Theaa Eagles are preparing for what could be one of their most important games of the season this Sunday as the leagues number three ranked passing Offense rolls into town. But without Nolan Carroll the Eagles Secondary will face their toughest challenge yet.
When you think of the Cardinals..you think of one man, future hall of famer Larry Fitzgerald. 13 games into the season Fitzgerald has 96 catches, seven touchdowns and over 1,000 receiving yards..ouch. Fitzgerald has actually scored a Touchdown in every game he has played against Eagles..scoring a total of 11 in 7 contests.
The thing is, the Eagles Secondary seems to contain star wide receivers well, just ask Odell, Dez or Brandon Marshall. But when there’s an entire core of them..things get messy.
Behind Fitzgerald sits John Brown who has 895 yards on 55 catches for five touchdowns. More worryingly is his YAC average which is 16.3 yards after catch. With Ed Reynolds missing a vital tackle and Byron Maxwell rarely making any tackle it’s going to be a long day for the birds if they can’t find a way to bring down the 2013 draft pick.
Then, there’s Michael Floyd. 40 catches, 6 touchdowns and over 650 yards receiving on the season..not to mention rookie J.J Nelson who is averaging 27 yards per catch on just 11 receptions.
BUT…the Secondary could well spring a surprise. With two previous top-5 safeties watching over the corners, confidence will be high after two huge performances. It’s that kind of confidence that gives fans hope of a surprising game in which the Eagles could dictate the flow of the matchup. The Secondary has been widely overlooked this season due to errors on Maxwell’s behalf or just simply poor coaching adjustments..but when it rolls nobody seems to notice. With Carroll out, nobody gave this unit a shot and whilst the last two games have been wobbly in places, there’s been a huge improvement over what we saw 12 months ago and as a cohesive unit are more poised to cause an upset than ever.
How? Let’s look at some interesting stats:
We’re not saying that the Eagles secondary is elite..but it’s certainly not getting the credit it deserves for transforming what was a low producing group of players into a much more efficient unit. It’s far more suited to deal with the Cardinals passing threat than we were last year..or most of the seven times the teams have met.
Eric Rowe has shown real signs of maturity in recent weeks ever since his mismatch against Megatron..but he faces a similar task this weekend when he lines up between a rock and a hard place. If Rowe can put in a solid performance as he has for the past two weeks then it could arguably see him rise to a status of “steal of the draft”. His man-to-man has been exceptional and he’s only getting better with experience..he’s fast, physical and not afraid to get in the face of a receiver..he’s everything the Eagles would look for and need for this game.
For Maxwell however, it’s time to put the money where his mouth is. Many were hesitant about the gigantic contract it took to bring the former Legion of Boom member to Philly and this weekend he is likely to earn every dime..or prove he isn’t worthy. There’s no easy matchup here..Maxwell will be tested on every possible receiver from Larry Fitzgerald to J.J Nelson…he cannot afford to get burned out like he has numerous times this season..it’s not an option.
Malcolm Jenkins will likely be more important than any corner this game. A man who reads the game like no-one else will have his Football IQ tested to new extremes as he tries to stop a dominant passing Offense that averages 299 yards of passing Offense per game. Jenkins has been a force all over the field this season, but he has to be at his very best on Sunday to stop this excellent passing attack.
The Eagles Secondary will either showcase how much progress has been made this season and highlight Billy Davis’ expertise..or they will fall way short of the mark and we will all be witnesses to a demolition crew from Arizona..there doesn’t appear to be a middle ground. The stage is set, but are the Eagles going to perform?