We did this recently and obviously we are doing it again.
The Seattle Seahawks head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles for the second time in the last two months, and this time they’re playing for the right to see which team is a huge underdog in the divisional round. If a trap game is a trap game for both teams, then who is the one getting trapped?
That’s what we find out on Sunday but to find out some stuff prior to then, I sent 5 Qs to the incredible Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation. In kind, he sent me 5 corresponding As.
Let’s do this one more time. I answered 5 Qs from Brandon that you can read right here.
Q: JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward, Jr. I barely know how to understand that in the context of a bad team, let alone one that won the division. What’s your eval of these two receivers headed into Sunday and am I missing something? Is there another wide receiver besides those two who could contribute, if those two are expected to contribute much at all?
A: JJAW has underwhelmed. The 2019 second-round pick only ha 10 receptions for 169 yards and one touchdown despite playing 486 offensive snaps this season. DK Metcalf, who was drafted after JJAW, has 58 reception for 900 yard and seven touchdowns in 927 snaps. JJAW has noticeably struggled to look comfortable in the offense. There have been times where it just doesn’t look like he knows what he’s doing out there. He tripped up Andre Dillard in Week 12, leading to Carson Wentz to get strip-sacked. He also almost ran into Dallas Goedert during a crucial conversion in Week 15. JJAW has also dropped a couple touchdown catches this season.
As for Ward, he had a nice training camp/preseason in his third offseason with the Eagles. There was thought the Eagles should keep him on their roster but he began the season on the practice squad instead. The Eagles eventually gave him a real chance on the roster in Week 12 and he’s since been a reliable chain mover for this team: 18 of Ward’s 28 receptions have gone for first downs. He’s not super explosive or flashy but he’s a slot receiver who just knows how to get open. His ability to actually catch the football is pretty refreshing after previously having to watch so many critical drops.
I don’t think JJAW will play much against the Seahawks. He’s been dealing with a foot injury and didn’t see a target in his 17 snaps played during Week 17.
Ward will likely lead all Eagles receivers in snaps. The other three guys to watch include Robert Davis, Deontay Burnett, and the recently re-signed Shelton Gibson … in that order. Davis made a real nice 39-yard contested grab that was wiped out by a holding penalty in Week 17 so he has some kind of ability. Burnett made a great diving catch for a 41-yard gain that actually counted. If you watch his highlights, you’ll see that that play wasn’t a fluke. He’s capable of making some tough catches. I can’t imagine Gibson will play a ton on offense, if at all, but he can theoretically stretch the field. He’s the only receiver on the roster who possesses that quality … which isn’t exactly ideal.
Well, really, nothing about this wide receiver situation is ideal. It’s pretty crazy that the Eagles’ coaching staff and Carson Wentz have been finding a way to win with this group.
Q: Miles Sanders had 50 touches for 328 yards and three touchdowns in two critical wins over the Cowboys and Washington. He pops up as a contributor here and there but it doesn’t seem to be consistent. What allows Sanders to have a productive day vs an unproductive day and how much would you expect from Boston Scott or Jordan Howard this week -- both in the case that Sanders does play or if he doesn’t, then what’s the expected breakdown?
A: I do think Sanders plays this week. Doug Pederson said the team got “good news” on his ankle injury on Monday. Media reports also point to him playing. But we’ll see.
Sanders has made real encouraging progress over the course of the season. I actually think he’s been pretty consistent down the stretch. He was looking pretty great early on in Week 17 before getting hurt. He’s shown much more decisiveness as a runner after previously dancing around too much early in the season. He also looks natural as a weapon in the passing game.
I expect Sanders to have a significant role on Sunday, though I suppose his touches could be limited to some extent based on the severity of his injury. Reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week Boston Scott figures to have the second most touches behind Sanders … or the most if Sanders doesn’t play/gets re-injured. I don’t envision a big role for Jordan Howard considering he only played one snap in Week 17. He might play a little more than that but not some kind of major role.
