Philadelphia Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro provides a closer look at Seattle's Week 11 opponent:
1. Head coach Doug Pederson is a native of Ferndale, Washington and is making his return home. How has he impacted the Eagles in his first year and what do you think it will be like for him to coach in his home state?
Spadaro:He's been through a lot for a rookie head coach. The whole quarterback quandary was a huge story through the spring and summer and then he faced the prospect of elevating a rookie quarterback, Carson Wentz, who had played all of one preseason game, to the starting job eight days before the opening game. He's been a steady and very positive hand. Pederson has restored order to a franchise that was on the edge after the Chip Kelly years. Pederson is a relentlessly optimistic head coach who has a great relationship with the locker room. His players play hard for him. The offensive structure, with limited resources in some areas, has been impressive. Pederson surrounded himself with a good, veteran coaching staff and he's put the Eagles in the playoff hunt.
I don't think coaching in his home state will have much of an impact. Pederson has been around the league long enough to know how it works. This is a business trip, and the Eagles really need a win to improve their playoff chances.
2. Philadelphia's defense has really improved under first-year defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. How has Schwartz made the Eagles one of the most aggressive units in the league?
Spadaro: The scheme is all about attacking, and that fits this front seven very well after three seasons of the "read-and-react" approach under former coordinator Bill Davis. Schwartz's scheme revolves around a good front four, led by tackle Fletcher Cox and end Brandon Graham, and he's got an excellent backend with safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. It's a good defense, one that has been dominating at home and not quite so much on the road. The Eagles are physical and fast. They have been energized under Schwartz.
3. Carson Wentz put together his first game-winning drive last week against the Falcons. What has he improved on throughout the season, and what areas can he get better at?
Spadaro: He came out of the gates playing virtually flawless football, which was impossible to maintain. Wentz has a good command of the offense and of the speed of the game. He's a natural leader. He has all the tools to be a great, great quarterback, and even in times of struggle Wentz has maintained his poise and composure. When he's been in trouble, it's because he's tried to do too much and then his mechanics break down. In two games, against Minnesota and New York, Wentz has thrown a pair of first-quarter interceptions. If he can get out to a strong start, he usually has an excellent game, because he's been so good in the third and fourth quarters. Wentz has been great against the blitz. His work ethic has prepared him for what he sees on game days.
He needs to keep working on his consistency in his mechanics and the Eagles need to add pieces around him. There is every reason to think he can be a great one for years to come.
4. Which rookie do you think the Eagles will rely upon the most in this game?
Spadaro: Wentz, of course, but the Eagles have a pretty lengthy list of rookies who will play significant roles. Right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai replaces Lane Johnson when Johnson was suspended 10 games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy and he's gotten progressively better. Seventh-round draft pick Jalen Mills plays starter's reps at the cornerback position. Fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood is coming on and he runs with burst and power.
5. And lastly, is Seattle's defensive line the biggest test of the season for the Eagles' offensive line?
Spadaro:Minnesota was a great challenge, but that came at Lincoln Financial Field and the Eagles handed the Vikings their first loss of the season. This is an entirely different level of test, though. Seattle's defense is so fast and aggressive and has played together for so long that there are very few openings. The crowd and the energy at CenturyLink Field is, no doubt, a factor.
The Eagles need to come off the ball and be physical. They had five false-start penalties last Sunday in the 24-15 win over Atlanta, when they ran for 208 yards. They can't afford to be so sloppy here. The expectation is that the Eagles will try to get the running game going and take some pressure off of Wentz and an up-and-down passing game that has not had consistent production from the receiving corps. You can't do that if you're facing first-and-15 situations and third-and-long snaps all afternoon.
So, the answer is yes. For a young Eagles offense with a rookie at quarterback and at right tackle, this is an ultimate test to see just how far along the Eagles are in the first season with Doug Pederson running the show as head coach.
Get to know the faces of the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive and defensive units heading into the team's Week 11 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks.