When the Nick Foles led Eagles travel to New Orleans this Sunday, it’s safe to say the result should be different. A 48-7 beatdown by the Saints ensures that a rejuvenated and veteran Eagles roster is looking for blood. Since the Saints game, the Eagles have been 6-1, and even better is that quarterback Nick Foles holds a 4-1 record in the playoffs, with 10 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. To succeed against the Saints, Foles should look to exploit one very interesting matchup against the Saints: Nelson Agholor vs. Eli Apple. This will be Apple’s third time playing Philadelphia this season.
Apple was acquired at the trade deadline by New Orleans this year from the Giants and has graded as the 77th overall cornerback in the NFL. Although he has shown flashes of why he was the 10th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Apple leads the entire Saints team in penalties with 10 in just 10 games. Apple is long and rangy, but often gets lost with his poor hand placement and sloppy footwork at times. Opposing him this weekend is Nelson Agholor, a quick twitch, field-stretching burner. This Sunday, Nelson should see plenty of one-on-one matchups against Apple, which Foles should try to attack. The first time the Eagles played Eli Apple this season, he let up 7 catches on 11 targets, and over 100 yards.
Pederson has previously acknowledged that the Eagles familiarity with Apple could be a game changer, stating “Just knowing him and going up against him before. Obviously, he’s playing well. He’s in a good defense. It’s an opportunistic group. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, but the familiarity that our receivers have against him definitely can carry over from the Giants to the Saints.”
After being targeted 2 times but catching no passes in the ugly Saints loss 7 weeks ago, Agholor is determined to prove his worth in the rematch. In the Bears game, Agholor caught 3 of his 6 targets for 32 yards against the number one ranked Chicago defense. In the previous two games, Agholor caught 10 balls for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns. With Foles at the helm, Nelson Agholor looks much more comfortable. Foles tends to spread the ball out to his receivers more than Wentz does, and is not afraid to throw the deep ball. In a situation where Jeffrey, Tate, Ertz, and Agholor are all on the field, Agholor could almost be the “forgotten man”. In a matchup against a weaker corner, Nelson should be able to put his crafty feet and vertical quickness to use to get behind the defense.
In addition to being a big-play threat, Agholor will need to have a big day blocking on the perimeter for the Eagles offense to be effective. Being able to run the ball down the Saint’s throat will set up Foles and the Eagles for success on unique play action opportunities.
Tight End Zach Ertz gushed about Agholor’s versatility stating “Everybody is so excited for him every time he succeeds because, we understand what he went through (his first two years), the guys that were here then. He’s playing at a really high level. He makes a lot of big plays in the passing game. His speed opens up a lot of stuff for Alshon (Jeffery) and myself. So even when he’s not catching a lot of passes, his presence still is felt.
And he puts his hat in there in the run game. He’s probably our best blocking wide receiver. I know that’s not a key trait for a lot of receivers. But that’s something we need on this football team. For him to go in there consistently and block safeties, block linebackers, that’s big.”
Agholor knows exactly what he needs to get done on Sunday. Beating Apple on a play-to-play basis is a must for the Eagles to get the win in New Orleans.
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports