We are (already) at the halfway point of the season, and the Jacksonville Jaguars make the annual trip to London in Week 8 to take on the Philadelphia Eagles. This is a must-win game for both teams, as each squad looks to get back to .500 and salvage the season.
This week we’re talking to the one and only Brandon Lee Gowton, managing editor of SB Nation’s Bleeding Green Nation, one of the most informative Philadelphia Eagles blogs on the internet. Let’s see what he had to say below:
1. Of course, both the Jaguars and Eagles had high expectations entering the season, as Philadelphia won Super Bowl LII, and Jacksonville was literally minutes away from playing in the same game. Through the first seven games of the 2018 season, both teams have disappointing 3-4 records. What has gone wrong on Philly’s end so far, and what would like you to see improved?
Toxic differential has a lot to do with the Eagles’ struggles. For those unfamiliar, toxic differential is the combination of turnover differential and big play differential.
The Eagles have been OK at protecting the ball (18th in giveaways) but they rank towards the bottom of the league in forcing turnovers (24th in takeaways). The Eagles also haven’t been generating enough big plays on offense (19th) while allowing too many on defense (27th).
I’d obviously like to see them improve in these areas. My confidence level in that happening isn’t extremely high. The Eagles don’t have a reliable big play threat on offense. Defensively, the cornerbacks have shown they’re vulnerable to giving up explosive plays.
2. This will be Philadelphia’s first international game, while it is the sixth for the Jaguars (all in London). The Jaguars have played very well across the pond the past three years, and the majority of players are likely used to the experience. Do you think the Eagles are at a disadvantage dealing with the travel, jet lag and different atmosphere in a game like this, or is that not a concern?
I think that’s a significant factor working in the Jaguars’ favor.
The Eagles are already a much more vulnerable team when they’re playing away from Lincoln Financial Field. Add in the new London travel element and that might just make matters worse.
3. How has Carson Wentz looked since returning from a torn ACL? The high-level statistics seem to be pretty much on par, but is he looking comfortable in the pocket and making the same kind of plays he was prior to the injury? What have you seen from Wentz?
Carson Wentz has looked great. I think he’s struggled a little bit when it comes to extending plays but not in a major way. He’s still very much capable of doing it.
The fact that Wentz has completed 70.8% of his passes for 1,502 yards (7.7 average), 10 touchdowns, one interception, and a 108.1 passer rating is even more impressive when you consider the context. He’s coming off an ACL injury and he’s been working with a surrounding situation that’s not exactly ideal. The offensive line has settled in a bit more recently, but Wentz was dealing with a lot of hits and sacks earlier in his return. He’s also had to deal with a number of drops in key situations and a general lack of explosive play-makers.
Wentz’s presence provides hope that the Eagles’ season isn’t over despite the fact the team is off to a disappointing 3-4 start. He’s going to make them competitive, at the very least, on a weekly basis.
4. Speaking of torn ACLs, how has Philadelphia performed in the running game in Jay Ajayi’s absence? Is it more of a committee approach now?
The Eagles do split up their running back touches but it’s clear Wendell Smallwood is the lead guy in the rotation right now. Heading into the season, Smallwood wasn’t even a lock to make the roster. He won the fourth running back merely by not being as unimpressive as everyone else. Smallwood has been solid this season, especially relative to expectations. But his limitations are apparent. He’ll run hard, yeah, but he’s not a threat to break off an explosive play.
Corey Clement has been the second guy up in the rotation recently. It appears he might not be 100% considering he missed some time with a quadricep injury earlier this year. Clement only gained six yards on eight attempts against the Panthers in Week 7. He also fumbled once.
Josh Adams is the third healthy running back on Philadelphia’s roster. The 2018 undrafted rookie free agent signing is good for several carries a game, at best. He’s been a non-factor as a receiver.
Overall, the Eagles’ running back group isn’t super inspiring. Missing Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles certainly isn’t helping matters.
5. Defensively, the Eagles are No. 2 in the NFL against the run, but No. 24 against the pass. The Jaguars are the opposite, No. 1 against the pass and No. 25 against the rush. Which defensive unit would you give the advantage to and why?
I’ll give the Jags the advantage here. It’s not like it takes a great run defense to contain the Eagles’ rushing attack right now.
Another specific matchup that concerns me is Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell going up against the Eagles’ banged up offensive tackles. Jason Peters is playing through a quadriceps issue and a torn biceps injury. Lane Johnson is playing through a high ankle sprain. On the flip side, the Eagles should be able to generate pressure against a banged up Jaguars offensive line.
Bonus: score prediction?
I honestly don’t even know what to make of this Eagles team after last week. It truly looked like their season was back on track after jumping out to a 17-0 lead on the Panthers. But then they just blew it. Just like they blew a lead to the Titans in Week 4.
I’m feeling down on the Eagles, but it’s hard for me to take the team with Blake Bortles over Carson Wentz. I know Bortles has played well in London during his last three games overseas but still. I’ll say this is an ugly game where the Eagles just eke out a victory. 20-19.
Thank you to Brandon for providing great insights into the Philadelphia Eagles and this weekend’s matchup. Give him a follow on Twitter, and be sure to hit the follow button for Bleeding Green Nation as well.