The 0-2 Eagles face another winless team in the way of the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday, but it’s an opponent they cannot overlook. The Birds haven’t beaten Cincy since 2000 and are 3-9-1 against them thus far. A lot has changed since they last met, so here are five things to watch in this weekend’s matchup.
Stopping Joe Burrow
My long-lost twin has had a fun start to his NFL career…if by fun you mean breaking the record for most ever completed passes by a rookie (37/61) in a week 2 loss to the Browns.
Burrow has made smart decisions with the ball in his hands and has a 3-1 TD-INT ratio despite being consistently swarmed by pass-rushers. He hasn’t been perfect though and like Carson Wentz, has struggled on deep passes.
He’s currently 1/12 on passes 20+ yards, with that lone completion being his first ever touchdown. What stands out here is the fact he ranks dead last in yards per pass attempt with just 5.2.
With the Eagles secondary (somehow?) being the strongest area on the team right now, taking away threats like A.J Green and Tyler Boyd will be paramount. The longer he’s in the pocket and unable to dump the ball out for quick completions, the more chance the pass-rush have of creating some very winnable matchups against an offensive line that has allowed 3 sacks in both of its opening games.
Igniting Carson Wentz
On the flip side of that, Carson Wentz has to find his footing. Wentz has been really struggling with mechanics over the first two weeks and his accuracy on short & intermediate passes has vanished as a result. Placement is non-existent and he’s missing high, low, and side-to-side. In fact, his 64.4 passer rating is the lowest of his career to date.
With no Jalen Reagor, Wentz will be leaning on a WR group headlined by DeSean Jackson and a dynamic TE duo in order to get up to speed against a pass defense that currently ranks 7th in the NFL.
The pass-rush may be licking its lips, but if Wentz can make smart decisions with the football and use the last two weeks as fuel, it may only be a matter of time before he settles down and rekindles that old form…at least, the Eagles had better hope.
Find some help on the ground
The good news here is that the Eagles might not need Carson Wentz to play hero ball all that much. After a non-existent run game in week one, Miles Sanders returned to amass 131 scrimmage yards and a rushing touchdown against the Rams. It wasn’t enough to change the outcome of the game and an early fumble didn’t help, but Sanders carried the rock 20 times upon his return, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
This bodes very well for the Eagles, who line up against a Cincy run-defense that has been gashed for 370 yards on the ground in 2 games. One way to geet Carson Wentz hot is to keep the pressure off his shoulders and Sanders looked as electric as he did last year in week two. If the Birds can base their new play-action offense off of an explosive game from Sanders, then not only will this give Wentz more time and advantages in the pocket, but give him a much-needed easy day at the office.
For anyone who missed last week’s game, keep it that way. The Eagles’ linebackers were absolutely atrocious and were ripped to shreds on the ground as a result. The Rams’ play-action offense did to the Eagles the exact thing they were craving to do themselves. 191 rushing yards were given up that day and now they face Joe Mixon. Wonderful.
Again, good news though. The Bengals are somehow averaging 3.7 yards per carry so far, ranking 28th in the NFL. It may have something to do with an O-line that has allowed 52 QB pressures so far…
This should give the Eagles a slight edge here. Malik Jackson has been playing out of his mind so far. The front four as a whole should be able to stuff the run-game or at least take some of the weight off the shoulders of a linebacker group clearly struggling to handle it right now.
Mixon shouldn’t be overlooked, but neither should that porrus o-line.
NRC meets his match
Nickell Robey-Coleman was regarded by many as a free agency steal for the Eagles. However, a matchup against his former team may have dented the confidence of some. Cooper Kupp put his old teammate on skates, leading the Rams in receiving with 81 yards. Making life more stressful is that he now faces another premier slot receiver in the way of Tyler Boyd.
Boyd has 105 yards and 1 TD through 2 games. The five-year vet leads the Bengals in receiving and catching 11 of 13 targets. He’s also averaging 9.5 yards per catch, which is certainly a number worth circling.
If Burrow is going to be finding any passing success this week, especially with Uzomah out for the year, it will be through Tyler Boyd. NRC has allowed 9 completions on 9 targets so far, which is woeful. The veteran will have to do much better against Boyd to keep the Bengals offense sputtering.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire