As we do leading up to most games, we got an opportunity to exchange some questions with the folks that write about the Minnesota Vikings’ upcoming opponent. This week is no different, as I got the opportunity to swap questions from Brandon Gowton from Bleeding Green Nation, SB Nation’s home for the Philadelphia Eagles. You can see the answers that I provided to his questions right here, and here are the questions that he answered for me.
1) After winning the Super Bowl last season, John DeFilippo was hired by the Vikings to be their offensive coordinator after serving as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach. Can any of the fairly low output of the Eagles’ offense so far this season be attributed to his departure and/or the departure of offensive coordinator Frank Reich?
It’s certainly a fair question.
It’d be naive to say the Eagles don’t miss those guys. As evidenced by last year, Flip and Reich are good coaches. In the specific case of Flip, he was heavily involved with Philadelphia’s red zone offense. The Eagles ranked second in red zone conversion rate in 2017 (64.06%) while they’re currently tied for 16th in 2018 (57.14%).
But it’s not like the absences of those guys solely explain why the Eagles have taken a step back. Some of the low output is simply due to natural regression. Injuries have also played a major factor in the slow start. Carson Wentz obviously didn’t return to the field until Week 3. There were also times in the first four games where the Eagles were without three of their top four receivers AND their top two running backs. The Eagles were relying on guys like Kamar Aiken and Joshua Perkins to play major snaps for them. You’re just not going to have a great offense if that’s what you’re working with. The Eagles’ offensive line underperforming certainly hasn’t helped matters either.
One of the biggest areas where the Reich/Flip losses might be felt is game management. It’s hard to say exactly how much input they had there but it seems like Doug Pederson has made some unusually questionable decisions this season. Maybe that’d be different with Reich and/or Flip helping Pederson on game day.
2) The Eagles kept Carson Wentz on the bench for the first two weeks of the season, but he’s started the past two weeks. Do you think he’s at 100% yet?
I can’t say he’s fully 100% after watching him get caught from behind by a Titans defensive lineman on a play where he had a ton of room to run ahead of him last Sunday. He looks a little slower than normal in that regard, long speed wise.
But that’s kind of a nitpick. Overall, he looks damn near close to 100%. He arguably played one of the best games of his career against the Titans in Week 4. No issues with his arm strength. He’s been pretty sharp accuracy wise. Still elusive in the pocket. The mental rust that he struggled with in Week 3 appears to be gone.
I feel pretty good about Wentz’s outlook moving forward. The Eagles just need to do a better job of protecting him. He’s been sacked six times and hit 18 times in the past two weeks.
3) If you could take one player off of the Vikings’ roster and move him to Philadelphia, who would it be and why?
Well, I certainly wouldn’t mind the Eagles having a starting wide receiving corps of Alshon Jeffery, Adam Thielen (or Stefon Diggs, but I’ll take Thielen over him), and Nelson Agholor. That’s fun to think about.
But that’s more of a luxury pick than a necessity pick right now. The Eagles really need some help in the secondary with Rodney McLeod on injured reserve. In Week 4, Philadelphia was forced to start 33-year-old Corey Graham at safety. It didn’t work out too well for the Eagles’ secondary as they surrendered a number of big plays through the air. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz even admitted playing Graham that much isn’t ideal. It appears the Eagles are going to try to move forward with 2018 fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox, who has never played safety in his life until last week, playing on the back end of the defense. I mean, maybe it works, but that’s far from a sure bet. With that in mind, it could be real nice to have Harrison Smith paired up with Malcolm Jenkins. Some Eagles fans who desperately want to see Jalen Mills benched would go with Xavier Rhodes.
I think I’ll ultimately have to go with Sheldon Richardson, though. The Eagles aren’t really getting anything out of their defensive tackles not named Fletcher Cox. With Timmy Jernigan potentially not playing this season, it’d be nice to fortify that spot with a player of Richardson’s talent. The Eagles ultimately made it to the Super Bowl and won because they could generate a ton of pressure. Richardson would help the Eagles in that regard. According to PFF, his pressure rate ranks ninth among 46 interior defenders who have played at least 50% of a team’s defensive snaps this season. It’d be nice to pair him up with Cox, who ranks sixth overall.
4) What worries you the most about the Vikings going into this week’s game?
Definitely the Vikings’ passing attack. Kurt Cousins has played well against Philadelphia’s defense in the past: 64.4% completion for 2,122 yards, 16 touchdowns, five interceptions, and a 99.7 passer rating. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Kirby have a big game against an Eagles secondary that’s been struggling. Kork should be able to connect with Thielen and Diggs in this game. Of course, it’ll be imperative for Kevin to get the ball out quick against this Eagles defense because I think Minnesota’s o-line could be outmatched by Philly’s pass rush at times.
5) How do you see Sunday’s game playing out?
The Eagles have the best home record in the NFL since the beginning of the 2016 season. They’re 17-2 in 19 games they actually tried to win during that span. It’s really tough for me to pick against this team at home. I think last week’s disappointing loss will serve as something of a wake-up call for this group. The Eagles won’t come out and dominate because they still have some real issues (the secondary being among them), but they’ll win this game. Final score: 24 to 20.
Thanks to Brandon for taking the time to sit down and answer our questions. We’ll have more on this Sunday’s game as we get closer to kickoff.