The 2021 Eagles are at a bit of a crossroads as they enter their Week 5 matchup with Carolina.
Falling to 1-4 would all but seal the fate of this Eagles squad. Climbing out of a 1-3 hole is hard enough, 1-4 is damn near impossible. A win would swing the momentum in their favor and could serve as a turning point for this young team.
In order to earn their first victory since Week 1, several Eagles will need to show up in Week 5. From veterans to newcomers, there are a bunch of players on this team that have something to prove.
Here are five Eagles players that need to have outstanding performances in Week 5. Not only for the team’s sake, but for their own respectability from this fanbase.
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A lot has been made about Fletcher Cox’s performance through four games this year. He’s clearly not the same player he once was, but it’s hard to imagine he’s a complete dud at this point in his career. A change of scheme has probably played a role in his decline, but some of the blame certainly belongs to Fletcher himself.
Simply put, he hasn’t been good enough this year. Yes, he’s getting double teamed a lot, but that doesn’t excuse his absence on the stat sheet. On the year, he’s only totaled five combined tackles and five pressures on the quarterback (four of them coming in Week 1 against Atlanta). No sacks or quarterback hits to be found on his 2021 stat sheet so far.
That should change this week facing a subpar Carolina offensive line, but it’s far from a guarantee. If the Eagles are to win this game, the defensive line will need a signature performance. Something we haven’t seen so far this year. And for that to happen, the leader of the group is going to need to show up in a big way.
While Darius Slay has been pretty consistent this season, some fans are growing impatient with him. Likely because his defense has gotten absolutely torched over the past two weeks, but it was hardly Slay’s fault.
He allowed two receptions on four targets last week for just 19 yards. His only bad outing came the week prior against Dallas, the only game he’s allowed a passer rating over 65 when targeted this year. But nevertheless, Slay hasn’t created any turnovers this year, and he only has one under his belt during his time as an Eagle.
By no means have the Panthers been careless with the football this year. Their 8.9% turnover percentage is in the bottom third of the NFL. But Sam Darnold proved last week that when he’s under duress, he’s still prone to costly mistakes. He threw two interceptions in the second half last week against Dallas, both to cornerback Trevon Diggs.
The Cowboys were able to get relentless pressure on Darnold and he rewarded their efforts with a few gimmies. Like I said earlier, creating pressure and controlling the line of scrimmage defensively is a huge key in this matchup. Slay, and the rest of the Eagles secondary, will be the beneficiaries if the Eagles defensive line actually shows up.
We all quickly became fans of Alex Singleton during his breakout campaign last year. Once he took over for Nate Gerry, he never looked back and he ended up leading the team in tackles.
It’s been a different story this year.
His 39 overall grade on PFF is among the worst in the league. While he’s been brutal in coverage, allowing 17 receptions on 19 targets for 168 yards and three touchdowns, Singleton’s ability to sniff out ball carriers in the running game was his strength last year, and even that has been terrible in 2021.
He’s missed 13% of his tackle attempts through four games. That has to get better, there’s no way around it. Singleton’s future with the team could be in jeopardy if he continues to play this poorly. In all honesty, he might not even finish the year as a starter if it continues.
A big game from Singleton is a necessity in this one.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why Miles Sanders has been faded out of Nick Sirianni’s offense this year. Maybe it’s the emergence of Kenny Gainwell, maybe it’s the odd fit in Sirianni’s system. Whatever it is, Sanders is in desperate need of a big game in Week 5.
Sirianni obviously doesn’t like to run the ball much, so Sanders’ limited touches aren’t all on him. But if the Eagles are able to get a lead on Carolina, look for Sirianni to use a heavy dose of Sanders. When utilized consistently, the Eagles have one of the best running games in all of football. Jalen Hurts’ legs play a role in that, but it’s also because Sanders is one of the more explosive backs in the league.
Although I don’t have any evidence to prove it, this feels like the game where Sirianni finally commits to running the football a little bit. He’s been dragged through the mud for his unwillingness to run it. And I’m sure he’s starting to hear the concerns.
Sanders hasn’t had a signature performance yet this season, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it happens this week.
We know that DeVonta Smith is a legit NFL wide receiver, but a season and some change into Jalen Reagor’s career we still don’t know what his ceiling is in the NFL.
He’s certainly done better in year two than last year, catching 14 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. But where’s that explosion so many scouts talked about when he was coming out of college? His longest reception on the year is just 24 yards and he averages a modest 5.8 YAC per reception.
Reagor has had to play more on the outside this season than many anticipated, mostly because the team doesn’t really have a suitable X receiver on the roster. He hasn’t been bad on the outside, and we shouldn’t give up on the kid, but he does need to show more explosion moving forward.
Smith is the steady receptions guy in this offense, someone who can consistently move the sticks. Reagor should fit nicely next to him as someone who can take the top off a defense at any given time. Quez Watkins has been the big play threat so far this season, but that doesn’t mean Reagor can’t do the same from his position.
Having two guys who can consistently beat their corners deep is invaluable for an offense. Reagor needs to prove he can be that guy. Otherwise, Watkins will slowly start to take that role for himself.
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