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Weapon X Mailbag: How will the Eagles fare against the Saints’ top-ranked run defense?

Plus: What’s the future at defensive back?

New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

I don't know the last time I was this excited for an Eagles game. It’s a different energy when you’re heading to Lincoln Financial Field to watch a fun Birds team. Three more sleeps.

Anyway... MAIL TIME!

If you want to ask a question for a future mailbag, you can tweet at me or send an email to bleedinggreeninfo at gmail dot com.

@IrishIggles: Everyone going on about the Saints run defense being the best in the league but if I recall when we played them last year, they hadn’t allowed a 100-yard runner in however many games. Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders both proceeded to go over. Do we see a repeat Sunday?

This Saints run defense is legit. They’re first in rushing yards, yards per attempt and Rush Defense DVOA. They were damn good in 2020 too. They finished the year fourth in rushing yards, fourth in yards per attempt and second in Rush Defense DVOA.

Before Jalen Hurts ripped off 106 yards on the ground against them in his first career start and Miles Sanders added 115, the Saints hadn’t had a player rush for over 100 yards against them in 55 games (including playoffs). 55 GAMES! Before the Eagles gashed them in Week 14 2020, the last runner to do so was Samaje Perine on November 19, 2017 (Week 11), as he rushed for 117 yards.

Uh, that’s a long time.

That benchmark doesn’t matter though. The Eagles already broke that streak. I looked up every single box score. They lost some games. Running backs had 90-yard games on them. Four years is an eternity in the NFL. Even the sun goes down. Heroes eventually die. Horoscopes often lie. Dennis Allen is a great defensive coordinator, but a terrible Eagles team beat them last year.

Last season’s Saints game was the beginning for Hurts as an NFL quarterback. There was no tape on him. Allen didn’t exactly know how to prepare for him. No one did! That’s the mystery box element of a first-time starter. Things are different nearly a full year later.

Despite the deserved hype for New Orleans, the Eagles don’t need a specific bell cow 100-yard rusher to beat the Saints. No Eagles rusher has topped 100 yards in a single game this season. This past week in Denver, Hurts rushed for 55 yards, Jordan Howard added 83 and Boston Scott finished with 81. This committee style of punishing defense on the ground is working and the Birds might be getting Miles Sanders back on Sunday too to add to the rotation.

Yes, the Saints are the best run defense. Outside of Baltimore though, the Eagles might have the best run offense in this league.

It’s going to be a fun one, man. Running the ball in a cold weather game? I’m bringing a Fink’s hoagie into the game and snacking on that in the fourth quarter as Howard punishes defenders and nukes the clock for an Eagles win.

@ThatMikeDenison: How are we feeling about the secondary at this point the season and beyond? Are Marcus Epps/K’Von Wallace/Zech McPherson going to be long-term contributors, or are we doomed once Darius Slay and Steve Nelson are out of the picture?

Counting on any of Marcus Epps, K’Von Wallace and Zech McPhearson to be true future building blocks at this stage wouldn’t be wise.

Epps has outplayed Anthony Harris this season, but turns 26 in two months and has only eight career starts to his name. He’s a good depth guy, but not some real long-term answer. He’s under contract for less than $1 million in 2022 and definitely should have some sort of role, but I don’t think he can be relied on as a 17-game starter.

Wallace was a fan-favorite prospect coming into the 2020 NFL Draft, but the fourth-round pick out of Clemson hasn’t flashed anything at the pro level yet as a defensive back. He had a great special team play against Denver on a block field goal this week. Perhaps that’s something he can build on? I’m more bullish on him than Epps.

McPhearson is a fourth-round rookie who’s played 37 defensive snaps through 10 weeks. If I said I know what he will be as an NFL player, it would be a lie. He was a boundary corner in college and he had a nice training camp working in the slot frequently. I’m just hoping he can be another nice depth guy who can hold down the fort in a rotation or in case of injury. That would be a win.

That’s a long way of saying that the Eagles don’t have legitimate young defensive back talent on the roster. That’s why you’re seeing players like Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton and LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. mocked to the Eagles in the top 10 of the 2022 NFL Draft. Coming away with either of those dudes with the pick the Birds own from Miami would be a perfect situation for me.

@danmcgukin_: Tyree Jackson breakout game ifDallas Goedert can’t clear concussion protocol?

I threw five bucks on Tyree Jackson to score a touchdown last week at +1000. Will I do it again? Probably!

He ended up playing 27 offensive snaps, a number that jumped after Dallas Goedert was knocked out of the game on a dirty hit from Broncos safety Justin Simmons. Fellow undrafted rookie tight end Jack Stoll played 66 percent of the snaps (42 total). That’s the second time Stoll has hit that rate this year (he did so back on Halloween in Detroit). The Eagles primarily used 11 personnel on Sunday after Goedert went down, but they’ve still utilized both 12 and 13 personnel over the last couple of weeks to beef up the rushing attack. I assume Jackson’s snaps will go way up on Sunday and they’ll still do some two-tight end sets.

In an indictment of the rest of the roster, Jackson is likely their best traditional red zone threat. I could foresee a one catch for three yards and a touchdown stat line for the former University of Buffalo quarterback.

@EHyungNim: I know we’re all feeling pretty darn good about DeVonta Smith, but how do we see him faring against such a technically sound corner like Marshon Lattimore?

Hey, it’s time for him to showcase why he won the Heisman Trophy and why it was a great move for the Birds to trade up in the first round for him.

GO BIRDS!