The Philadelphia Eagles are understandable going to be underdogs tomorrow when they square off against the reigning Super Bowl champions, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to capitalize on. We know this team has a habit of springing surprises when we least expect it and if they are to do that tomorrow, here’s what they need to do.
The secondary continues to shine
Darius Slay and Steven Nelson put on a clinic this past Sunday, putting clamps on DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. They’ll have their hands full tomorrow with the trio of Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and Chris Godwin coming to town. The trio have already combined for 1,086 yards and 9 touchdowns and are showing no signs of slowing down.
With Tom Brady throwing the rock as precisely as he ever has, the Eagles corners and safeties will need to bring their A-game to the Linc in a bid to buy as much time for the pass-rush to get home as possible. We all know that Brady is hardly the most agile QB and is currently nursing an injury that may even sideline him. However, getting him rattled is much easier said than done, as is taking away three of the most productive receivers in the league.
If the Eagles have any hope of stopping the Bucs, trying to stop as much of the inevitable bleeding as possible has to be a priority.
Not stopping the run?
The Eagles have had a big problem when it comes to stopping the run this season. The good news is that the Bucs are just as bad as the Eagles at running the ball with balance. The bad news is, it’s because they don’t need to.
They average 20.6 rushing attempts per game, which is 30th in the NFL. Leonard Fournette is still a dangerous back and should not be overlooked, but this has all the makings of a shootout and might hopefully allow Jonathan Gannon to drop his linebackers deeper into coverage and give them more man-assignments, which in turn, gives the defense more opportunity to take away some of those explosive weapons.
Stepping up in the red zone
The Eagles have struggled in the red zone on both sides of the ball this season. They’ve struggled to capitalize on huge momentum swings from the defense and on the other side of things, are allowing opponents to score a touchdown 75% of the time when they reach the red zone.
Tampa Bay are currently tied first in the NFL for most red zone scores per game with 3. However, they’re only converting on 62% of their drives, which shows just how powerful this offense is at moving down the field.
Jonathan Gannon is very much embodying the ‘bend but don’t break defense’, but there might need to be more of an intent to stop the Bucs reaching the red zone if they’re to really give themselves a shot. Does it mean opening themselves up to those gut wrenching deep bombs? Sure. But will it stop the clock being drained and give the defense a chance of getting off the field quicker? Definitely. A chance is all this team needs.
It’s time to let Jalen Hurts fly
Jalen Hurts didn’t look great in the first half against the Panthers. In fact, he was pretty dire. But when the going got tough, the tough got going. Hurts drove the team down the field through the air and on the ground, making some big-time passes in the process including a 53-yard shot to Quez Watkins and an improbable 2-PT conversion to DeVonta Smith.
The Bucs are allowing a league-worst 32.8 completions per game. Running against this vaunted unit appears to be out of the equation (which is probably for the best), and it looks as though stepping up to Tom Brady and playing him at his own game is the motive.
In the near-win over the Bucs at the start of the year, Dak Prescott was forced to throw 58 times. He had 403 passing yards in what was an exceptional quarterbacking performance. Nobody is demanding that Jalen Hurts starts spamming deep shots all game, but if the Eagles really want to challenge Tampa Bay, they’re going to have to focus on giving him as much help as possible and putting confidence in his growing ability as a quarterback.
The Eagles need to find some discipline
The Eagles are about as disciplined as a litter of puppies right now and it’s getting to a point where it’s not only costly, but embarrassing. The Bucs, believe it or not aren’t that far behind. The Eagles lead the league with a guh-level 50 penalties, while the Bucs are tied second with 40. That’s 90 combined penalties for those counting at home.
If the Eagles can pull their socks up and cut out the setbacks, this is one of the few teams in the NFL who may actually give them an opportunity to generate a momentum swing doubled in size if they’re unable to get out of their own way. Here’s to hoping.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire