By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
I guess I was wrong. It can get worse.
The Eagles are coming off of the most embarrassing Eagles game since...week one? Doug Pederson, notorious for his aggression, inexplicably chose to play for the tie with 19 seconds remaining in overtime last week instead of attempting a 64-yard field goal. Frustrating cannot even begin to describe the emotions of Eagles fans everywhere.
The Birds will travel to San Francisco to take on the injury-riddled 49ers on Sunday Night Football. That’s right, the 0-2-1 Eagles are on national television. Oh joy. I don’t even want to know what Twitter is going to look like with everyone watching this game.
The 49ers (2-1) are coming off of back-to-back dominant wins in MetLife stadium against both the Jets and Giants. The Niners have lost a plethora of players to injury over the past two weeks and are the only team in the league within spitting distance of the Eagles lead for “players listed on the injury report.” Quite the prestigious title.
The Eagles have so many injuries heading into this game that Doug Pederson has said that the coaching staff is going to have to get creative with offensive skill players this week. If there is anything I have learned over the first three weeks, it is that there is nothing that Eagles coaches struggle with more than being creative.
I’m truly intrigued to see what creativity means to them. If their only answer is Jalen Hurts read options I’m going to be waiting for Mr. Pederson and friends at the gates of the NovaCare complex.
Look at the injury report from Wednesday. My question is, if all of these guys weren’t practicing, who exactly was practicing? Greg Ward was the only wide receiver on the 53-man roster to practice on Thursday.
It. Is. Week. Four. How is this even possible three years in a row?
Wednesday Injury Report pic.twitter.com/DsitOm7ZsV— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 30, 2020
Eagles Offense vs. 49ers Defense
Carson Wentz what has happened to you my man? With two more interceptions last week against Cincinnati, Wentz sits tied atop the NFL leaderboard for most interceptions right alongside Kirk Cousins. Is that bad? Glad you asked! Quite terrible, actually!
I’m not done. Wentz also has the second lowest quarterback rating in the entire league, in front of only Dwayne Haskins and five points behind Broncos third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel. Once again, not great.
The biggest concerns in my opinion regarding Wentz is that he continues to make the same mistakes he made when he was a rookie. It is like he has learned nothing in five years, which is incredible considering he was the front-runner for league MVP in his second year. He still makes errant throws, stands in the pocket far too long, and makes some truly boneheaded decisions.
Doug Pederson just said Carson Wentz cannot handle the whole playbook in Year 5 and Jason Peters left the game because he was tired. It’s like a high school team. #Eagles— Marcus Hayes (@inkstainedretch) September 28, 2020
This is the least confident I have ever been in Carson Wentz. I have defended him on this very website to the point of nauseam. He is making me look like a darn fool right about now. I know that the 2017, or even the 2019 version of Wentz is somewhere. He better show those versions soon, or Jalen Hurts is going to start looking real appealing to the coaching staff.
As for the rest of the offense, it is honestly quite tough to analyze because of all the guys that are on the injury report and have not practiced this week. Miles Sanders, DeSean Jackson, Jason Peters, John Hightower, Alshon Jeffery, J.J Arcega-Whiteside were all either limited in practice or didn’t practice at all.
Dallas Goedert is also expected to miss a few weeks with a fractured ankle. Jalen Reagor was placed on IR. My question from the introduction of this article remains true: Who exactly is playing on Sunday?
The practice squad all-stars are back and better (worse) than ever! Who’s excited for the Greg Ward, John Hightower, and Deontay Burnett wide receiver trio! At least Miles Sanders is playing, right!
Since there is so much uncertainty on the Eagles side, let’s look at the 49ers defense. The Niners have had injury issues of their own, as they are without two of their best defensive players in defensive end Nick Bosa and cornerback Richard Sherman.
With that being said, the Niners defense remains one of the best in football even with all the injuries. The defensive line still boasts Arik Armstead at defensive end, who doesn’t have a lot of tackles this year, but makes his presence felt on the line. Rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw will look to make an impact against a weak interior Eagles offensive line.
The secondary contains a lot of unknown names to most of the football world outside of the San Francisco area, but has remained solid against inferior competition. I’d say that the Eagles could look to take advantage, but Wentz simply has no one to throw the ball to. That’s also assuming Wentz’s accuracy miraculously returns.
The linebacking core is the soul of this Niners defense, and for good reason. Kwon Alexander, Fred Warner, and Dre Greenlaw are one of the top trio’s at linebacker in the NFL. They are stout against the run and defending the pass, which is a completely foreign concept to the Eagles organization.
Bottom line is it is going to be tough for the Eagles to move the ball against this defense. If the Eagles struggled against the Bengals defense last week, do not expect them to do much of anything against a top five defense. The Eagles offense has given you no reason to expect anything, injuries or not.
Eagles Defense vs. 49ers Offense
The Eagles defense played their best game of the season last week against Cincinnati. While that’s not really saying all that much compared to their first two games, there were some bright spots.
Darius Slay continues to shine, as he locked down A.J. Green until he got his first catch of the game in overtime. He has locked down every receiver he’s faced through three weeks and has proven to be worth every penny the Eagles are paying him.
The Eagles finally get a legitimate corner and the team is in shambles. pic.twitter.com/4Bcz8JD4KU— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) September 28, 2020
The Eagles defense also sacked rookie Joe Burrow a total of eight times last week. They did exactly what everyone hoped they would, as they abused a putrid Bengals offensive line. They dominated in overtime and set up the Eagles offense for success twice. Nothing came of it.
What still remains a concern for this defense, though, is that whatever receivers aren’t matched up with Darius Slay have been getting open with ease. The linebacking core still stinks out loud, and Jalen Mills remains a liability no matter where he lines up on the field.
Linebacker Nathan Gerry continues to suck the life and joy out of Eagles fans. He cannot make a tackle in the run game and he couldn’t cover a blanket in pass defense. With George Kittle likely back in the lineup this week for San Francisco, expect a lot of Cris Collinsworth replays depicting Gerry being outright abused by Kittle.
Send prayers to Nate Gerry. https://t.co/14l7o9UdjY— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) September 30, 2020
The 49ers offense is missing just as many key pieces as they are on the defensive side of the ball. It is unlikely that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is able to suit up after missing practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. Starting running back and playoff star Raheem Mostert also has missed practice and is not likely to play Sunday night.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Niners have more than capable backups. San Francisco has such a deep backfield behind Mostert that is coupled with an elite run-blocking offensive line that their offense should not miss a beat. Jerick McKinnon has looked like his old self after suffering back-to-back season ending injuries.
Back-up quarterback Nick Mullins has looked good in the game and a half that he’s played in. Granted, those games were played against the Jets and Giants, but give the undrafted veteran some credit. He’s completed 73% of his passes and thrown for over 400 yards in just that game and a half. The Eagles should not underestimate him.
The Niners receiving corps don’t jump off the page, other than Kittle. Kendrick Bourne has been a solid possession receiver and was a touchdown magnet in the red zone a season ago. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk had a great game last week against the Giants, totaling 70 receiving yards as well as a rushing touchdown on an end around.
That, by the way, is creativity, Doug.
The Eagles have shown nothing that proves to me they can beat the defending NFC champions. They barely hung with the worst team in the league from last year.
I think people are putting too much stock into the Niners injuries and don’t realize how deep this team is. Their back-ups are more than capable of defeating this Eagles team.
The Niners are going to run the ball down the Eagles throats until they prove they can stop it. With their offensive line and the way they dominate running the football, the Eagles will have no answer. I can already see Mullins running play-action passes to perfection, the kryptonite of the Eagles defense.
Mullins passes for over 300 yards, and McKinnon gains over 100 all-purpose yards. George Kittle dominates Nathan Gerry to the tune of 125 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Eagles offense never really gets going. Sanders has nowhere to run and Wentz has no one to throw the football to.
This game will either be a shocking upset that no one expects (think 2018 Sunday night game against the Rams), or the Niners rout the Eagles in front of the entire nation. The latter seems far more likely to me.
49ers win, 34-16. Yes, it will be that ugly.
BAD THINGS HAPPEN IN PHILADELPHIA— Zoo With Roy (@zoowithroy) September 30, 2020
Time: 8:20 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass