The Eagles playoff push could either be made or broken in Sunday’s game against the Bengals. The NFC East is arguably the most competitive division in the NFL and with three divisional games remaining, the Eagles simply have to capitalize on any opportunity to claw their way back into the mix. With that in mind, here are five players who the birds will need some big contributions from.
Ryan Mathews has been ruled out with an injury and Darren Sproles could still be limited against the Begnals. This of course paves the way for rookie running back, Wendell Smallwood.
Smallwood has led the Eagles rushing attack for three consecutive weeks now, amassing 155 yards and an average of 4.4 yards per carry in that span. Rather impressively, Smallwood has also rushed for just as many first downs as Darren Sproles (17).
The rookie continues to gain trust and confidence from the coaching staff and his playing time is only increasing as the season draws on. The Bengals give up an average of 120 yards per game and if the Eagles are to pose any kind of Offensive threat, their Offense simply has to find a balance..and Wendell Smallwood’s performance will be crucial in doing so.
Jordan Matthews is still listed as questionable ahead of tomorrow’s game and with the status of Nelson Agholor unknown, the Eagles will no doubt turn to their Tight ends for productivity. Burton was targeted four times last week following the absence of Jordan Matthews, but has also shown an ability to line up outside and be just as efficient.
The move of Burton to at least a slot receiver is something I’ve been preaching since early this year and this may be out best chance of finding out what a permanent move may look like. The Eagles desperately need production from their receivers and at this stage, Ertz and Burton would be two of the most reliable pairs of hands on the field.
With 165 receiving yards this season as a third string tight end, the Eagles and Carson Wentz could very reasonably be looking to turn to the tight end more often than we’re used to seeing this weekend. Although he’s still an under-the-radar player..keep an eye out for Trey Burton on Sunday, who has done nothing but shine in every opportunity given.
While on the topic of wide receivers, Dorial Green-Beckham will be a name on the tips of many tongues this weekend. The second-year wideout has had an inconsistent first season in Philadelphia, but stepped up to the plate to lead the team in receiving last week, catching 6 passes for 82 yards.
If both Agholor and Jordan Matthews are absent, DGB will be the most experienced receiver on the field..and the most dangerous. If there is ever a game for Green-Beckham to downplay the criticisms and hearsay, disregard the negativity and breakout in a form that would make Tennessee fans shed a tear, it’s this one.
Green-Beckham has a real chance to shine, show leadership in what will be a receiving corps consisting of two undrafted rookies and prove to coaches that he is absolutely a guy they can learn to rely on in big-time situations.
Whatever way you look at it and regardless of who does and doesn’t play, the Eagles are in desperate need of wide receiver help..and this could be Dorial Green-Beckham’s best shot at showing the world he still has a lot to give and can overcome the adversity placed on his shoulders.
It’s been a disappointing season for Mychal Kendricks, who has largely remained under the radar after some mild pre-season controversy, in which he was disgruntled at the fact he played in the fourth game. Kendricks has simply not been able to carve open a role under Jim Schwartz and has given up some worryingly bad plays this year.
But with the future uncertain and such limited opportunities presenting themselves each and every week, Kendricks has to step up to the plate. Especially given that without A.J Green, the Bengals are relying a little more on their now Bernard’less rushing attack.
The Bengals running backs have racked up 235 yards on the ground in the last three games against relatively strong run Defenses including Baltimore, while the Eagles run D has contrastingly dropped from second to eighth in the NFL rankings.
The pass rush isn’t getting it done and as a result, the performances of Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham are being recognized that much more. A big game from Mychal Kendricks or some eye catching plays will not only help the Defense find its rhythm again, but act as a clear statement that Kendricks does still belong in the City Of Brotherly Love.
As aforementioned, the Eagles pass rush has been near invisible as of late. Hitting Aaron Rodgers just twice and failing to stop the ever elusive Russell Wilson, the front four has struggled against sub par Offensive Lines..but they simply have to show up on Sunday.
The Bengals recently allowed 3 sacks on Andy Dalton and 7 in their last three games. If the Eagles have any hope of stagnating the Bengals Offense, they simply have to overwhelm the Offensive Line..a task that could largely fall on Brandon Graham.
Graham has been having a Pro Bowl year until recent weeks. In fact prior to a resurgence against the Packers, Graham had just 6 tackles in 3 games.before exploding with 5 against Green Bay.
If the Eagles Defense is going to come up big, Brandon Graham’s intensity off the edge will be crucial. Graham has without a doubt been the Eagles prominent DE this season..and he will once again need to play up to that standard if the Eagles are to mount a real playoff charge.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports