Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Panthers’ defense. If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.
1. C’mon, admit it. You want an update on draft position after the Sunday’s games, don’t you? Going into tonight’s contest, only the Chiefs (1-10), Jaguars (2-9) and Panthers (2-8) have fewer wins than the Eagles. The Raiders and Browns are both 3-8. As we mentioned yesterday, going into this weekend’s games, the Eagles had a 23.4 percent chance of landing a top-three pick, according to Football Outsiders.
2. Ok, let’s talk about the actual game. The Panthers are 21st in the league in scoring defense, allowing 24.3 points per game. But Football Outsiders has them ranked eighth – ninth against the pass and 17th against the run. The Eagles are 31st in scoring offense, averaging just 16.2 points per game (ahead of only the Chiefs). Football Outsiders has the ranked 28th – 29th in passing and 26th in rushing. The Eagles tied a season-low with six points last week vs. the Redskins and have not scored more than 24 points all season.
3. The Panthers will likely play eight different defensive linemen throughout the course of the game, the best of which is Charles Johnson, who has 8.5 sacks (tied for eighth in the league entering the weekend). He has 29 sacks since the beginning of the 2010 season. King Dunlap will have his hands full with Johnson. A couple weeks ago, Dunlap had the disastrous game against the Cowboys. He wasn’t as bad last week, but still had his share of issues.
4. Greg Hardy, a 2010 sixth-round pick, has seven sacks. He’ll match up with rookie Dennis Kelly. Kelly had some miscues last week, but played relatively well against Ryan Kerrigan. He certainly looked more comfortable at tackle than he did at guard the previous three games. Jake Scott, who was watching football at home a couple weeks ago, will get his second consecutive start at right guard. Aside from the three penalties, Scott was solid vs. the Redskins. If he plays well the rest of the season, Howie Roseman will have to answer the question of why it took so long for the Eagles to sign him.
5. One question that’s going to be tossed around quite a bit in the coming weeks is: How long will the Eagles need to turn this thing around? My initial response is always: That depends on the direction they go at quarterback. But it also depends on the offensive line. If Jason Peters, Todd Herremans and Jason Kelce are all healthy going into next year, they actually could have a good offensive line. Maybe they use an early pick on a tackle and move Herremans back inside. But there will be a couple lingering questions. One is depth. Kelly, for example, has a chance to prove himself in the final six games. The other issue is scheme fit. The Eagles have focused their offensive line moves on Howard Mudd’s system. But what happens when Mudd is gone? What kind of scheme will the Eagles go to? Will someone like Jason Kelce still seem like a promising player? Those are questions that the new coach is going to have to answer.
6. At running back, Bryce Brown makes his first career start. Brown has not run the ball 15 times in a game since high school. Monday night is a great opportunity for Brown to get his name out there as he tries to establish a career in the league after a disappointing college campaign. He’s averaged 4.4 yards per carry on 31 rushes. In the last three games, Brown’s run 12 times for 85 yards. Dion Lewis and Stanley Havili could get in the mix too. The Panthers are allowing 4.2 yards per carry. Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly has been a tackling machine. According to ESPN.com’s stats, Kuechly entered the weekend third in the league with 97 tackles. That’s remarkable when you consider he didn’t become a full-time player until the fifth game of the season. Kuechly mans the middle with James Anderson at the SAM spot and Thomas Davis at the WILL.
7. Nick Foles gets his second straight start after an unimpressive debut last week. Of course, Foles didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates as the defense got torched by Robert Griffin III, and his receivers dropped five balls. And the offensive line, well, you know about the offensive line. Opponents are completing 65.8 percent of their passes against the Panthers (29th) and averaging 7.0 yards per attempt (13th).
8. The Redskins and Jim Haslett blitzed Foles quite a bit last week, and the results were not pretty. He went 9-for-21 for 92 yards against extra pressure. Sean McDermott learned under Jim Johnson and will definitely dial up the blitz, although he hasn’t had to rely on it as much as you might think – presumably because the Panthers have been able to get pressure from the front four. Last week against the Bucs, Carolina blitzed just seven times, but had success as Josh Freeman went 2-for-7 for 23 yards against extra pressure, according to Pro Football Focus.
9. One of Foles’ issues last week was his inability to get the ball downfield to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. The pair combined for two catches for 5 yards. It was just the second time all year Jackson failed to reach at least 50 yards receiving. Maclin, meanwhile, is averaging 49.9 yards per game, his lowest number since entering the league in 2009. Jason Avant is out, meaning more playing time for Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson. The Eagles signed Greg Salas earlier in the week, but he very well could be inactive. Carolina, meanwhile, starts cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Norman. Munnerlyn, a 2010 seventh-round pick, has been targeted 50 times and allowed 62 percent completions, per PFF. He has two pick-sixes on the season. Norman, a rookie fifth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina, has been targeted 68 times and allowed 66.2 percent completions.
10. Leftovers: The Eagles are 15th in third-down offense, converting 38.6 percent of the time. The Panthers are 18th in third-down defense, allowing conversions 38.2 percent of the time. …The Eagles are 30th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 38.7 percent of the time. Carolina is seventh in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 43.8 percent of the time. …The Eagles’ average starting field position on offense is their own 24.02 yard line (29th). …The Eagles have the most giveaways (24) in the NFC. They also have the fewest takeaways (10).