We’re just a few days away from the Eagles home opener. The team will their host divisional rivals on Sunday as the New York Giants come to town with redemption on the mind after a slow start. Here are five things to watch during the Eagles week three contest.
Can the rushing attack finally be ignited?
Up to this point, the Eagles running backs have been anything but what was advertised during the offseason. LeGarrette Blount was effectively benched during the team’s week two loss to Kansas City, with Darren Sproles seeing the lions share of carries. The one stat that says it all is Carson Wentz leading the team in rushing after two games.
It’s not good enough. Whether it’s the offensive line or the running backs themselves, or perhaps a combination of varying factors, Doug Pederson has to find a way to balance the offense…especially against a team that has allowed an average of 133.5 rushing yards per game after the opening two. If there’s ever a time for Pederson to ignite the run, it’s one year after the backfields breakout showing one year ago.
The return of Odell Beckham Jr:
After missing the opening game of the season, Odell Beckham Jr caught four passes for 36 yards. A quiet outing for one of the league’s most dynamic and dangerous threats. After an offseason of controversy, OBJ returns to Philadelphia with another big performance at the front of his mind.
The Giants offense may be running on fumes, but Beckham Jr has had no problem against the Eagles in the past. The LSU star caught a total of 15 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles in two games against the Jim Schwartz Defense last year…and with a secondary missing OBJ’s neutralizer, only Jalen Mills stands in his way.
A feasting pass rush:
The Eagles have eight sacks in two games and the Giants have allowed just as many. It’s a mismatch on paper, it’s a mismatch on the field…especially when that field is named Lincoln Financial and will open its gates to the Eagles home opener this weekend. A hostile environment and a pass rush that has simply dominated two very strong offensive lines? It doesn’t look good for what has become a deteriorating Giants O-Line. The last thing the Eagles can afford is a complacent showing on home turf with a weakened secondary standing on the edge of collapse as the injury bug tears its way through the locker room.
Taking a chance:
Much has been said of Isaac Seumalo’s season so far, and not much of it pretty. However, while the coaching staff doubled down on the Oregon State product during conferences this week, practice reps would suggest that veteran Chance Warmack could be lining up as the team’s starting left guard on Sunday.
This is a must-win for the Eagles. A chance to go 2-0 against divisional opponents is on the line and a quiet but not to be overlooked pass-rush lingers in the distance. Warmack hasn’t seen NFL action since just over a year ago, so taking out Seumalo and striking while the Iron is hot may seem a little panicky, and something Pederson hinted he was reluctant to do.
However a commitment to ensuring one of the league’s most promising offensive lines is at its most dangerous could only be appreciated. Development is key, and if Seumalo needs more time, it’s better to accept that now than when it’s too late…especially if there is a competent starter in the wings.
A makeshift secondary:
As aforementioned, the Eagles secondary is beyond banged up. With Rodney McLeod, Jaylen Watkins, and Corey Graham ALL suffering injuries last week, the Birds’ have been forced to bring in some special teams help in the way of another former Bills Safety. Even Chris Maragos may end up playing time on Defense should the situation not improve by Sunday.
Ronald Darby’s absence has been patched by Rasul Douglas, but can he and Jalen Mills hold up against Brandon Marshall and OBJ in a game where both receivers simply have to shine? Mills has proven that he can hold his own and get physical with OBJ before, but lining up against someone as experienced as Marshall could prove problematic for either corner. With little in the way of a lifeline over the top, even more pressure will be placed on the corners to bend but never break on Sunday.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports