Eagles news and notes for 11/18
Put simply, Wilson has managed to adapt and compensate, and if anything, his fit-for-Lilliput stature enhances his already considerable skills, and when the Eagles face the Seahawks on Sunday, he will represent one half of the most intriguing matchup within the game itself. He'll be on one side, and the Eagles' defensive line - their greatest strength, let alone in comparison to an inexperienced Seattle offensive line - will be on the other. The littlest guy on the field be the one to watch.
"He's not a one-trick pony," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "You see it with some quarterbacks, that they come in and have a little bit of success, and then defensive coaches around the league sort of figure out a book on them, so to speak, and they take away those strengths and make them play to their weaknesses. A lot of guys' effectiveness starts to wane. But not him.
"People have had a long time to try to figure him out, and nobody really has, and it's because he's a good player. It's because even though he's 5-101/2 or whatever he wants to be, he plays big. When he's out there, we're not going to be concerned with his height. We're going to be concerned with his ability to make plays and his ability to extend plays, his ability to make plays with his feet, run for first downs. All those things are going to be the important thing, not what he measured at the combine."
The intricacies of what Wilson and the Seahawks do to "overcome" his height and what the Eagles will have to do to defend him is fascinating. It gets to football at the granular level, the little strategic skirmishes that make or break a game and that we, in the press box or the bleachers or on our couches, rarely see.
"I think you can," Reich said, when asked if a team could go into Seattle with a running mindset, despite the stats. "I think that's the key, what you said there. It's a mindset, and that's really - it might play out, you never know how it's going to play out. You go up against a team that's this good against the run in their home place, and you still have expectations to run the ball efficiently, run it enough to win. That looks different from game to game. But I think what you're saying is a good thing, that we've gotta go in with the mindset that we can run the ball effectively against this group."
Rookie running back Wendell Smallwood, who gained 70 yards on 13 carries against the Falcons, noted that Seattle's secondary actually is a big part of its success against the run.
"Their safeties (Thomas and Kam Chancellor) are aggressive, their corners, 25 (Sherman), he loves to tackle. They play aggressive. A lot of two-gapping, putting a lot of guys in the box," Smallwood said.
But the Falcons, Smallwood said, do a lot of the same stuff, with different players.
"Very similar to Atlanta," he said. "The closest I've ever seen two teams in the NFL . . . I think we're going to have to take the same approach and be aggressive, from the first snap to the last snap."
Ryan Mathews was the bulwark against Atlanta, 109 yards on 19 carries, his most productive game since 2013. Mathews, often banged up, said Thursday he came out of it feeling fine.
"It felt good getting into a rhythm, just running behind the big guys," he said. "They (Seattle) are a good defense. They're real physical. It's going to be a hard game."
5 – The Seahawks have only lost five out of their last 40 home games (including playoffs).
Those five games were lost by an average final margin of 5.4 points. Seattle hasn’t lost a home game by more than seven points since the 2011 season. Only two of the Seahawks’ last five losses at home have come to non-divisional teams.
Seattle’s home field advantage is very daunting. Doug Pederson, a Washington native who grew up as a Seahawks fan, spoke about the challenges of playing at CenturyLink Field.
“Going into this stadium, this 12th man – it’s real,” said Pederson. “The last time that I was up there was with the Eagles a few years back, and it’s a loud place. Those things are the things that keep your offense from executing and staying on the field, and this team definitely feeds off that and tries to get you into those second-and-long, third-and-long situations. The point of emphasis this week obviously is to be able to handle that and minimize those penalties.”
The Eagles are practicing inside this week to prepare for the record-breaking levels of noise they’ll have to deal with.
Seattle’s crowd noise could certainly be a significant factor this week. Philadelphia ranks near the top of the league in false starts. The Eagles have also had some issues with delay of game penalties, including two at home last week when there was no opposing noise to deal with. These errors don’t bode well for the Eagles’ outlook on Sunday.
Schwartz never made it to the NFL as a player.
But if he did, he would have wanted to play like Brandon Graham.
"I'll probably give him, in my mind, my greatest compliment," Schwartz said on Thursday morning. "I wasn't a very good player, but if I played in the NFL, I hope I would have played like Brandon Graham."
Graham, a former first-round pick who once had to deal with everything that came along with not living up to that status, has turned into a star in 2016 under Schwartz.
What has made Graham so successful this year?
"I think it's the system and my attitude toward every day," Graham said. "Just trying to work hard, continue to keep that chip on my shoulder and know where I've come from. Try not to forget that. I try to bring the energy every day, because I know now, being here seven years, that you have to put in that work. As tough as it is, you have to put it in to be great."
After starting the spring as a rotation player, Graham earned a starting job and now leads the team with five sacks and six tackles for loss.