Birds Under the Bright Lights
Entering the season, the Eagles had hopes of contending for the Super Bowl. While that outcome is still possible, their 2019 campaign through three weeks has been nothing short of disappointing. Injuries have been part of the problem, but crucial late game failures have also contributed to the losses. Last week they managed to lose as home favorites to the Detroit Lions despite blocking an attempted field goal towards the end of regulation.
The Eagles have no time to reflect on that performance as they are slated to travel to Lambeau field and play the Green Bay Packers in primetime on Thursday Night Football. A nation of NFL fans will be watching, and as underdogs the entire team is under scrutiny to hold their own against an undefeated Packers team. Below are some players who will be facing the most pressure in the Thursday night matchup.
Mack Hollins/J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
The position where injuries have done their most damage to the Eagles is at wide receiver. While there is a possibility that Alshon Jeffery returns this week, DeSean Jackson will once again be sidelined. With the short week, it’s far from a guarantee that Jeffery returns to action. In that case, the responsibility will fall on receivers Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to play opposite Nelson Agholor, who now has two productive games in a row.
Hollins caught four of seven targets on Sunday for 62 yards. Meanwhile, Arcega-Whiteside only caught one of three targets for 10 yards including a pivotal drop at the end of the game. Additionally, Arcega-Whiteside is rumored to have a heel injury entering week 4. One of these players will need to step up against a stingy Green Bay secondary as Zach Ertz will likely attract double teams for much of the night.
A defense that was expected to be stout has proven to be anything but through the first three weeks. Part of their struggles can be attributed to Fletcher Cox, who led the team with 10.5 sacks last year but has yet to register a quarterback takedown this season. When asked about his poor play this season, the star defensive tackle said “I will be better. I didn’t get any preseason action and I think the biggest thing for me right now is be a pro about it, approach it everyday and attack it and get ready for next week.”
Everything the Eagles want to do defensively starts with his massive presence up front. With two capable running backs to fend with on the Packers side in Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, as well as the elite Aaron Rodgers, the pressure will be on for Fletcher Cox to help get this defense back on track.
The Eagles rookie running back was at his most productive last week, amassing 53 yards on the ground and 73 yards through the air. However, ball security proved to be an issue as he fumbled the rock twice, one instance leading to a recovery by the Lions. Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh was supportive of the rookie, facetiously mentioning that Sanders “is not the first guy to fumble in the history of the NFL”.
Jokes aside, Miles Sanders will need to improve in this area of the game against a Packers defense that is leading the league in takeaways through three games. Carries have been equally split in the Eagles backfield between Sanders, Howard, and Sproles so far but the rookie from Penn State has easily been the most electric. The pressure is on for him to play mistake free on Thursday.