This feature is a weekly piece on BleedingGreenNation.com 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.
In some (mostly) non-Jay Ajayi Eagles talk …
- Denver comes to town with the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL, and the Broncos are ranked second in the NFL in run defense. This is the test for the offensive line, with the likes of Von Miller and Shane Ray on the edge and Derek Wolfe as the defensive end in the 3-4 front. The Eagles are going with Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle, for now and the rest of the season. The coaches said he played well on Sunday against San Francisco. Vaitai was beaten on a play when quarterback Carson Wentz held the ball a tad too long. Denver is going to bring the blitz against Wentz. So not only is the line in focus, but the wide receivers need to beat the best secondary in the NFL. Can they beat press coverage?
- Yes, the Eagles rank fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game offensively, but the reason they couldn’t pass on a player like Ajayi is that this team has left too many yards on the field. Once Ajayi gets up to speed – and I certainly think he has a chance to play on Sunday – he’s going to thrive in this offense. The internal reaction here after the trade was extremely exciting. Ajayi is the most complete running back on the roster. He is described as a “violent” runner. So, yeah, let’s get him ready to play football. There are big plays to be had in this running game.
- So I’ll say this: Ajayi gets 15-18 carries a game, at least, when he’s up to speed in the offense. He’s going to add so much to this offense.
- Joe Walker is the starting middle linebacker here with Malcolm Jenkins dropping into the box on passing downs. Now that teams have seen Walker on tape, it’s going to be interesting to see how offenses try to isolate him. Walker had 5 total tackles and a pass defensed on Sunday in the win over the 49ers.
- How long will the Eagles keep five running backs on the 53-man roster? Good question. It’s tough to add to the roster now, other than waiver-wire pickups and signing tryout players. Only four, I guess, will dress on Sunday, and that includes punt return man Kenjon Barner. Corey Clement has made himself into a valuable special teams player.
- The mark of really good coaching is seeing players have career years. So let’s count which players are having their “best” NFL seasons here … tight end Zach Ertz, wide receiver Nelson Agholor, Wentz of course, center Jason Kelce, right guard Brandon Brooks, the entire defensive line, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, the entire secondary … you get the idea. This is an excellent coaching staff. And looking long term, one of the challenges is replacing coaches who get jobs elsewhere. It’s one of the reasons, from this perspective, the Eagles struggled in Andy Reid’s later years. He lost waves of coaches and did a good job early finding replacements, but later in his tenure it wasn’t quite so successful. This will be a large challenge for Doug Pederson and the Eagles in the near future.
- My over/under for targets for Ertz on Sunday is, oh let’s see, 12? After watching Kansas City’s Travis Kelce torch Denver for 7 catches, 133 yards and a touchdown on Monday night, I’ve got to believe the Eagles will try to get Ertz going early and often on Sunday.
- Ronald Darby is making progress, trust me on this, and he was limited in practice again on Wednesday, so it stands to reason that he will be highly questionable for Sunday. That’s fine, right? Just think of the boost the Eagles will get when they bring the cornerback back against Dallas after the bye week fully healthy, no concerns, ready to go. The luxury of being 7-1 … It couldn’t have worked out better in the case of Darby, who will be a much-welcomed contributor in the final seven games whether or not he plays this week.
- Impressed with the way the running backs – namely LeGarrette Blount – and Ajayi responded with media questions on Monday. Winning cures everything, so no matter how much people want to see if there is going to be a problem distributing the football, it doesn’t appear to be an issue here. Give credit to head coach Doug Pederson for his trusting relationship with a locker room that has a very strong blend of leadership. The Eagles have something strong going and they know it.
- The Eagles have made 25 trips into the red zone and have scored 16 touchdowns and eight field goals. The only missed opportunity for points came in Kansas City when Jake Elliott missed the chippie field goal. Want to know a reason for the 7-1 start? Look no further than the red zone, where the Eagles – knocking on wood – did not have a giveaway in the first eight games.
- A nit-pick here, but the Eagles were only 4 of 14 on third downs against San Francisco, dropping their season-long conversion rate on third down to 47.8 percent. Still too many third and longs …
- I love this statistic: The Eagles are averaging 2.3 points per drive and have a drive efficiency of 44.7 percent, meaning they have scored points on nearly half of their offensive drives this season.
- My half-season Most Improved Eagles player on offense is two players actually: wide receiver Nelson Aghlor and right guard Brandon Brooks, who has played at a high Pro Bowl level (it’s too easy to say Wentz or Zach Ertz) and my MIE on defense is Cox, who has been dominating every week he’s played. Patrick Robinson is the most Surprising Eagle of the first half of the season on defense. Jake Elliott wins it overall, however. Who woulda thunk it? …