We are back with another installment of our Five Good Questions segment, wherein we gather some intel from the SB Nation blog of the team that your Minnesota Vikings will be facing this week. This week, we exchange questions with Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation, SB Nation’s home for Philadelphia Eagles football.
Once Brandon puts my answers to his questions up on BGN, I’ll make sure they’re linked over here. And yes, I know we’ve had some bad blood between our sites in the past, so if you do go over there, please don’t be jerks or anything.
With that, here we go!
1) The Eagles announced on Tuesday that DE Derek Barnett was going on injured reserve with a torn ACL, which will end his 2022 season. How much will the Philadelphia defense be impacted by Barnett’s loss?
The Eagles only kept three pure 4-3 defensive ends active for their Week 1 game: Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and Barnett. Had he finished the game healthy, Barnett probably would’ve been third in snaps played among that trio. Still, he would’ve seen a decent chunk of playing time in a rotational role.
Philly’s coaching staff values Barnett way more than Eagles fans do. Many were hoping the team would not re-sign Barnett in free agency. He’s been a frustrating player. He’s an underachiever as the No. 14 overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft (by way of the Vikings from the Sam Bradford trade), he commits too many dumb penalties (see: Nick Sirianni once mouthing ‘It’s always him!’ on the sideline), and he’s had multiple injury issues.
Some might argue that the Eagles will be better off without Barnett. His replacement, 2021 sixth-round pick Tarron Jackson, looked good in training camp and the preseason games. Jackson probably offers a lower floor than Barnett does but he also might have a higher ceiling. Jackson was a healthy scratch in Week 1, though the Eagles had a bit of a numbers crunch since their entire roster was healthy. No injured players were taking up any of the inactive spots.
As Vikings fans know, the Eagles also signed Janarius Robinson away from Minnesota’s practice squad. He’ll likely be inactive as the fourth defensive end.
2) In their win over Detroit on Sunday, the Eagles had a 17-point lead going into the fourth quarter but had to hold off a Lions’ comeback to complete the victory. What did the Eagles do differently in the fourth quarter that allowed Detroit to come back like that?
Not play well!
The Eagles allowed three touchdowns on the Lions’ final four drives, all of which came in the second half. The one where Detroit failed to score was when Frank Ragnow snapped the ball low and wide of Jared Goff to somewhat gift a third-down sack that forced a punt.
It’s not like there was a single issue to blame. Among the frustrations: WAY too many missed tackles, drive-extending penalties, questionable personnel decisions, a lacking pass rush, and a general toothless style of defense. Former Vikings assistant coach and current Eagles defensive coordinator is rightfully taking a lot of heat at the moment.
Gannon failed to maximize Philadelphia’s defensive talent last season. It’s not like anyone was expecting him to produce the 1985 Bears but they should’ve reasonably finished better than 25th in DVOA. There was thought that Gannon’s unit would improve this year given all the new players that the Eagles added. So far, that hasn’t been the case. It’s hard to feel encouraged about him overseeing a legitimately good defense. His best performances have come against some truly awful quarterbacks. His defenses have been absolutely destroyed by any kind of legitimate quarterback.
3) Philadelphia’s offense was very balanced in their win over Detroit, putting up 239 yards through the air and 216 on the ground. Against a Vikings team that struggled mightily against the run in their win over Green Bay, do you expect the Eagles’ offense to be more run-heavy in this one?
That balance wasn’t fully intentional since Jalen Hurts often took off running after the Lions sent extra pressure. I would imagine the Vikings might take a different approach, daring Hurts to do more with his arm.
If that’s the case, there’s reason to believe Hurts can do damage. He had great chemistry with A.J. Brown all summer long and that connection carried over into Week 1. Even if the Vikings try very hard to take him away, he’s still going to get a decent number of looks.
But they will run the ball a decent amount as well. Miles Sanders played too well in Week 1 to not continue to utilize him. The Eagles’ offensive line is arguably a better run-blocking unit than pass protection group, though they’re capable of doing both things at a high level.
4) The Eagles’ run defense had its struggles against Detroit, allowing 144 yards to D’Andre Swift on just 15 carries. Do you think that’s more of an anomaly for the Eagles’ defense or is it something that teams might be able to take advantage of all year, starting with Dalvin Cook and the Vikings on Monday night?
Eagles fans are definitely worried about Cook gashing this defense. It’s not a total anomaly. Gannon has a reputation for playing softer and even inviting the run to some extent.
If the Eagles continue to struggle with tackling, Cook could have a big day. If the Eagles refuse to use Jordan Davis, who isn’t a magic fix to their run defense issues but can be helpful, as often as they did in Week 1, Cook could have a big day.
The Eagles were pretty effective at stopping the run last season (7th lowest opponent yards per rush attempt), so it’s possible they’ll hit their groove in that regard. But the defense hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt after that Week 1 showing.
5) Give us one “under the radar” player on each side of the ball that you think will have a significant impact on the outcome of this game for the Eagles.
Offense: Zach Pascal. He’s not even close to being a volume target for this team considering he’s behind at least A.J. Brown, Dallas Goedert, and DeVonta Smith in the pecking order. But Pascal could come up with a crucial third down and/or red zone catch(es). Pascal made a nice third-down grab on his sole target to move the chains in Detroit. It’s my belief that there’s going to be a game(s) where he vultures a goal-to-go touchdown or two from the Eagles’ top targets.
Defense: Marcus Epps. Are Vikings fans aware that Philly essentially traded Andrew Sendejo for Epps a few years ago? The 2019 sixth-round pick was the player that Minny cut in order to add Sendejo back to their roster. Epps has been a nice waiver claim for the Birds. He was flying around the field in Week 1, laying out some big hits and doing some nice things in coverage. I’ll call my shot and say that Epps lights up either Cook or Jefferson at one point.
Check out the odds for this week’s games courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, and again, thank you to Brandon for taking the time to answer our questions for this week.