Still a game and a half out of first place in the NFC East the Eagles face a tough test today in the Green Bay Packers as they try to inch closer to the top of the Division with the Dallas Cowboys in the lead.
The test got a little easier today for the Eagles because they will not be going up against Aaron Rodgers who is out due to a fracture in his collarbone. Instead Seneca Wallace will get the nod. Wallace is an NFL journey man who has spent time on 5 different NFL teams but a majority with the Seattle Seahawks and the Cleveland Browns. Wallace originally a 4th round pick out of Iowa State by the Seahawks but never adjusted to the NFL thus being a backup today.
Eagles players ought to be careful though not to get complacent and think this game will be an easy one. You often see in sports a team will play harder after a key player is lost due to injury for a short amount of time. It’s kind of like an adrenaline rush, but once the team realizes it’s struggles without this player they come back down to earth. So the key for the Eagles today will be to come out firing on all cylinders. They need to put their foot on the throats of the Packers early to try to kill any extra motivation Packer players may have today.
This will be tough nonetheless because the packers are good at man-to-man defense with Williams and Shields at cornerback. Both players run a 4.4-40 and will be able to keep up with any Eagles receiver. They also have another good corner in Hayward.
It will be key to get ‘Shady’ going early and often to keep All-pro linebacker Clay Mathews honest. Mathews is back this week after being out with a hand injury. If the Eagles are not able to do this it may very well be a long day for rookie right tackle Lane Johnson going up against Mathews and potentially making things even more complicated for Nick Foles.
As I just mentioned the Eagles would be smart to get McCoy going and back to where he was early in the season. This may prove to be difficult though. If you remember when the Eagles played the Kansas City Chiefs you’d should have noticed Dontari Poe giving the Eagles interior line man fits all game and in particular Jason Kelce. Kelce had struggled against mammoths in the past. Today, everyone on the Packers defensive line are big. The starters average a weight of 334 and their subs all above 285.
Also, a way to counter those behemoth mammals on that Packers defensive line wold be to go at a very fast pace such as we saw against the Redskins and Raiders. Execution will dictate whether or not the Eagles will be able to go at this fast and furious pace.
Now let’s get to the defense for the Eagles. With Wallace starting the scheme for the Eagles will be very different from the way they would try to handle Rodgers. I’d look for the Eagles to try and keep Wallace in the pocket on pass plays and take away the short and intermediate routes. Wallace is not a good passer at all and he can’t throw deep.
Of course since the Packers are without Rodgers they probably will look to lean on the run game more. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy has broken out in the past couple of weeks proving himself to the NFL. In Lacy’s past 5 games he has rushed for 545 yards and has gotten 20+ carries in each of those games. In fact just this past week he ran over a usually pretty solid defense in the Chicago Bears for 150 yards and a TD. Lacy will be a tough tackle as he weighs in at 230 lbs, runs a 4.44-40 and has very powerful legs. The kid is a tank.
Let’s not forget about the weapons at wide out either. Jordy Nelson and James Jones pose as big threats. Both Nelson and Jones are off to good starts this season for the Packers.
As long as Lacy is contained and the short and intermediate routes are taken away then this Eagles defense should be fine but it will be a tough task even without facing Rodgers. I’m still worried about the offense though even with Foles performance last week. Throwing the ball will get you through here and there but ultimately you need to be able to run the ball eventually and when needed the most. Nothing in this game suggest that the running game will be back this week for the Eagles.