The Eagles need to go undefeated over the next two weeks to win their division for the second straight year. Winning out also gives the Eagles an outside shot at the top seed in the NFC. First, they need to beat Arizona on Sunday. While the Cardinals haven’t been good this year, they have been a bit feistier than expected under Jonathan Gannon and figure to not be a pushover in this game. Here is how the Eagles rookies could factor into another win.
Where does Jalen Carter stand in the defensive line rotation?
Jalen Carter’s snap count was dramatically reduced last week with Jordan Davis, Milton Williams, and Fletcher Cox stepping up to play more early downs. A bit curious that the Eagles youngest and, arguably, most talented defensive lineman had such a downsized role. But we have talked for a few weeks about his high snap count and how that could be impacting his play, so the Eagles are probably trying to allow him to get more of a breather and function as a pass rushing specialist. Well the Eagles will need his big plays against the Cardinals. Arizona has some explosive potential on offense between Kyler Murray’s big arm and ability to make plays with his feet. Murray’s play will be a deciding factor in this game and getting pressure on him early and often can help the Eagles stave off the Cardinals offense.
Do we see more creative Nolan Smith usage?
Nolan Smith’s role in the Eagles defense continues to grow and evolve. Last week, Smith saw a handful of snaps playing linebacker in 5-1-5 packages. The Eagles clearly want to utilize Smith’s athleticism in any way they can. Could he be a spy for Kyler Murray in this game? It is possible. Smith has made a few nice plays over the last few weeks so it is good that the team is continuing to log him more experience out there as he gets more comfortable with NFL speed.
There are a million ways the secondary could look on Sunday.
The Eagles do not have a clear cut top cornerback right now with Darius Slay out but they now, seemingly, have a handful of really solid cornerbacks. Kelee Ringo has looked fantastic in his two starts this season and figures to be a fixture on the outside of the Eagles defense. Eli Ricks has rebounded after a rough midseason and Ricks has experience now playing the slot and on the outside. James Bradberry has played some slot cornerback after struggling against the Seahawks. Bradley Roby continues to be fine in a limited role. Now there is the potential for Avonte Maddox to be back in this game. If Maddox does return, it could be in a limited capacity but it will shake up how the cornerback lineup looks. Maddox only plays in the slot, so he will be taking slot snaps from Roby, Bradberry, and Ricks. Ringo figures to maintain his spot on the outside while the rest of the cornerback group will likely rotate fairly heavily. At safety, Reed Blankenship and Kevin Byard will hold it down but Sydney Brown will find his way onto the field as another slot defender as well as nickel linebacker.