Kickoff is almost upon us and nerves are rising. The 1-2 Eagles cannot falter on the road against an undefeated Green Bay team if they are to keep their playoff dream alive. Their hopes of doing so could well depend on the outcome of these three battles:
Alshon Jeffery vs Jaire Alexander
This is the marquee matchup of the night. The Packers pass defense is scary good. It held Minnesota to under 200 passing yards, snuffed Chicago’s sneaky concepts and silenced Denver…which in fairness was their easiest challenge so far.
Second-year cornerback Jaire Alexander currently leads the NFL in pass breakups and has been absolutely merciless when covering some of the top wideouts in the NFC. He’ll face another today in a matchup the Eagles just have to win.
Alshon Jeffery finally gives Carson Wentz a dependable option outside after the offense dropped the ball seven times and fumbled it three times last week. After catching a pair of touchdowns in week one, Jeffery now returns to a group that’s missing DeSean Jackson and as a result, this may be one of his heavier regular season workloads.
This is a battle of heavyweights. Jeffery is a tall, physical receiver who wants to dominate the stem of the route and Alexander may be one of the most aggressive corners in the game who thrives at the catch-point. Let the battle begin!
Aaron Rodgers vs the Eagles pass-rush
The Eagles have a problem getting pressure, that much is clear. The birds have exactly 2 sacks this season, which is woeful. All the pressure but no icing. It’s not all on the front-four, however.
With the corners lining up so far off the line of scrimmage, the ball is coming out much quicker and mostly to the primary offensive read…something the team just can’t seem to negate.
The good news is, Aaron Rodgers is averaging 3.06 seconds to get the ball out of his hands this season. The bad news?
Green Bay has faced some of the league’s most prolific pass-rushers so far in Khalil Mack, Everson Griffen, Von Miller, and Bradley Chubb among others like Danielle Hunter.
Denver was held to a flatline and Rodgers in large, Green Bay has smothered the big dogs. It seems as though they’re ready for war…but is Philly?
The Eagles can’t afford to blitz Aaron Rodgers and let him work his wizardry. Instead, this may be the one game where dropping more players into coverage and rushing 3-4 guys makes sense. Either way, this begins and ends up front.
The defensive line simply has to find a way to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers and more importantly, seal the edge and close him into an uncomfortable throwing position.
Rasul Douglas vs Marques Valdes-Scantling
If Sidney Jones is taking over CB1 duties in relief of Ronald Darby, we can expect Rasul Douglas to matchup against Marques Valdes-Scantling. Remember Terry Mclaurin? MVS is a polished version of the Redskins rookie.
He had 99-yards in week 3 and lead the Packers in 2018 with catches of 40+ yards. His 4.37 40-yard dash time is deceptively fast and if the Eagles aren’t going to reliably give their young ballhawk some help over the top, we could see a lot of holes open up schematically.
Douglas is now a man on a mission. A mission to win a long-term starting role. This is the third year in a row he’ll be called into action with Ronald Darby absent and this has to be the year he shines.
Last year in a similar spot, Douglas totaled four games with 9+ tackles in his return to the Eagles defense, not to mention leading the team in interceptions with 3. He’s not as polished as Darby, or as consistent in tackling as Mills, but flashes starting quality was visible in every game he played…and that trend has continued this year.
The question now is, can Douglas learn from what he experienced against Terry Mclaurin and use it to take away Aaron Rodgers’ favorite deep-ball target? If he can…ladies and gentlemen, we have a game.
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports