles are expected to get Jay Ajayi (back) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) back Sunday. The Birds ran for a season-high 152 yards without them against the Colts. Their offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and consistently created running lanes for Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams. The Eagles had 10 rushing first downs, their most since Week 4 of last season.
Ajayi is the team's No. 1 back. He's a tough yards-after-contact runner. The Eagles used either two- or three-tight-end sets on 57 of 77 plays last week. It not only benefited their passing game, but also, rookie Dallas Goedert was an asset as a blocker. The Eagles have five rushing touchdowns already, a total they didn't reach until their ninth game last year. The Titans are 24th in opponent rush average (4.8). Jacksonville averaged 4.6 yards per carry against them last week; Houston, 5.7 the week before.
When the Eagles throw the ball
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was cleared for contact earlier this week and might make his season debut Sunday, which would provide a big boost to Carson Wentz and the passing game. With the Eagles using multiple-tight-end sets on 57 of 77 plays last week, Wentz completed 25 of 37 passes for 255 yards in his first game back. But he also was sacked five times and had two turnovers. Zach Ertz and rookie tight end Dallas Goedert combined for 12 catches for 146 yards and a TD. Ertz has a team-high 21 receptions, followed by Nelson Agholor with 20.
Even when Jeffery returns, the Eagles likely will continue to play a lot of two-tight-end sets. The Eagles also might get Sproles back this week. At 35, Sproles still is one of the league's better pass-catching backs. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey has been the Titans' most productive pass rusher (team-high three sacks, eight quarterbackpressures). But they have several talented edge rushers, including former Redskin Brian Orakpo.
When the Titans run the ball
Nobody wants to run the ball against the Eagles. Opponents averaged a league-low 21.1 carries per game against them last year, and their first three opponents this season averaged a league-low 18.0. That figures to change Sunday against a run-oriented Titans offense that leads the league in both rushing attempts per game (32.7) and run-play percentage (53.5). Quarterback Marcus Mariota's injured elbow gives the Titans even more reason to play ground and pound.
The Titans rushed for 150 yards on 35 carries last week against Jacksonville, including 51 by Mariota. The Titans use a lot of two- and three-tight-end sets, but unlike the Eagles, they use the power sets as a run weapon. They have a power runner in 6-foot-3, 250-pound Derrick Henry and a speed back in 5-8, 195-pound Dion Lewis, a former Eagle. But both are averaging well below their career yards-per-carry averages. Forty-three of the Titans' 98 rushing attempts have gained two or fewer yards.
When the Titans throw the ball
Both Titans quarterbacks are banged up. Mariota suffered nerve damage in his right (throwing) elbow in Week 1 and sat out the second game. He was supposed to be the emergency quarterback last week behind Blaine Gabbert, but Gabbert suffered a concussion. Mariota completed 12 of 18 passes for just 100 yards and no touchdowns against the Jags. Corey Davis, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft, is a big target (6-3, 209) who leads the team with 13 receptions. Dion Lewis gives them a versatile running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield and, like the Eagles' Sproles, is dangerous in open space.
Even without right tackle Jack Conklin (recovering from knee surgery), the Titans have done a pretty good job of protecting the quarterback, allowing just four sacks and 10 total pressures. The Eagles have a very good pass rush led by all-pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, whose 16 total pressures, including a team-high three sacks, is second to the Bengals' Geno Atkins among the league's interior linemen.
Punter Cameron Johnston came down to earth against the Colts, but he still is second in the league in both gross (51.5) and net average (45.6). The Eagles' return game could get a big boost this week with the expected return of Darren Sproles. Corey Clement, who handled punt returns in Sproles' absence, averaged just 3.0 yards per return. Kicker Jake Elliott has made three of five field-goal attempts. Ten of his 13 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks. The Eagles' coverage units have played well. They're tied for fourth in kickoff coverage (16.0) and 13th in punt coverage (6.0).
Titans kicker Ryan Succup has made 7 of 8 field goals. He missed a 48-yarder last week against Jacksonville. Punter Brett Kern is fourth in net average (44.2). He has put eight of his 15 punts inside the 20. Kick returner Darius Jennings has just two returns in the first three games, but one of them was a 94-yard TD in Week 1 against Miami. The Titans also have given up a 102-yard kick return for a TD.
The Titans enter the game with a very uncertain quarterback situation. Mariota's elbow injury limits the throws he can make, and backup Gabbert spent the week in concussion protocol. If neither is able to play, the choice would be practice-squad quarterback Logan Woodside or wide receiver Darius Jennings.
Eagles 20, Titans 9
— Eagles tight end Zach Ertz vs. Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro. The Eagles are expected to use a lot of two-tight-end sets. Vaccaro figures to spend the most time on Ertz, who leads the Eagles in receptions (21). ADVANTAGE: Eagles
— Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox vs. Titans right guard Josh Kline and center Ben Jones: Kline and Jones are solid veterans with a combined 129 career starts. But Cox is playing the best football of his career. ADVANTAGE: Eagles
— Eagles left guard Stefen Wisniewski and right guard Brandon Brooks vs. Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey: Casey, who lines up on both sides, has a team-high three sacks and eight quarterback pressures. ADVANTAGE: Even
Hot and Not
Eagles: Tight end Dallas Goedert. He had seven catches for 73 yards and his first NFL touchdown in the 20-16 win over the Colts.
Titans: Linebacker Wesley Woodyard. He had a team-high 10 tackles, two for losses, and a sack in a 9-6 win over the Jaguars.
Eagles: Wide receiver Shelton Gibson. After an impressive training camp and preseason, his stock has plummeted. He has played just 40 snaps in the first three games and has no catches.
Titans: Running back Dion Lewis. He averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and 4.7 yards per catch last week vs. Jacksonville.