THIS week we’re coming off of a win, in which we suffered two devastating, season-ending losses to LT Jason Peters and MLB Jordan Hicks. It’s been a season fraught with injuries that we’ve managed to mask, mitigate or otherwise overcome completely. However, there is a growing concern among some Eagles fans and media, that this team has run out of miracles.
This is going to be a very interesting game. A 6-1 Eagles team, playing in Philly against an 0-7 San Fran team. In most years this would be a trap game. This would be the game where the Eagles took an opponent lightly, came out flat, and were left saying…
Instead, we got yet another visit from (that bitch) the Injury Bug last week, and it’s left us with questions. Questions like, Will the season fall apart now? Can the coaching staff make enough adjustments to offset the losses? Is there enough talent on the roster to give coaches any decent options? This game will be about answering those questions.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to focus on this week versus the 49ers :
1) Win the blitz: After LT Jason Peters was injured, the logical assumption was that RT Lane Johnson would take over the left spot, and back-up OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai would play the right, where he could be helped by a TE. NOPE! Head Coach Doug Pederson is leaving Johnson at RT, and starting (yes starting) Vaitai at LT. That means our RB’s will spend a lot of time lined up on the left to help Vaitai. If the RB’s are blocking left, expect blitzes from the middle and the right. QB Carson Wentz has to identify blitzers quickly and get that ball out of his hands. Otherwise this game will become a nightmare.
2) Air it out: While Wentz can’t spend all day holding the ball, at times we really do need to throw the ball deep this week. We need to show teams that losing Peters didn’t shrink our playbook, so not respecting our WR’s will be costly. In the long-run this helps out our run game. More than that, we need to demonstrate to our own O-line, that the staff still trusts them.
3) Put the top on: The most dangerous player on the 49ers offense is WR Marquise Goodwin. The guy is faster than a rumor, and if San Fran really knew what they had, they might be 5-2 instead of 0-7. We have to contain Goodwin, thereby keeping the rest of their offense in front of us, instead behind us. Goodwin is on the injury list with a “back injury”, but until he’s ruled “out”, he’s still as dangerous as honesty in a PC world.
4) Turn up the heat: Show blitz on practically every 2nd and 3rd down, but only bring it when the distance is 8 yards, or more. Getting to the 49ers QB isn’t hard at all. No need to overextend and expose ourselves and give up one or more big, catch-and-run plays underneath. The idea is to get MLB Joe Walker mentally involved and then keep him dialed in, emotionally. He’s a back-up, but he can’t look like a back-up out there. Otherwise, the 49ers will key on him and give themselves a chance.
If we do all these things, we’re just about guaranteed to win. Now that we’ve covered what should happen, let’s get into what likely will happen:
Offensively, the Eagles are going to give Vaitai help, by having RB’s watch that LT/LG gap for blitzers or rips inside. That, calls for a heavy dose of the big RB LeGarrette Blount this week. He may be allowed to develop a rhythm running the ball, since he should be out there in pass protection so much. (Having him out there and not really giving him the ball eventually tips our play-call to the 9ers. Why help them out?) So expect Blount to run the ball a season-high 18 times. Not using Blount in pass-pro, is an invitation for disaster.
So much is up in the air on Defense. It’s likely that Walker will be asked to make scaled down zone drops, and just attack his run fits. There would be no sense in the coaches telling him to go out there and make plays. He first has to get familiar with not just what he should be doing, but others around him as well.
It has to be expected that our MLB will be targeted in the passing game. While it would be nonsense for coaches to tell him to make plays, let me say AS A FAN, he has to make one or two plays, when they come at him. Otherwise, he will be seen as our weak link.
On the whole, we’ll win because even with as injured as we are, we still have more flat-out talent than San Francisco.
PREDICTION: EAGLES 27 – 49ers 10