Eagles news and notes for 10/9
In 1864, they began minting U.S. coins in Philadelphia with the phrase, "In God We Trust."
A little more than a century and a half later, some rowdy Eagles fans put their own spin on it as their team was headed onto the field for the battle of Pennsylvania two weeks ago.
"In Doug we trust," they chanted.
Doug Pederson heard them and shook his head.
"I was like, 'Oh my gosh, here we go,' " Pederson told NFL Media earlier this week, as he prepared to get his 3-0 team ready for a post-bye week matchup with the Lions in Detroit. "It's one of those things. You know how it is in Philadelphia. When times are good, it's a great place. And when times are bad, they're going to be screaming for your ass."
Pederson has experienced both ends of the city's passion, beginning with his stint as a seat-warmer for No. 2 overall pick Donovan McNabb in 1999. The veteran quarterback heard the boos on his way to a 2-7 start before then-coach Andy Reid turned the team over to McNabb.
Now, for all of the talk and hype about this year's second overall selection,Carson Wentz, the lesser-told story is the much better start Pederson is having in Philly this time around.
Brandon Graham looks at Detroit, and he doesn't see a once-prosperous metropolis that decayed. He sees a city on the rise, one that has been "bad-mouthed so long" but offers more promise than perception would suggest.
"People come in and say, 'I didn't know it was like that,' " Graham said. "We're in a rebuild right now. And I want to be a part of that."
Graham - once labeled a draft bust and an underachiever who has been on the trade block and been a lame duck - returns to his hometown of Detroit on Sunday playing at perhaps the highest level of his seven-year career. A player whose demise in Philadelphia once seemed inevitable has found renewed life at age 28 under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
He recorded three sacks in three games, thriving as a defensive end in Schwartz's 4-3 attacking scheme. He's playing the way the Eagles envisioned when they traded up in the first round of the 2010 draft to select him.
Carson Wentz interceptions: 0.5
It has to happen eventually, right? I feel like I've written that more than a few times this season. And while I very much believe that it's going to happen sooner rather than later, I actually don't think this is the week. The Lions, who have only managed one interception in four games, have several defensive backs on the injury report, and with an extra week to prepare – plus the offense-friendly conditions of Ford Field – I think Wentz puts up his fourth straight clean sheet.
Sacks by Eagles defense: 2.5
This is slightly below their average through three games, and they've recorded multiple sacks each week, including a season-high four against the Steelers. With an extra week to prepare, expect Jim Schwartz's unit to really get after Stafford early and often. The Lions offensive line isn't great, and that doesn't bode well against a defense that is more than capable of getting pressure with just the front four. He only blitzed two or three times against Pittsburgh, and if he decides to do so more often on Sunday – when starting cornerback Leodis McKelvin returns after missing the last two games with injury –Stafford and Co. better look out.
WHAT I’LL BE WATCHING
Tackling — Theo Riddick is a dangerous runner and receiver. Put him in space and he can make defenders miss, as he did to the Eagles last year. Marvin Jones can also be dangerous when he’s got the ball. Golden Tate was really quiet last week and he could have a major chip on his shoulder in this game. The Eagles need to rally to the ball and tackle well. Take away RAC yards. Make Matt Stafford hold the ball longer to find targets down the field.
Pressure — Stafford has been sacked 10 times this year. The Lions offense is 16th in sack percentage. The Eagles defense is 3rd in sack percentage. On paper that’s a big advantage for the Eagles. That needs to show up on the field. Fletcher Cox should have a big advantage vs their interior blockers. On the flip side, the Eagles protect the passer really well and the Lions are only so-so at getting after the QB. If the Eagles OL plays well, Carson Wentz can have a huge day.
Depth Charge — As a companion point to the one above, the Lions average more than 40 dropbacks per game. That means a lot of chances for the defense to rush the QB. I have confidence in the Eagles starters. This could be a week when the backups will play more and will need to be productive. That doesn’t mean they need sacks per se, but they do have to pressure Stafford and be disruptive. Maybe Beau Allen gets a sack. Or Marcus Smith.