The Eagles are just one day away from an NFC Championship rematch with the Minnesota Vikings but both teams look inherently different to when they faced off in January. The Birds’ will need some big performances across the board, but here are five names to watch in week five.
Derek Barnett’s injury is undoubtedly going to leave a big hole in the Eagles pass rush, but it’s one that fourth-round pick Josh Sweat will be hungry to fill against an offensive line that have been leaking pressure all year long.
At 6’5, 251 lbs, Sweat is a dominant athlete, but at FSU he was used in a way that didn’t highlight his strengths. Used just inside the shoulder of the offensive tackle and expected to use a four-point stance, Sweat was never a devoted pass-rusher, nor a devotedrun-stopper. This in turn, somewhat stagnated his production and caused his draft stock to tumble.
Now, after a full offseason under Jim Schwartz, the rookie will be intent on making a weakened Vikings offensive front ‘Sweat’.
The rookie cornerback’s sudden move to safety caught many by surprise, as did his first ever NFL interception. It will be interesting to see if and how the Eagles use Maddox this week, given just how dangerous the Vikings passing attack can be. A deadly-accurate Kirk Cousins will have Steffon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph at his disposal, the vulnerable Eagles pass-defense seems ripe for another bad day. So, will the hard-hitting rookie be a factor in Schwartz’s plans this weekend after he gave up the game winning touchdown in overtime last week? Only time will tell, but it appears as if the team are confident in their rookie corner’s versatility.
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Like an RKO out of nowhere, a report surfaced on Friday citing that Isaac Seumalo would be replacing Stefen Wisniewski at Left Guard this weekend. The offensive line has struggled horribly in the opening four games, but Wis is certainly not the week link. I broke down why this move is happening and my thoughts on it below, but regardless of anything else, it opens up a window of opportunity for one of the most disappointing players out of the 2016 draft class.
Seumalo has squandered his opportunities to secure a place on the Eagles offensive front, but perhaps this will jolt some life into the versatile player and the struggling line. The challenge he faces is certainly a stiff one. Even without Everson Griffen, the Vikes possess plenty of explosiveness in their pass-rush and would be licking their lips facing an unexperienced guard who has spent an offseason practicing at center.
The Titans game showed the first real stumble endured by the emphatic Sidney Jones, who was beaten badly on a double move for a touchdown amidst some other errors. This week, he will face a slot matchup against Adam Thielen with the potential to mix in some Steffon Diggs. Thielen’s ability to stretch a defense and use his his huge frame to bully corners is just ridiculous and it shows with his 473 receiving yards through 4 games. Jones will have his hands full on Sunday afternoon.
Without a strong backfield to rely on for another week and against a defense who are able to make any offense one-dimensional, Wentz is going to have to put the team on his back. The offensive line is going to be missing Stefen Wisniewski and the knock-on effect of that could be massive, with chemistry being such an important asset up front. It’s not really an area you can move guys around freely without consequence and Wentz has already been battered and bruised since his return and was hit 11 times last week alone. Wentz will have as close to a healthy receiving corps as the Eagles have had this season and that should put this game into shootout territory, but they’re going to need the face of their franchise to lead the charge if a win is on the cards.
Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports