By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
The Eagles are coming off of yet another loss as they will play host to one of the NFL’s best teams in the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens come into this matchup off of a 24-point win against the Bengals. For reference, these are the same Bengals that the Eagles had to scratch and claw their way to a tie with. That’ll give you a good indication of the direction of the Ravens and Eagles seasons.
The Eagles arguably played one of their best games last Sunday in Pittsburgh. Though they lost, they showed signs of life and resolve even after falling behind by 17 points in the second half.
That, along with another breakout performance from an Eagles practice squad player, has given Eagles fans some semblance of hope. I told you guys to put that Travis Fulgham jersey in your carts last week, so I hope to see green Eagles #13 jerseys (they better not say Agholor on the back) in the Linc on Sunday.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, Lincoln Financial Field will host fans for the first time this season when they let 7,500 Eagles fans through their gates. What an absolute nightmare scenario for Nathan Gerry.
Eagles Offense vs. Ravens Defense
The Eagles may just have the best wide receiver in the National Football League.
I’m not joking.
Travis Fulgham is PFF’s highest-rated WR in 2020. #Eagles— Cody Swartz (@cbswartz5) October 12, 2020
Okay, maybe it is a tad premature to be this obsessive over Fulgham, as he has only played two games. On the other hand, how could you blame Eagles fans? His performance last week was the first of it’s kind from an Eagles receiver since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.
With the production fans have seen from Eagles receivers over the last two seasons, the celebration surrounding Fulgham was warranted. With that, though, will come more attention surrounding Fulgham. Don’t expect him to replicate his fantastic performance from last week against an elite Baltimore secondary.
Carson Wentz played his best game of the season on Sunday. He threw two interceptions, but neither one was his fault. The first was a miscommunication between he and Zach Ertz, and the second was a hail mary on a fourth down deep in their own territory. There was far more to be excited about with Wentz last week than to criticize, which is a big step in the right direction.
Wentz has clearly become very comfortable with Fulgham as well as the original practice squad receiver turned Eagles folk legend, Greg Ward Jr. Each of those guys caught both of Carson’s touchdowns last week.
With DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery set to miss yet another game, the practice squad dynamic duo will be back in action in full force. They will certainly command most of the targets.
Miles Sanders ripped off a huge 74-yard touchdown run last week for the Eagles first touchdown of the game. That’s great news...until you look at the box score and see he rushed for a total of 80 yards in the game. His 10 other carries resulted in just six yards.
Without a doubt in my mind, that is almost entirely on the offensive line. Sanders consistently had nowhere to run, as the makeshift o-line in front of him wasn’t opening up any holes. Doug Pederson is also to blame for getting Sanders just 13 touches throughout the entire game. He’s got to touch the ball at least 20 times per game.
The offensive line will likely be down to just one regular starter this week in Jason Kelce. Right tackle Lane Johnson will be out and guard Matt Pryor will also be missing the game as he was placed on the COVID-19 list. Pray for Wentz behind this o-line
Also, I felt this was important to share, as I am starting to become worried.
WANTED: Zach Ertz, tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles. He has been missing the last two weeks. He was last seen calling out the Eagles front office for “disrespecting him” for not making him the highest paid tight end in NFL history. His disappearance is quite peculiar and fairly untimely, I’d say.
Zach Ertz’s last two games:— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 11, 2020
11 targets, 5 recs, 15 yards.#Eagles
The Baltimore Ravens defense is the best unit they’ve had since Ray Lewis was still manning the middle. Much like Pittsburgh’s defense last week, the Ravens are a deep team that doesn’t have any holes anywhere on the unit.
The defensive line is led by veteran and former all-pro Calais Campbell and their linebacking core is led by rookie stud Patrick Queen. Oh, and L.J. Fort is the other starting middle linebacker. Ya know, the same L.J. Fort that the Eagles cut last year. This front seven has led the Ravens to having the sixth best rush defense in the league, allowing just 3.7 yards per carry.
The Ravens secondary is one of the best in the league. The cornerback tandem of Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey may be the best in the NFL. Those two have led the way for the Ravens allowing just 5.8 yards per passing attempt, as they are also sixth in the league in that department.
The game plan for the Eagles offense this week is going to be trying to use the Ravens aggressiveness against them. Running draw plays and screens when the Ravens tend to like to blitz will be key, as will be trying to bait Peters into overplaying a route, something he's been prone to doing. For Pederson, get your playmakers the ball. Sanders, Fulgham, and Ward need to combine for at least 25-30 touches.
