On to Week 2 and a date in Tampa against a Buccaneers team that stole the show in New Orleans, outscoring the Saints 48-40 and scoring a titanic upset victory. After a three-day weekend off for the players, it’s back to work time for a team that has a great opportunity to bank some victories in these unpredictable days of September. I’m glad the Bucs played as well as they did in New Orleans. They deserve major respect after that game.
Some thoughts on the matchup and on the Eagles after the 18-12 win over Atlanta last Thursday …
- This is a great test for the Eagles’ pass defense. Tampa Bay has wide receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin along with tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. That is as impressive a receiving corps as there is in the NFL. Tampa Bay runs the ball poorly and has an average offensive line. Jackson, by the way, left late in Sunday’s game with a concussion, so that bears watching this week (as does a shoulder injury suffered by cornerback Vernon Hargreaves). It’s going to be 90 degrees, high humidity and nasty. Depth along the defensive line and throughout the defense will be tested. But the Eagles have to like the matchup against a one-dimensional offense that they now can study on tape.
- Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 417 yards and 4 touchdowns against New Orleans and added a running touchdown. He’s run for more than 2,000 yards in his 14-year NFL career. He’s a solid quarterback. But he’s also prone to turnovers, which is where having a few extra days to prepare helps Jim Schwartz and his defense that welcomes linebacker Nigel Bradham back after his one-game suspension.
- Speaking of this defense, what’s striking is the overall speed. Familiarity in the scheme and great communication shows up when you watch this group. Ronald Darby can run with the fastest receivers down the field. Jalen Mills is playing with more confidence and has better technique. Sidney Jones has a chance to be a real stud in the nickel. The safeties are excellent.
- Derek Barnett must play with more discipline than he showed on Thursday night. He was called twice for defensive offside, and both times his penalties negated Eagles sacks on third down.
- Would the Eagles find a way to activate rookie defensive end Josh Sweat on Sunday, just to have another fresh set of legs available in the heat?
- The offense labored for much of the night against Atlanta and the challenge is to make the passing game more explosive. The Eagles need to win more matchups on the outside with Mike Wallace and Nelson Agholor. It’s a tricky, hold-on-until-help-arrives situation for the passing game. Alshon Jeffery will make a difference, but he’s not ready yet. Agholor is great inside and good on the outside, but he had no yards after the catch against an outstanding Atlanta offense last week. DeAndre Carter has some juice as an inside receiver, but no experience. We might see some of Shelton Gibson on Sunday to get more speed on the field.
- Love that Doug Pederson sticks with the running game. Makes a difference. The Eagles had 8 carries and 57 yards in the fourth quarter against Atlanta. Pederson knows his personnel, knows he has a road-grading offensive line and that he is three-deep in the backfield. The running game is off to a solid start, with more to come once the Eagles get the passing game in gear.
- Good for punter Cameron Johnston, who has come such a long way since the spring and early summer when he was so inconsistent in practice. He changed field position on Thursday night.
- How does it work with Beau Allen and Vinny Curry, former Eagles now with the Bucs? Does the fact that they have a sense of what’s happening with the Eagles help the Bucs more, or does it help the Eagles more knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each player? Tampa Bay’s pass defense was horrible against New Orleans and if Hargreaves and/or Brent Grimes (groin injury, did not play at New Orleans) is out, it’s going to be even harder for the Bucs to keep up.
- No lingering injuries to report from Thursday. Jason Kelce is banged up a bit but he’s OK and Jason Peters, who left the field after the Ajayi touchdown provided the winning points, is fine. Peters is so great and so valuable you just keep your fingers crossed with him every day.
- Dallas Goedert is the real deal. Don’t worry. The Eagles will use more two-tight end personnel packages and get Goedert and Zach Ertz – who did not play his best game on Thursday – very much more involved in the passing game.
- Corey Clement is the most underrated player on this team. He is a complete running back who, I’ll say here, will be capable of being the lead running back in this offense by November. I think he’s that good.
- How many more tricks can Doug Pederson pull out of his bag? He’s got the Philly Special/Philly Philly thing going full flight and I think he will call some version of that down the road. He’s got Nelson Agholor lined up as a running back. He has overloaded offensive line formations. Fourth down is always a 50/50 proposition on going for it or punting. What’s next? Would he do some Wildcat? Some Jet Sweep stuff with Agholor and/or Carter? A double reverse? A halfback throwing a pass?
- Finally, the wide receiver position clearly is being challenged as the Eagles signed three new ones, headlined by Braxton Miller, to the team’s practice squad. You are going to see Howie Roseman study that position both on this roster and on the other 31 rosters much as he did last year with running back, which led to the trade to acquire Ajayi. The Eagles have offensive line depth and some draft picks in the future as trade currency, should they choose to use it.
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.