Q: Zach Ertz missed the last game and it doesn’t seem as though there is a high expectation of him returning this weekend. As an Eagles fan, how compelled are you to hope that Ertz rests his lacerated kidney some more, or does it seem as though it could be safe for him to play? If he doesn’t play, going back to question one, just where in the world does Carson Wentz turn to next? Dallas Goedert caught 4 of 10 targets against the Giants, does he give you confidence at the position as a starter? Who is Josh Perkins?
A: As of Wednesday morning, Ertz hasn’t been medically cleared for contact. I’m not expecting him to play on Sunday but the team seems to have some genuine optimism he could suit up. To no surprise, lacerated kidneys have been season-ending injuries for the other players who’ve previously suffered them. Seems like it’s pretty dangerous for him to be out there, definitely don’t want Ertz to die on the field.
If Ertz can’t suit up, the Eagles will be down to Dallas Goedert, Joshua Perkins, and Richard Rodgers at tight end. Goedert’s made some key plays during the Eagles’ four-game winning streak and he had the best game of his career against Dallas. He’s trending in the right direction; there’s confidence he can be an effective contributor.
Perkins began the season on the practice squad before being promoted in Week 13. The team views him as a hybrid receiver/tight end. He’s been pretty poor as a blocker but he can contribute to some extent in the passing attack. Perkins’ contributions aren’t going to be flashy but he can help move the chains and actually catch the ball. The team has been able to scheme him open.
Rodgers is mostly just a blocker in 13 personnel and a special teams contributor.
Q: The Eagles didn’t seem to vastly struggle anywhere. In fact, they might be the most legitimate 9-7 team in the NFL. Like, that seems the perfect record for them. However, before the season I predicted that Philadelphia would win the Super Bowl. Is that team still in there somewhere? Do you expect that this Eagles team could come together at the right time and make a run or is this maybe a 1-2 week horse race for 6th place?
A: It’s hard to feel like the Eagles are primed for a Super Bowl run given the myriad of injuries they’ve suffered. The team has been remarkably resilient to make it as far as they have but it feels like the injuries are going to be too much to overcome at some point.
With that said, the Eagles have been most dangerous over the past few seasons when everyone’s counted them out. They’ve struggled to live up to expectations when they’re favored but they’re being really good when it comes to relishing the underdog role. One should only doubt the Eagles at their own peril.
Given the way they’ve played lately, I do think the Eagles are capable of going on a run.
The head coach-quarterback combination of Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz is looking pretty good. The Eagles have had four consecutive games with 400+ yards of total offense, which is tied for the third-longest streak in franchise history.
Jim Schwartz’s defense has allowed 17 points or fewer in seven of the team’s last nine games. The defense has been especially good at home, where they’re allowing just under 17 points per game on the season.
If the Eagles can somehow beat the Seahawks — which certainly won’t be easy considering it’s something they’ve never done with Russell Wilson under center — they might be getting DeSean Jackson back for the divisional round. He’s eligible to be activated from injured reserve next week. His return would be such a big deal for a team that severely lacks 1) wide receiver talent in general and 2) a legitimate deep threat. Jackson and Wentz looked like a pretty awesome pairing when they last played together in Week 1.
The Eagles have a puncher’s chance at the very least.
Q: The entire rest of the NFC East is getting new head coaches, starting with Ron Rivera in Washington and perhaps Matt Rhule in New York. Does that give you more concern for next season or less? The fact that Jason Garrett is also gone, probably more concern I’m guessing.
A: More concern, for sure.
I think Rivera is a good hire for Washington. He’s probably the best option they could’ve realistically attached to DC. Rivera brings some credibility to an organization that desperately lacks it. I still have my doubts about Washington ever being a true contender as long as Dan Snyder owns the team. But WASTEAM should be more respectable in 2020.
I think Rhule would be the best hire the Giants could make and I’m worried that’ll happen. He’s done a great job of turning college programs around. If someone could fix the Giants, it might just be him.
We’ll see what happens in Dallas. They have a real interesting offseason ahead of them with not only the coaching decision but major contract decisions as well.
Regardless of what happens, I still feel good about the long-term state of the Eagles with Pederson and Wentz at the helm. Even if the Eagles lose to the Seahawks, that combo has eliminated all doubt that they’re the right guys for the job.