The Seahawks (7-3) are headed to Philadelphia to face off against the Eagles (3-6-1) on Monday Night Football. Seattle is 2-3 in road games this year, while Philadelphia holds a 2-2-1 record at home. To learn more about this week's opponent, Seahawks.com reached out to PhiladelphiaEagles.com Insider Dave Spadaro with five questions about the Eagles:
1. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson spoke optimistically about the return of tight end Zach Ertz for Monday Night Football. He missed four games with an ankle injury - how has his absence impacted the Eagles offense? What might we expect from his return?
The offense has not found its rhythm, literally, since late in the first half of the opener at Washington. The Eagles scored a touchdown on their first offensive possession and a field on their second and another touchdown on their fourth possession and they led Washington 17-0 and, wow, the offense looked fantastic. And then Carson Wentz threw an interception, Washington scored, and the offense has been out of sync ever since. With Ertz, without him, it hasn't mattered. They've been very poor on third downs – because they've struggled so much on first and second downs – and they have lacked explosiveness. The tight end play without Ertz has been OK – Richard Rodgers stepped in and did a good job teaming with Dallas Goedert – but the Eagles are playing from behind too much, they've had way too many turnovers and Wentz has been one of the poorest quarterbacks in the league statistically and production-wise.
Should Ertz return on Monday night, he provides a security blanket for Wentz. The two have developed an incredible chemistry through the years. That will help and, certainly, Seattle will have to account for Ertz. But to think his return would make all the difference to the offense, that's a stretch. It comes down to Wentz playing much better than he's played since those first 28 minutes of the regular season.
2. Philadelphia is ranked 11th in rush DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. They're 25th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and have allowed just 4.2 yards per rush. What and/or who has been the key to stopping the run this season?
They've done a decent job against running backs this season, but the defense has had all kinds of trouble handling misdirection and quarterbacks and their mobility. Baltimore's Lamar Jackson ran for 108 yards and a touchdown and a win over the Eagles. Giants' quarterback Daniel Jones had two big games running the football against this defense. Wide receivers have taken jet sweeps and pitches for big gains and touchdowns. Last week's game in Cleveland was a prime example of a defense that did a nice job holding up against the Browns' punishing running game – until late in the game when Nick Chubb broke off a 54-yard run and Kareem Hunt finished the drive with a touchdown run and all of a sudden the Browns had 134 rushing yards. The Eagles invested in defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to team with Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson at tackle, and the results have been less than expected. The linebacking corps is non-descript. The run defense is allowing 44.8 yards more per game than in 2019.
3. Defensive end Brandon Graham is leading the Eagles with 7 sacks this season. How do you feel about the team's pass rush at this point in the season? What's the key to getting pressure on Russell Wilson this Monday?
The pass rush and the defensive line have been the strong points for this defense and, really, when the defensive line dominates, the Eagles have a chance defensively. When it hasn't dominated, the defense has struggled. Graham has never had double-digit sacks nor has he been voted to the Pro Bowl, and this year, at age 32, he's having his best season. He plays with great energy and is a team leader. Seattle knows all about him and all about this pass rush. And the Eagles know all about Wilson, who is unbeaten against the Eagles. He's confounding. The Eagles have had success against him and they also have been left empty-handed trying to contain him in the backfield. They can't give him running lanes, of course, but that's easier said than done. The Eagles have to win one-on-one battles and they have to be remarkably disciplined against Wilson, who is going to use his mobility and bootlegs and the play-action passing game to look for an advantage against Philadelphia. Russell Wilson drives the Eagles crazy. It's as simple as that.
4.The Seahawks and Eagles have both struggled with turnovers at times during the season. What do the Eagles need to do to improve on those numbers?
Turnovers have killed this offense. And Wentz, who had thrown seven interceptions in each of the last three years, leads the league with 14. He's holding on to the ball too long and he's been inaccurate working with a young group of wide receivers. The offensive line will start its 10th different combination in 11 games on Monday night. The Eagles need to stay ahead of the sticks and be patient and take what Seattle's defense gives them. The Seahawks are going to go after Wentz and attack the line of scrimmage. Why not? The Eagles haven't scared any defense with big plays in the vertical passing game. It's a tall challenge for the mistake-plagued Eagles offense.
5. What matchups are you most interested to see this week?
Obviously, Wentz against the blitz is huge. He used to be among the best in the league handling the blitz. Not this season. I want to see how the Eagles use their defensive line to win in the trenches – this is, when it is playing well, a terrific defensive line – and chase down Wilson. The best individual matchup may be cornerback Darius Slay against wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, who just wins every battle down the field. The Eagles traded for Slay with the idea that he would shut down receivers like Metcalf. Of course, the Eagles have had trouble with other receivers, so how they handle Tyler Lockett and Co. is going to be a huge component in this football game.
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