11 Things I Think I Think About the Philadelphia Eagles — Pre 49ers Edition
Welcome to another edition of 11 Things as the Eagles gear up for a showdown against the winless San Francisco 49ers and hope to avoid getting soaked in the process.
Previous versions of 11 Things are here. We’ll talk about the impending weather and more ahead of today’s game.
Let’s hit it like Fletcher Cox is going to hit CJ Beathard, rain or shine in a few hours.
- To answer a popular sports radio question, the Eagles are not as good as the 2004 version, but I don’t think they have to be.
This has become a popular topic given the Eagles hot start, but it’s also led to — in my opinion — some unnecessary hyperbole.
One of my favorite stats to look at as the season goes on is point differential where the Eagles currently stand at +53 through seven games. The 2004 team was +82 through seven games. They just flat out demolished teams early on.
The thing about this though is that I don’t think this year’s Patriots team is as good as their 2004 version either, and that could very well be what this season comes down to.
2. One specific area where this team might be better, however, is the defensive line. They have more talent and are also deeper.
That team finished with 47 sacks, and while the Eagles will have to ramp up the pace a bit to fully match it, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. I also think they’re stronger up the middle in terms of bottling up the run game and making teams one-dimensional along with being able to rotate more players and thus keep fresh.
Outside of the quarterback position, if you’re going to pick an area to be stronger in, defensive line is a pretty damn good one.
3. Rain can be an interesting equalizer for bad teams against good ones. Eagles should be alright either way, but here’s hoping it holds off.
It’s no secret that bad weather can often slow down offenses and lead to weird plays and game flow. While it’s not ideal for any team, if one squad is clearly worse on paper, they’ll often be excited about it under the impression that it will even the playing field.
Another factor of course is the added injury risk playing in less than ideal conditions.
I’m not saying anything groundbreaking here and trust the Eagles to be prepared either way, but today would go a lot smoother if the meteorologists— like usual — are wrong here.
4. The best way to combat rain from a receiver perspective is to run routes that change direction. Alshon Jeffery can ideally help here.
I’ve said it before but so much of games come down to 1-on-1 battles, and the one typical advantage a receiver has over a cornerback is that he knows where he’s going while the corner needs to guess. That can be exploited more in the rain when it gets harder to stop quickly and make cuts.
Should the rain end up coming down, I’ll be keeping a close eye on wide receiver routes early. While Torrey Smith should be motivated to face his former team and hopefully catch a deep ball, I think this game could lend itself to someone like Jeffery who can run a 10 yard out and pivot directions to break free.
5. Pierre Garcon is the one player on the 49ers offense who scares me. How is this guy only 31 when it feels like he’s been playing forever?
These are Garcon’s numbers over his last four games facing the Eagles, and no, this is not a typo sadly:
25 receptions, 271 yards, 3 touchdowns
Those of course came when Garcon was a member of the Redskins over the past two seasons.
He has yet to find the end zone this year but is still putting up solid numbers as a reliable third down target. The Eagles corners are of course much improved from the past few times Garcon saw them, but the smart possession receiver still scares me.
6. Some people will say Carlos Hyde scares them too, and I get where they’re coming from especially without Hicks, but think we’ll be alright.
Hyde’s having a quietly solid season averaging 4.3 yards per carry but has never particularly struck fear into me as a runner.
I expect him to find a few yards on the ground here and there, but the Eagles defensive line has been so stout against the run, I’m not going to get that nervous about this one.
7. Who are you rooting for come 4:25? The Redskins, Cowboys, or a meteor shower? I would root for the Skins and just not because we hate Dallas.
Touched on this in the previous edition of 11 Things but wanted to talk the pulse of readers and tweeters as well. The Skins feel like much less of a threat knowing we have the season sweep over them, where I would love to bury the Cowboys at 3–4 and put them three games back in late October.
I don’t blame you thought if you pick the meteor option.
8. Jay Gruden seemed to be coaching scared early on Monday Night, and that’s a huge testament to Eagles defense and their budding reputation.
On two consecutive drives facing a 3rd and 1, Jay Gruden opted to drop Kirk Cousins back and throw. The Redskins converted neither, and what began as a 10–3 Skins lead turned into a 17–10 Eagles lead in the blink of an eye before halftime.
The weird thing at the time is I didn’t think the Eagles front four was playing all that great. Rob Kelly had a few runs early where he was able to crank out a few yards. This decision felt like it came more from perception than the actual game flow, and that’s a powerful thing to own.
If the Eagles defensive line can scare opponents into throwing on third and short, it makes them even more one dimensional and puts more pressure on their quarterback to execute.
9. Should be a fun chess match between Jim Schwartz and Kyle Shanahan. I feel good knowing Schwartz got the better of him last season.
The Eagles were the only team to hold the high-powered Atlanta Falcons offense to below 20 points last season in a 24–15 November victory at Lincoln Financial Field.
Shanahan of course oversaw that Falcons unit but seemed off his game that day. I at the time marked that as the second best game Schwartz had called behind his masterful one against the Steelers in Week 3 last season, and believe the designations still hold true even with many impressive efforts this season.
With much less weapons for Shanahan to work with now, I feel good.
10. Just a gut feeling after calling the Torrey Smith bomb against the Cardinals: I think Rodney McLeod pulls down an interception today.
McLeod remains one of the most underrated players on this team as there was a clear drop off when he missed part of the Chiefs and all of the Giants game.
He actually should have had one in the Panthers game two and a half week ago, but an irrelevant pass interference penalty nullified things.
He had three last year, all at the Linc, and I just have a good feeling Beathard panics lofting one deep right into McLeod’s arms.
11. Along with winning, today (pending the rain) should be a good opportunity to learn things about young players.
We know Mack Hollins is a player. I knew it since the first drive of the first preseason game when he got open during one of Carson Wentz’ Houdini acts and threw a massive stiff arm to turn a nice reception into an epic touchdown.
What about Halapoulivaati Vaitai though? Joe Walker? Najee Goode? Maybe even Marcus Johnson?
If you have a decent lead late, you can ideally learn more about all these guys. Given the injuries suffered so far, it would be optimal for the Eagles to have this knowledge, and maybe some nuance sparks an idea for a trick play or wrinkle later on in the season.
Let’s take care of business and learn things.