Five Eagles to watch in Week 3 showdown with Steelers

The Eagles host local rivals Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time under Doug Pederson in a game that promises to be his toughest test yet. The Eagles are unbeaten at home against the Steelers since 1967..but if they’re to keep this staggering record going, they’ll need some big performances from their playmakers. Here are five players to watch in the week 3 clash.

 

Darren Sproles:
The Steelers Defense may be dominant in stopping the run, but they allowed Giovani Bernard to rack up over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown last week, giving the Bengals a lifeline. Sproles has just 4 receptions through two games and given how versatile this backfield has the potential to become, this simply has to change against the Steelers who are prone to giving up lots of short yardage plays.

Darren Sproles is one of the most dynamic backs in the game and if the Eagles can find a way to get him the ball out of the backfield, they have every chance of sending the Steelers home empty-handed.

 

Fletcher Cox:
Part of the reason behind Cox’s quiet start to the season has been the amount of focus he’s been subjected to. Double and triple teams have stifled the progress of the “Man dog” so far, but opened the floodgates for a flurry of impressive plays from the DE’s.

The Steelers are not nearly as successful when forced into short passes and throws under pressure, meaning that if the Eagles Secondary has any chance of stopping the high octane Steelers Offense, it starts with the war in the trenches.

Six tackles and one sack through two games is still an impressive stat-line, but for a player as dominant as Cox, this has to improve if the Eagles Defense is to thwart Big Ben’s plans to end the staggering undefeated home streak.

 

Jalen Mills:
After giving up a huge play to Alshon Jeffery early on, Jalen Mills recovered well and stunted the Bears passing attack for the remainder of the game with some fantastic instinctive play. With Carroll struggling and Brooks unreliable, the development of Mills has become imperative to the success of the unit..but it will be tested in week 3.

With Marcus Wheaton, Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers supporting one of the most explosive receivers in the game, Mills will often be stuck between a rock and a hard place, relying on help over the top to avoid surrendering the big play.

In a trial by fire that closely resembles that of Eric Rowe last year, the seventh round pick will be targeted early and often..but if he can hold his own and retain his composure, the Eagles secondary will have some room to breathe.

 

Jason Kelce:
The Eagles center has been the lowest graded offensive player on the team so far this season according to PFF. A mix of bad snaps and being overpowered by more physically dominant tackles, Kelce has been the weak link on the Offensive line so far.

The Steelers pass rush may not be incredibly intimidating, but it will bring the pressure and has been supreme against the run. The athleticism of Kelce will be called upon tomorrow as the Defense look to confuse Carson Wentz.

If Kelce can find a rhythm and stop pressure leaking through the middle, it gives Wentz valuable time in the pocket..which against a Defense deliberately trying to confuse him, is vital.

 

Dorial Green-Beckham:
The 6’5 mismatch nightmare hasn’t featured too heavily in the Eagles Offense so far, but has seen his snaps increase from week 1 to week 2. With DGB reportedly having most of the playbook down, it might finally be time to unleash him in the redzone.

Green-Beckham has hauled in 4 catches for 32 yards so far, despite joining the team in the latter stages of the preseason.  The Eagles will rely on the creativity of Doug Pederson more than ever against the Steelers and that could involve some interesting looks to try and get the athletic wideout the football.

With the Steelers Defense maintaining a “bend but don’t break” mentality, the Eagles need to try and find a way to carve them up underneath and exploit the mismatches. DGB scored 2 touchdowns with endzone fades last season and one 2-pt conversion, replicating that in preseason with a touchdown fade. If Wentz can find a way to get him rolling, Dorial Green-Beckham could have a heavy role to play.

 

Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

One thought on “Five Eagles to watch in Week 3 showdown with Steelers

  1. Agree about Sproles. Since coming to the Birds, he has been way under utilized as a receiver. Brees used him extensively in NO with great success. It’s time to unleash the beast.

    Mills will be a work in progress, but he’s learning quickly. If he’s on Brown tomorrow, he’ll have his work cut out for him. By seasons end, we should have a pretty good CB of the future.

    Kelce is getting hammered. Opposing teams are quickly realizing that he cannot hold his own at the LOS. As a run blocker, he is excellent and he is great at picking up calls by the D, but pass protection is his Achilles heel. Watch for the Steelers to run blitzes up the middle all day. It will be up to Wentz to read those and change the play or option it away from the pressure.

    As for Cox, when you’re double and triple teamed, it’s hard to make headway at times. But that double and triple teaming has a benefit as it allows Logan and Curry and Barwin and Graham to pressure the QB and come up with the sack/strip/pressure. Whatever it takes to force a team into a 3 and out is OK by me.

    As for DGB, obviously the Titans shoved a huge playbook at him and expected him to learn it right away. Granted, he should have, but some guys learn at different speeds. Though he may be a little slower in picking things up, by giving him little bits at a time, it builds his confidence which breeds success. I think DGB is more dangerous running slants in the open field than fade routes in the end zone. He ran a 4.49 in the 40 at the combine. That’s not world class speed, but it isn’t slow either. Desean ran a 4.35 at the combine. Not a huge difference. It takes a guy 6’5″ longer to get up to speed than a 5’10” guy, but once there, he eats up yardage with every stride. Run a few slants and watch Pittsburgh suddenly have to start compensating for him.

    Here’s a guy who should be mentioned. Trey Burton. Sure-handed, fast and big. At 6’3″ and 235 lbs. Burton has a great combination of size, speed and agility. He can run out of the backfield (former RB college) and can also throw (former QB high school) He is the ultimate all purpose weapon who’s skills Doug is just starting to tap.

    How about Brent Celek. While he seems to be relegated to blocking status, there is no better sight for any Eagle fan than watching Celek drag about 5 guys for 7-8 yds. after making a catch. While Ertz is a finesse guy, his YAC is not stellar. Once contact is initiated, he seems to go down fairly easy. Celek on the other hand is a beast. I’d like to see Doug keep the D honest with a few passes a game to Celek. He is the ultimate team player and after 10 seasons has never once complained about his role. Whatever helps the team is what he is willing to do.

    While it’s on my mind, if nothing changes between now and the end of the bye week, it’s time to think about bringing Turner up from the practice squad to see how he fares against 1st team defenses. Huff has been a huge disappointment. I remember the stability of having Jason Avant converting those 3rd down catches. I thought after the good pre-season and the 71 yd. TD run back, he would make the roster. Without Ertz on the field, if the D has coverage on JMatt, there’s not much going on. Agholor is slowly improving, but not fast enough. There must be a guy on the roster who we can banish to the PS and bring PT up.

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