Eagles Offense vs. Ravens Defense
Linebacker Nathan Gerry has absolutely no business playing on a professional football field, much less starting for a team that wants to be competitive. He cannot tackle. He cannot cover in pass defense. So often, the man looks confused when he’s out there.
Why Gerry remains out there week after week when he shows literally no good reason to remain in the starting lineup is beyond me. The only reason I can think of as to why Gerry is even still employed at this point is because he has some kind of black mail on Jim Schwartz, Doug Pederson, or Howie Roseman. That has to be the only reason, because the man cannot do anything right.
The Eagles drafted two linebackers in April. Let’s see what they’ve got, because in all honesty, it cannot get any worse than the linebacker play the Eagles have gotten so far. That’s the whole point of drafting guys, is to actually use them, right? Or are the Eagles just trying to make every position group a factory? Is third round pick Davion Taylor even on the active roster?
I’m so sick of these people.
Nate Gerry: 4 solo tackles, 100% of snaps played.— Brenden Deeg (@eaglestalk_) October 14, 2020
Shaun Bradley (6th round rookie): 3 solo tackles, 5% of snaps of played.
This isn’t rocket science. Play the damn kids and see what they have.
The defensive line, great through the first four weeks of the season, was nonexistent last Sunday against a great Steelers offensive line. If the best part of a defense disappears in a game, the rest of the defense is set up to fail. That’s why the Eagles gave up 38 points last Sunday.
The Eagles secondary remains in shambles outside of Darius Slay and Rodney McLeod. Avonte Maddox will miss this week’s game once again, meaning that Jalen Mills will likely start at cornerback. Pray for my television.
Safety Marcus Epps will also be out for Sunday’s game, and thank goodness for that. Epps, for some reason, got over 70% of the snaps at the safety position on Sunday. Philadelphia native and Eagles newcomer Will Parks will be set to make his debut for the Birds on Sunday. Here's to hoping he receives a good chunk of playing time at safety. He's proven to be a sure tackler.
The Ravens offense is one of the most dynamic, well-run offenses in the league. While they haven’t been the force they were in 2019 so far, playing against this Eagles defense should change that.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has gotten off to a “slow start” as he only has over 1,200 combined passing and rushing yards to go along with 10 touchdowns and just two turnovers. The Eagles used Jalen Hurts as a Lamar Jackson imposter during practice this week, so it’s safe to say that taking Hurts in the second round is finally paying off. If this is your first time reading one of my articles, that was sarcasm.
Baltimore’s main method of attack is through the ground game, as they rank second in the league in rushing yards. Running backs Mark Ingram, rookie J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards are all more than capable of being extremely efficient runners.
The matchup between the Ravens rushing offense and the Eagles run defense is a true strength vs. strength matchup. The Eagles have been one of the best run defenses in all of football since 2016. The key for the Birds defense is going to be making Jackson throw the ball and to make him uncomfortable in the pocket.
The main targets in the passing game for the Ravens are former Oklahoma Sooners Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. Brown is a speedster that is almost guaranteed to cook Jalen Mills on a deep route, and you can take that to the bank.
Andrews has been one of the best red zone tight ends in the league over the past two seasons. If he’s matched up with any Eagles linebacker in coverage, he is going to win every time. Based off of what George Kittle did to the Eagles two weeks ago, Andrews has got to be foaming at the mouth.
If the Eagles can stop the run and keep Lamar Jackson in the pocket, they may just have a shot at winning this game. That, however, is much easier said than done. The Eagles couldn’t keep Russell Wilson in the pocket last year in two games, and Jackson is the best running quarterback since 2004 Michael Vick. Jackson is going to have a field day with Nate Gerry.
Based on how the Eagles played Pittsburgh last week, I have fallen into the toxic trap of believing the Birds may just hang around with Baltimore long enough to steal a win. The Eagles love to make every game interesting, so based off of that fact alone I think this will be a closer game than expected.
I think the Eagles actually take an early lead in the first quarter and go into the half all tied up at 13. Then, after some halftime adjustments, the Ravens offense will start to hum. However, the Eagles offense over the past two weeks has also been much better in the second half.
This game will come down to which defense plays better in the red zone. The Eagles have traditionally been a great red zone defense and offense, but they also haven’t played a team like the Ravens.
Even with Philly fans in the stands to bully the Eagles into playing well, I trust the reigning MVP more than I trust Wentz right now. That pains me to say, but it’s the truth.
The Eagles lose another heartbreaker, as the Ravens win 30-27. Jim Schwartz’s seat will be scorching hot on Monday.
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass
Who needs a linebacker when you can have more PLACE KICKERS. https://t.co/UMdVY07i3d— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) October 15, 2020