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Eagles rookie storylines entering the Bills game

Miami Dolphins v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Eagles are in the middle of the most difficult part of their schedule. After two gritty wins against the Cowboys and then the Chiefs, the Eagles will face off against a mercurial Bills team in Philadelphia. The Bills have not nearly played to their potential this year but they have flashed as an elite team and will certainly not give the Eagles an easy four quarters. Philly’s rookies will play a sizable role in this game, as they have for a good part of this season. Here is what I am looking out for.

Getting Jalen Carter back in the box score

Jalen Carter was held without a tackle for a loss, QB hurry, or sack last week against the Chiefs. That doesn’t mean he played poorly, far from it actually. Carter continues to be a disruptive force, but offenses are focusing on slowing him down and he isn’t finishing on pressures the way he was early in the season. With hot play coming from Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat recently, I expect the Bills to concentrate extra blockers to the edges and give Carter more opportunities inside.

Anything from Nolan Smith.

Nolan Smith’s rookie season has been disappointing, even with low expectations. Smith has barely seen the field and has looked overmatched for the majority of his defensive snaps. His struggles make sense. Being a smaller, speed based defender means his game will be predicated on reaction time, technique and motor maximizing his athletic gifts. Those are going to come with time but clearly are not there yet for Smith. He saw a few snaps last week but failed to do anything with them. With Derek Barnett seemingly a nonfactor, the Eagles need just a bit of production when Smith is on the field so they can relieve Reddick and Sweat.

To be clear, Smith’s career isn’t a wash if he doesn’t perform in his rookie year. Haason Reddick only had 2.5 sacks in 17 games (and 3 starts!) as a 6’1”, 237 pound rookie. Smith, a 6’2”, 238 pound rookie, clearly just needs to continue adjusting his game to the league. Right now its just a matter of the Eagles needing more from him sooner than expected.

Can the rookie defensive backs capitalize on Josh Allen’s turnover habit?

Look. Josh Allen is a great quarterback. One of the best in the NFL. He also throws a ton of interceptions, throwing a league-leading 12 this year and throwing 41 in the last three seasons. To put it crudely, he is a great quarterback with a bit of a bozo gene. While he will certainly challenge the Eagles secondary, he could also lay up some possible interceptions. Taking possessions away from what is an explosive offense is crucial. The Eagles have been getting some encouraging play from Sydney Brown and Eli Ricks is coming off a decent performance against Kansas City. Both rookies will be used in the slot to cover the Bills pass catchers. Let’s see if the rookies can make a big play.

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