The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Panthers
Here’s a look at how the Eagles match up with the Panthers.
WHEN THE EAGLES RUN…
The ground game was fantastic against the Texans. LeSean McCoy, Chris Polk and Darren Sproles combined to carry 34 times for 184 yards (5.4 YPC). In his last three games, McCoy has rushed 67 times for 349 yards (5.2 YPC). Overall, the Eagles’ ground game ranks 19th, according to Football Outsiders’ ratings.
The offensive line is getting healthy at the right time. The Eagles will have four-fifths of their starters back Monday night. From left to right, the line will be: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Matt Tobin and Lane Johnson. With Todd Herremans sidelined, Tobin moves from left guard to right guard.
Carolina has had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Panthers rank 29th, according to Football Outsiders, and are allowing a league-worst 4.8 YPC.
But they do have some talent in the front seven. Luke Kuechly is one of the best linebackers in the NFL, and the WILL, Thomas Davis is also effective. The Panthers’ defensive line has a couple of talented second-year players in 2013 first-round pick Start Lotulelei and second-rounder Kawann Short.
“It starts with the linebackers and both of those guys, it’s the best pair we’ll face,” said Chip Kelly. “I think Kuechly may lead the league in tackles. He’s a tackling machine. I think his worst year is 150 tackles, and I think it was when he was a freshman at Boston College. He led the NCAA in tackles. He’s that type of guy. He’s just always around the ball. Thomas Davis, the other linebacker, can really run, is a physical presence out there. They go together hand in hand. They’re on the field all the time. They don’t sub and get into sub packages. Even if they do, they’re not getting into a dime. They’re going to play with those two guys, and there is a reason for it if you have those two types of talents.
“I think their D-line is playing really well. Lotulelei and Short inside are doing a good job. [Charles] Johnson at the defensive end is a really good football player. They rotate seven or eight guys in there, so they keep those guys fresh. They’re well‑coached. It’s a good scheme. It’s sound. They don’t take a ton of risks where they’re getting exposed certain places, and I think they run really well to the ball so they contain. They haven’t given up many ‘X’ plays because they keep the ball inside and in front of them all the time.”
WHEN THE EAGLES PASS…
Mark Sanchez will get his first start since 2012. Against the Texans, he went 15-for-22 for 202 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The two picks weren’t Sanchez’s fault, but he had a couple other throws that were dropped by Houston defenders. Sanchez’s first throw was a bomb to Jeremy Maclin, but he didn’t attempt another pass of 20+ yards the rest of the game.
Look for the Eagles to lean on the ground game. Sanchez will be asked to get rid of the ball quicker than Nick Foles did. He’s been very good on the throws down the seam, dating back to the preseason.
Maclin is having a monster year with 43 grabs for 790 yards and eight touchdowns. He has 13 catches of 20+ yards. Sanchez and Jordan Matthews developed a good rapport during the summer, and Matthews caught a touchdown last week. Riley Cooper has not done much. And Zach Ertz has seen fewer snaps because he’s not as good in the run game as Brent Celek.
Carolina is 21st against the pass, per Football Outsiders. Its corners are Josh Norman and Antoine Cason. Safety Roman Harper is a liability in coverage. Rookie fourth-round pick Tre Boston starts at the other safety spot. Opponents are completing 69.3 percent of their passes against Carolina. That’s the second-worst mark in the league.
As mentioned above, the Eagles are healthy at four of five spots up front. Sanchez was sacked twice in 23 dropbacks last week.
The Panthers rank 14th in adjusted sack rate. Defensive linemen Charles Johnson, Dwan Edwards and Mario Addison have four sacks apiece.
WHEN THE PANTHERS RUN
Carolina’s rushing attack ranks 23rd, according to Football Outsiders. The Eagles’ run defense ranks fifth. But that was with DeMeco Ryans on the field. Ryans is out for the rest of the year and will be replaced on early downs by Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho.
Jonathan Stewart leads the team with 263 rushing yards and has averaged 4.0 YPC. Cam Newton is always a threat with his legs. He has 257 yards rushing and is averaging 4.5 YPC. DeAngelo Williams will also get in the mix; he has 126 yards (3.8 YPC) on the season.
The Eagles’ defensive line has played well all season long. Fletcher Cox is disruptive every week; Cedric Thornton always shows up; and Bennie Logan has flown under the radar.
Matthews and Acho will make the calls when they’re on the field. Both played better than expected against the run when they filled in for Mychal Kendricks earlier this season. Kendricks has been fantastic when healthy. He had a great game against Houston and was the Eagles’ leading tackler.
WHEN THE PANTHERS PASS
Newton is completing 57.4 percent of his passes (32nd) and averaging 7.01 YPA (20th). He completed just 10 of 28 passes for 151 yards in his last game. He’s thrown one touchdown and three interceptions in his last three games.
Rookie Kelvin Benjamin has been Newton’s favorite target. He has 40 catches for 589 yards and five touchdowns. Benjamin has nine grabs of 20+ yards. He’s struggled with drops, but is very good at tracking the ball and winning on 50/50 balls. Benjamin will present a challenge for Eagles cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams.
Tight end Greg Olsen has 45 grabs for 539 yards and five scores. The Eagles rank sixth at covering opposing tight ends.
The Eagles lead the NFL in opponents’ completion percentage (56.5).
The Birds’ pass-rush has been good. Connor Barwin has seven sacks. Outside linebackers Trent Cole and Brandon Graham have also been productive. Cox and Vinny Curry lead the charge on the defensive line.
The Panthers rank 22nd in adjusted sack rate, but they are getting healthier on the offensive line.
Overall, Carolina’s passing attack ranks 18th; the Eagles’ passing defense ranks 14th.