The Eagles will travel down the North Carolina this weekend to take on the 3-1 Panthers. Philly has lost three straight games and have been outscored 100-62 in those contests. On the other hand, Carolina is fresh off their first loss of the season, losing 36-28 to the Dallas Cowboys.
There are a handful of matchups to keep an eye on in this game, so let’s get into some of the more interesting ones.
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Sam Darnold vs. Eagles suspect pass defense
Through the first two weeks, the Eagles secondary was actually pretty solid. But it’s been completely exposed over the past two weeks. While they are able to limit big plays, they’ve failed to create incompletions and their bend but don’t break approach has back fired a bit.
Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes combined to go 45-for-56 for 516 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception. That’s not a ton of yardage — 258 yards average over the past two weeks — but the 80% completion percentage is inexcusable.
Sam Darnold isn’t on the same level as Prescott or Mahomes, but he’s certainly capable of taking what the defense gives him and allowing his playmakers to rack up yards after the catch.
Creating more pressure or mixing up coverages could help the situation, but Jonathan Gannon hasn’t been willing to change much schematically through four weeks. Regardless, it feels like more of a personnel problem. The secondary will need to tighten up their coverage this week if they want to contain Carolina’s attack.
D.J. Moore vs. Darius Slay
Darius Slay received some heat this week following Sunday’s loss. But the truth is, he’s been a very reliable corner for the Eagles since they acquired him in 2019. Against Kansas City, Slay only surrendered two receptions for 19 yards.
This week, he’ll likely draw the D.J. Moore assignment, one of the best young wideouts in the league, specifically on yards after the catch. He’s racked up 163 YAC on the season, averaging 5.4 YAC per reception. In total, Moore has accumulated 30 receptions for 398 yards and three touchdowns on the year.
Moore is the clear focal point of Carolina’s passing attack. He’s accounted for 35.5% of the Panthers’ passing yardage this season.
Slay has only had one poor performance this season, Week 3 against Dallas. And the entire team had a bad outing in that contest. He hasn’t allowed a passer rating over 70 when targeted in any other game this year.
If the Eagles defense is going to have a bounce back game in this one, containing Moore will need to be the top priority. It’ll be up to Slay to bring his A-game.
Jalen Hurts vs. stout Carolina pass defense
Unlike the Eagles, Carolina possesses one of the best pass defenses in all of football. They’ve given up 626 passing yards on the year, second-lowest in the NFL. With a mix of young playmakers like Jeremy Chinn and Donte Jackson, along with solid veterans like A.J. Bouye, Carolina’s secondary has been up to par through four games.
But the real key to their success against the pass has been their relentless pass rush. Through four games, they’ve tallied 14 sacks as a unit, second-most in the league. Their 37.8% pressure rate is the highest in football, along with their blitz percentage of 41.7%. They throw a lot of different looks at quarterbacks. For an inexperienced quarterback like Jalen Hurts, a game like this could get ugly quick.
So far, Hurts has been a mixed bag. He’s been great against bad defenses and bad against good defenses. This week, he’ll face arguably the best defensive unit he’s seen so far this season. So if trends tell us anything, you don’t need to be a genius to predict how this game may unfold.
It’s imperative for Sirianni to put Hurts in favorable positions throughout this game. He cannot pass it upwards of 50 times. That’s just too many drop backs when facing a defense like this one. Not only because of Hurts’ inexperience, but the team could be rolling with 3-4 backup offensive lineman again.
Passing the ball more than 40 times would just give Carolina too many opportunities to create turnovers or make big plays. Throwing it all over the yard would just play right into Carolina’s strength.
This will certainly be the biggest test for Hurts and this offense up to this point.
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