The Seahawks travel to Philadelphia this weekend trying to improve upon a 5-0 road record and an 8-2 overall record, and will face an Eagles team that is still trying to hit its stride after a 5-5 start to the season. To learn more about this week's opponent, we reached out to philadelphiaeagles.com Eagles insider Dave Spadaro with five questions about the Eagles:
With a 5-5, record, some impressive wins and some head-scratching losses, what should we make of the 2019 Eagles? A .500 record isn't what people were expecting there, but then again, they're right in the hunt in the NFC East.
Spadaro: I wish I could tell you what to make of this football team. Expectations were sky high to begin the season. The roster was carefully assembled, creatively done, meticulously considered and the Eagles appeared to have everything in place. And then the injuries started happening and it's been up and down and up and down. At 5-5, the Eagles know that a win on Sunday would point them in the right direction with a season-ending schedule (at Miami, home and home with the Giants, home with Dallas, at Washington) that appears to be favorable. The Eagles already have four losses in the conference. Can't afford another one.
At this point, the Eagles are led by a defense that has improved quite a bit. The offense has struggled to score points all year.
The Eagles went from allowing 38 and 37 points in Weeks 6 and 7 to holding opponents to 17 or fewer points and fewer than 300 yards in three straight games. What has gone into the defense's improvement?
Spadaro: Injuries, particularly throughout the secondary, hampered the defense for the first half of the season. They've gotten some key players back in the last few weeks – cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox. Linebacker Nigel Bradham should play Sunday for the first time after missing four straight games, barring a late-week setback. Tackle Tim Jernigan has played the last few games. It helps.
It has also helped that the most recent three offenses the Eagles have faced – Buffalo, Chicago and New England – aren't at the caliber of Minnesota and Dallas, the teams that scored all those points on the Eagles. This is a defense that hasn't consistently won at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles have largely been solid against the run, but they have struggled to get to the quarterback and, thus, the secondary has paid the price. The defense the Seahawks will see on Sunday should be as healthy as its been all season.
On the flip side of that, how concerned is the team about a 10-point showing against New England? Did that game highlight problems with the offense, or is more just a case of playing a great defense?
Spadaro: The offense was expected to be a high-wire act with so many options and, honestly, the question the media in Philadelphia asked the most in the preseason was: How are the Eagles going to make so many playmakers happy with only one football? Well, it hasn't worked out that way. Losing big-play receiver DeSean Jackson robbed the offense of vertical speed and a deep threat. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has been banged up for much of the season and his numbers have dropped. Slot receiver Nelson Agholor has been inconsistent catching the football. Quarterback Carson Wentz has been good at times and he's tried to do too much at other times. Against the Patriots, after scoring a touchdown on a 95-yard, 16-play drive, the offense was basically stagnant for two full quarters.
What do the Eagles do well? They've got a very, very good offensive line. They've shown they can run the football, but again that's a question mark with Jordan Howard, who is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. The two tight ends, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, are a terrific tandem and the Eagles have relied on them quite a bit.
To answer your question, give New England all kinds of respect for the defense played last week. But the Eagles didn't help themselves, and haven't helped them all season, with dropped passes and too many penalties.
The Eagles seem to have gotten a lot of production from the running game in their victories, how important is it to get the ground game going this week?
Spadaro: It's the strength of the offense. But Howard is a question mark. The team signed Jay Ajayi last week, and he hasn't played since October, 2018. Rookie Miles Sanders is a great talent and he's got a chance to be special, but he's still in his first NFL season. The Eagles have to run the ball well here to beat Seattle.
With right tackle Lane Johnson out with a concussion, how ready is Woodinville native and former WSU standout Andre Dillard to go against a Seahawks pass rush that seems to be hitting its stride?
Spadaro: Dillard is taking reps at right tackle for the first time all season. He's played pretty well at left tackle, as the first-round draft pick has displayed great footwork and improved technique. The Eagles think he can be a top-notch tackle. Seattle will test him with some power rush moves, something Dillard much improve upon. He's off to a good start in his career. Dealing with someone like Jadeveon Clowney would be, obviously, a different kind of test. Everyone saw Clowney dominate the 49ers. He's a beast.
The Seahawks and the Eagles will meet this Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field for the twelfth week of the 2019 season. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.