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At Critical Time, Eagles Backs To Wall

This feature is a weekly piece on titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

This is not about style. The statistics don't matter a bit. Who does what and where doesn't apply for a team that is 0-2 and headed to play the New York Jets on Sunday.

What matters is that the Eagles win the game.

This has been a rough week for the Eagles, no question about it. There are no green-covered glasses here, only the realization that the Eagles have played poorly in two losses to open the season and that the unbeaten Jets aren't planning to be welcoming hosts at MetLife Stadium.

Where has it gone wrong for an offense that appeared to be so primed for great things heading into the season? (And yes, I called this the most talented offense I've seen here, and I stand by it. The results, clearly, are proving me wrong so far). Why has the pass defense given up the big plays it has, and what is the world is going on with cornerback Byron Maxwell? Where are the dominating special teams that led the NFL in 2014 in cumulative rankings? The Eagles lost the hidden-yardage battle in Atlanta and then had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown in Sunday's loss to Dallas.

I don't have the answers, but I sure hope that head coach Chip Kelly and his staff and the entire roster have the solutions on Sunday, because 0-3 would be a massive hole from which to dig with another tough road game - at Washington - the following Sunday.

Some things I want to see on Sunday ...

  • Match up Maxwell on wide receiver Brandon Marshall as much as possible and see how he does in a man/press situation. I expected the Eagles' cornerbacks to get up to the line of scrimmage this season and put pressure on wide receivers and not allow free releases and try to disrupt the timing of opponents' passing games. The Eagles were much improved in Week 2 - working against a less-talented receiving corps - until late in the game. Maxwell is a better cornerback than he's shown. He has to be. I don't know what's going on there, but I know that Marshall's big, strong body is a better fit for Maxwell than is someone like Julio Jones, who is elusive and who changes direction so fluidly.

  • After allowing five passing plays of 20-plus yards against Atlanta - all to wide receivers - the Eagles allowed two such plays to Dallas, and one was a Tony Romo throw to Lance Dunbar, a running back who lined up outside and beat linebacker Jordan Hicks down the field. Hopefully, that's a sign that things are improving in the secondary. The Jets aren't necessarily a team that throws the football down the field a whole lot. I'd love to see the Eagles play good single coverage on the receivers and creep a safety into the box to help against a power running game from the Jets.

  • How about a fast start? How much of a difference would that make? The Eagles have a combined zero points and three first downs - the one against Dallas came on a pass-interference penalty - in the first quarter of their two games. That pretty much kills any kind of "tempo" game. Tempo only works when an offense is rolling up first downs and keeping a defense on the field.

  • I truly don't expect anything revolutionary in terms of a "different" offense on Sunday. I think the Eagles are working on refining some blocking schemes, but they know they can't try to get tricky against a Jets front that may be the best in all of football. Defenses are taking center Jason Kelce away from what makes him so special - firing out into the second level - by chipping him and not permitting him to reach the linebacker level. As the coaches and players have said this week, it's about better execution for the offense.

  • The wide receivers need to win some battles on Sunday against a great group of cornerbacks. This is the litmus test to see how the receivers work against the press at the line of scrimmage. It's been tough sledding for the wide receivers to date. I want to see Jordan Matthews featured in the slot against Buster Skrine, who is a tough and scrappy cornerback, physical and productive. But he's 5-feet-9 and Matthews is 6-feet-3, so maybe the Eagles can take advantage of that matchup.

  • Running back DeMarco Murray's status is uncertain after his hamstring injury suffered in Wednesday's practice, but the Eagles can turn to Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles on Sunday if needed. Sproles' touch count dropped from 12 in Atlanta (5 carries, 7 receptions) to 5 against Dallas (1 rush, 4 receptions) and I can't quite figure out why other than the overall lack of offensive success and reduced snap count - the Eagles ran 74 plays in Atlanta and only 62 against the Cowboys.

  • The special teams really need to win this week. This team has to find a spark somewhere. Why not from special teams?

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