Ah, Eagles week! Getting ready for the NFC East showdown on Sunday night between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles certainly has been fun thus far, hasn't it? Well, let's stoke the fire just a little bit more with this week's 'Five Questions' segment. Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation drops some Eagles knowledge on us.
Ed: I keep reading about how Nick Foles has not been as good this year as he was last year and how 'maybe the Eagles don't have their franchise QB of the future.' What's the deal?
Brandon: The deal is exactly what you have read. Nick Foles has not been as good this year as he was last year. To his credit, he has not had the most ideal situation. Philadelphia's offensive line has been banged up and missing several starters. The Eagles haven't been able to establish an effective running game in order to take pressure off of a struggling Foles.
The third year quarterback hasn't responded strongly to this adversity. The bottom line is that Foles has played five games and he's only turned in one legitimately good performance: Week 3 against Washington. Otherwise he's been really up and down and just flat out ugly at moments. As it stands, Foles does not look like a guy the Eagles are rushing to sign to a massive contract extension. The good news for Foles is that there is still a lot of time left in the season. He has a chance to overcome his early season struggles.
Ed: If you were game-planning against the Eagles where would you try to attack them, both offensively and defensively?
Brandon: Philadelphia's offensive weak point can be found on the interior of their offensive line. The combination of left guard Matt Tobin and center David Molk are major drop-offs from the starting unit of All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis and athletic center Jason Kelce. Opposing teams should look to attack the interior of the Eagles line in order to generate pressure and disrupt the running game.
On defense, Philadelphia's secondary is prone to giving up a lot of yards. Outside of Malcolm Jenkins, there are no surefire studs to be found. Nate Allen is a solid but unspectacular starter who struggles in coverage at times. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are relatively average cornerbacks. Attacking the Eagles through the air is a good bet.
Ed: Name one area where you believe the Eagles have a clear advantage over the Giants?
Brandon: Special teams. I'm firmly convinced Philadelphia owns the best teams special unit in the league right now. They can really do it all. Field goal blocking, field goal kicking, punt blocking, punt return, punt coverage, kick return, kickoff coverage, and so on. You name it, they've done it well. Philadelphia's special teams unit goes beyond luck. They've invested in a number of special teams contributors that have been able to consistently make a difference. Players such as Brad Smith, James Casey, Chris Maragos, Bryan Braman, Trey Burton, Brandon Bair, Chris Polk, etc. are far from household names but they've all been able to make plays. Special teams can make the difference in close games and I think this is an area where the Eagles definitely have a clear edge.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants roster and put him in your lineup who would it be? Why?
Brandon: If Geoff Schwartz wasn't out with an injury, it would have to be him. As I mentioned earlier the Eagles are weak on the interior. Philadelphia could plug Schwartz in at left guard next to left tackle Jason Peters and have a nice combination there. With Schwartz out, however, I'll say wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Eagles wanted him in the draft and he would likely be an upgrade over Riley Cooper. The Giants were able to find themselves a stud play-maker that Philadelphia wanted, and they were able to get him because Eli threw a million interceptions in route to a terrible 2013 season.
Ed: Who are a couple of under-the-radar or lesser-known Eagles who could have a huge impact on the game Sunday night?
Brandon: Second year tight end Zach Ertz is a player to watch out for on offense. His snap count has been down in recent weeks due to his lack of blocking ability but he's a mismatch nightmare as a receiver. Ertz is a great router-runner who can work the middle of the field and find ways to get open. On defense, keep an eye out for Bennie Logan. The second year nose tackle leads all players at his position in tackles. He can stuff the run.
Thanks to Brandon for the insight. Behave yourselves the rest of the week when you visit BGN, please.