Note: Normally I like to get these out on Wednesday, but I held out an extra day to see if there was any news on Jordan Howard or Alshon Jeffery, only to now find that Nelson Agholor is also up in the air.
As they say: When it rains…it shits all over the bride’s dress.)
USUALLY in Four Things, I go the Chuck Woolery route of “Two and two”, with two Offensive keys, and two Defensive keys. This week I’m going Offense heavy because that’s the part that needs the help. I know, I know. “We lack speed!” “DeSean’s hurt! Scrap 2019, and trade Carson for Foles!!”
UGH!!! Quit panicking. There IS a solve for our problems with the players we have on the roster TODAY. I’m about to make so much sense, that it’ll make you think that our coaching staff is full-on retarded. Not “mentally challenged”. Retarded.
Beating New England last week wasn’t really expected by anyone besides me. Then again my analysis, my writing last week’s FT, and releasing it were all prior to finding out that WR Alshon Jeffrey and RB Jordan Howard were both shelved for the game. It was so close that it’s hard for me to buy us losing, if even one of them had played.
My point is, that I expected a narrative change on Monday morning. We lost so it didn’t happen. Now I doubt we’d get that with a victory over Seattle. This is one of those games where a win is just a win. A loss will have Eagles fans jumping out of windows, but a win… There isn’t the sense that it’d shift our narrative.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to focus on this week versus… :
1) Hit QB Russell Wilson: This is the only defensive key needed. Wilson is the beating heart (meal ticket) of the entire Seattle franchise. He’s why any of it works. (He’s also what holds it back.) So we need to wreck their game plan by menacing their QB.
I’m NOT saying to deliberately hurt him or play dirty. I am saying that early in the game, we need to send Seattle’s coaching staff the message that, they might want to let QB Geno Smith finish this one. They won’t pull Wilson of course, but with playoff aspirations, they may drastically alter what they call for him. Just to limit his risk exposure.
2) Stay in-line: With RT Lane Johnson is concussion protocol, it looks like OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai will start in his place. Vaitai is decent with blocker head-up, but he struggles mightily with fast and/or agile pass rushers.
The solution is hella easy. Help Vaitai with an in-line TE, or a TE lined up close to Vaitai’s hip, to create an “alley”. A chip from the TE on his release will be enough to slow the rusher and give Vaitai a chance to get his hands on the guy. This only gets easier to do if used in conjunction with #3. Scroll down.
3) Use play-action to create space: We can run the ball. It’s already credible threat. We hardly have to sell it. Why not feed off of that?
So use play-action to get the receivers open on quick hitters. By quick hitter, I don’t mean lame 1 and 4 yard routes. None of that! Unless we’re running a Screen, this week there shouldn’t be a pass in the air for less than six yards.
Carson Wentz’s first NFL touchdown pass.
The routes need to be 7, 8, and 9 yards, with a designated man to graduate to a “GO” in case a favorable Safety look presents itself. Those shorter planned routes, are to get the receiver mentally set to catch early into the route. Shorter routes are also to get Carson to get rid of the ball sooner, and act as natural “hot” routes in case of a blitz. Just identify the possible blitzer and put the ball in his vacated zone.
4) Don’t clutch Agholor: For the remainder of the year, unless the game is a runaway,WR Nelson Agholor needs to be an almost exclusively 1st and 2nd down receiver, who sits on later downs.
He’s absolutely a difference maker with the ball in his hands. The problem however, is his hands. He’s a talented athlete, his hands just aren’t clutch.
At the outset of this year Agholor was cast as a third receiver. Due to injuries, he’s now forced to act as our #1 WR. News flash, players don’t get more talented, just because guys above them got hurt. In fact, as you can see, we’ve gotten worse. He’s still a #3 option.
If Agholor plays this week, let him do what he’s good at. Create space around him, and get him the ball on early downs. Take away the mental pressure, and maybe get his confidence back. Help him get out of his head. You know? Like a coach. This receiving corp needs a confidence boost, and a decent showing here could jump-start that.
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:
The Eagles won’t do nearly as much play-action as they should, because hey, who wants to win, right? RB Jay Ajayi will see some work and provide some badly needed emotional spark to this Offense. Expect 150 yards from the TE’s, because who else does Wentz have?
We’re going to spend a good deal of Sunday watching Russell Wilson re-enact the first chicken chasing scene in Rocky. Especially if DE Derek Barnett doesn’t do a better job of setting the edge.
The return of LB Nigel Bradham will make for an interesting dynamic up front, with LB Nate Gerry having called plays for the last few games. If they read the same thing, both may intuit what the other guy needs him to do.
In any case, the Eagles have less and less to work with, as the season goes on. Worse yet, Seattle is a team (one guy) that has had our number for a bit. With Howard and Jeffery, I’d call this a tight game. As we are now?
PREDICTION: EAGLES 16 – Seahawks 24