SCORING 30 points last week, was great. Allowing 42, was not so great. We get a chance at redemption on Sunday, vs a 3 – 1 Carolina team. It’s a Carolina team allowing opponents to score on 6 of 6 trips in the red zone, this year. The very same area where TE Dallas Goedert has snagged both of his TD’s.
As for that 3 – 1 record? The Jets, Saints, and Texans. That’s who Carolina has beaten this year. So we aren’t exactly facing a juggernaut this week. This game is very winnable. Very. So don’t let the records fool you. Carolina isn’t nearly as far ahead of the Eagles, as the NFL would like you to believe (Power Rankings: #14 vs #25).
A bounce back win would put us at 2 – 3. Then add that to the fallout from the NY/Dallas game. A giants loss would push them to 1 – 4, giving them basement all to themselves. A Dallas loss will put them at 3 – 2, and turn the East into a mad scramble.
Should we lose, we’d need Dallas to lose, just to keep realistically in the hunt. True, there’d be 12 games left, but we can hardly afford to fall further behind.
The point of Four Things isn’t to predict a winner, it’s to discuss which tactics will practically guarantee our Eagles this win. CAUTION: I don’t have the faintest clue as to what a point spread is, and I know even less about how it works. I know football and that’s IT. If you use FT as a gambling tool, you are trying to lose your money, and will deserve it when you do.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to focus on this week versus the Panthers:
1) Run the Damned Ball!: By run the ball, I mean 16 hand-offs for RB Miles Sanders.
The one game we’ve won so far, saw him run the ball 15 times. Handing off the ball, changes how a defense attacks. It limits how aggressive they can be, because they have to diagnose what is happening. That’s less true of pass rushing.
Here’s a fun fact: The less Sanders touches the ball in 2021, the more the Eagles lose by. Atlanta – 19 touches, 26 point win. San Fran – 14 touches, 6 point loss. Kansas City – 10 touches, 12 point loss. Dallas 5 touches, 20 point loss. RB Kenneth Gainswell is a neat weapon to have, but he isn’t Sanders and the losses make that point.
With RT Lane Johnson missing a second week, LT Jordan Mailata is moving over there to fill-in. It’s also a smart audition for him, if recent leaks about Johnson are true, and the Eagles need a long-term answer there.
2) Don’t Help Carolina: The first 4 games saw us get penalized 15, 8, 13, and 9 times. So far, in every game we have deservedly been penalized more than our opponent. Granted, we’re not just going to quit penalties cold-turkey, but we need to take the first step and limit the number to 6 or fewer, this week.
Holding is occasionally an acceptable penalty. Sometimes it’s done deliberately to keep a QB alive. (Some holds have saved whole seasons!) Dumb penalties like offsides, ineligible man downfield, (clear) pass interference, tripping, and blocks in the back… Those are never sensible, and they have to be eliminated.
3) Back the Line: Carolina doesn’t have a great offensive line, so they should have their hands full with our Defensive Line. That means nothing however, if the LB’s don’t do a better job of coming downhill vs the run. It also means little if opposing receivers are getting open, early in their routes underneath.
We need more jamming TE’s, and shoving WR’s off-course, when they run shallow Crosses and Drags. “More” in this case, is a polite way of saying “Any”, or “Some”, or “Please for Fuck’s Sake, get around to finally goddamned doing this!!” Zone Coverage doesn’t just have to mean watching the game. It can also mean playing in it! It can mean being an asset, and not just a well-paid liability. Someone tell our LB’s.
4) Take Away the Edges: In CB’s Steve Nelson and Darius Slay, we are supposed to have two of football’s better Man Coverage, corners. So I don’t understand why they’re so often on cushions, with Two Deep Safety help. Two Deep is what a team runs so that they can be aggressive with Man Press.
In this regard, the Eagles scheme- WHOOPS! That’s right, Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon doesn’t run a scheme. “I don’t have a scheme. Our scheme should be to put our 11 guys on the field in the best position possible to succeed.” He actually said that. Those words, in that order.
Look, press the outside WR’s! Don’t let the QB execute the play as if he’s still in practice. Throw off his timing, and force him to go deeper into his progression. Make him hold the ball, and give our pass rushers time to reach him. We have the corners! Use them. This could even be the cornerstone of an actual scheme.
If we do these Four Things, this win is in the bag.
Miles Sanders, Darius Slay, Steve Nelson… We need to hear names this week that we haven’t been hearing much this year. We don’t need guys to step up, as much as we need the coaching staff to stop sapping the roster’s strengths. (Hence the article about DT Fletcher Cox this week.)
Most of our problems this season have been from self-inflicted wounds, and getting away from fundamentals. This week (and next week vs Tampa Bay), have to be about individuals being accountable for his own fundamentals. Not accountable after a mistake, accountable before each snap. Each man needs to focus on his work, and not waste the effort of the men beside him.
Carolina isn’t our opponent this week. The Eagles are. If they don’t beat us, Carolina can’t.
PREDICTION: EAGLES 27– Panthers 24
Check back in a couple of days for Four Things Reviewed, and we’ll discuss how it went.