HEAD Coach Nick Sirianni has your Philadelphia Eagles entering this week as THE Number One team in the NFC. Not just the NFC East, but the whole damned National Football CONFERENCE. After last weeks dismantling of division rival Washington, we get to take on AFC South division leader, Jacksonville.
On the menu this week, is Head Coach Doug Pederson, the same man who led us to our first Super Bowl win. The same man who’s statue outside Lincoln Financial commemorates ‘The Philly Special’. That same Doug Pederson has the Jags looking and playing like a real franchise. And we’re going to beat his ass as a reward for it.
We come into this game as the only undefeated team in the NFC. A win only extends our hold on that title for another week. Losing would still leave us in first place in the East. Even if Dallas beats Washington, we lead by virtue of conference tie-breaker. Or if New York (likely) beats Chicago, we lead by virtue of a divisional tie-breaker. So any way you cut it, the East is ours for at least the next two weeks.
The point of Four Things isn’t to predict a winner, it’s to discuss which tactics would give our Eagles the best chance to win this game. So here are the Four Things that we need to focus on this week, versus the: Jaguars
1) Man Up: Doug Pederson’s scheme (same as when he was here), emphasizes movement of the ball down the field. The focus wasn’t on big plays, but on keeping the ball moving, the chains moving, the defense resting. If the opponent doesn’t have the ball, the ability to win isn’t in their hands. That subtle quicksand, Venus Fly-trap approach shows itself in Jacksonville’s QB getting the ball out of his hand quickly.
Of their top 4 starting receivers, only one of them averages 10+ yards per catch. So getting CB’s Darius Slay and James Bradberry playing man and taking away the quick throw, will immediately get the Jags off schedule, and make them improvise constantly. In a new system, with new parts, and that means mistakes. Mistakes with the football means turnovers.
2) Box Them In: They have a pair of RB’s both 210+ pounds, running behind a decent offensive line. The interior of their line has a few intangibles, but they aren’t the most stout or physical group we’ll face this year. What’s left of (former Redskin) Brandon Scherff headlines that group, but injuries have kept him to 14 games or fewer for, each of the last 5 years.
This week is operation “Stymie and Trap”. Same as last week against Washington. Have DT’s Fletcher Cox and Jordan Davis clog up the middle, and early on, mix our DE’s and DT’s to set the edges. Force everything to the arms of MLB T.J. Edwards. Later in the game, DE’s Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat can go hunting with fresher legs, against a QB that Jacksonville likes to get out on bootlegs, for throws downfield.
3) The Kerrigan Plan: The Jaguars run a 3 – 4 defense that features 262 and 275 pound OLB’s. They play like 5 – 2 DE’s than 3 – 4 LB’s, in that they don’t really cover. (One of them did pick off QB Carson Wentz throwing a Middle Screen.) For us OLB Hassan Reddick pass rushes, but he’s 235 and also drops into coverage. (More than fans like.)
When an opposing defense has that OLB defect, we can run the Kerrigan Plan. I call it that because, Washington used to run similar scheme led by OLB Ryan Kerrigan. Great pass rusher, but it was easy to complete short RB passes, and TE routes to his (and the other OLB’s) side. Worked like a charm for years. We just beat the Vikings with it.
4) Run in the Second Half: The Jaguars are a second half team. So don’t let them get the opportunity to work their mojo. Run the ball, by which I mean, hand it off to RB Miles Sanders. He averages more career yardage after contact, than any of our backs, and even RB Ezekiel Elliott. Put that to work for us! Let quicksand work in our favor.
If the Eagles lead at the half, risking QB Jalen Hurts becoming Jalen hurts, is a dumb idea. We don’t need him on designed runs at that point. If the Eagles trail at the half, then we need to stabilize the Offense, and limit the Jaguars opportunity to pile on more points. In either case, we need to run the ball after the half.
* Disclaimer: No giants players were mentioned in the writing of this article.
If the Eagles do these Four Things, then we’ll be virtually impossible to beat. That being said…
The plan is to exit Sunday as the NFL’s only undefeated team. Standing in our way, is a coach who knows many of our players. Not just as players, but as men. I have some coaching in my background, so let me tell you why this week presents a very stiff challenge.
Part of Doug’s job here, was to motivate his players. To get them to push themselves. To push even when they didn’t want to. Even when it hurt. That means he had to understand what made each of them tick. To be able to get into their heads, he had to know each man’s carrot, and each man’s stick.
Every note he’s ever taken about a player. Which concepts he had to help them understand better. Which weakness he had to mask, because coaching wouldn’t fix it. All of that, will be used against us on Sunday. Which is why we need to keep it simple. If this game comes down to scheme and adjustments, Doug will kill Nick. Doug is far smarter and more experienced. He also understands game flow better, so he doesn’t have to give up play-calling. The Jags have the better coach. Period.
We need this game to come down to talent and execution. If we execute properly, the Jags just aren’t talented enough, nor well-constructed enough to keep pace. We should score easily enough, the only question is: How well will our Defense do?
Prediction: EAGLES 26 – Jaguars 23
WARNING: 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 Four Things as a gambling tool, you are trying to lose your money, and will deserve it when you do.
Check back in a couple of days for Four Things Reviewed, and we’ll discuss how this game went.