Eagles Wake-Up Call: Getting To Know the Packers
Here are five things to know about the Eagles’ Week 11 opponent, the Green Bay Packers.
1. Let’s start with the obvious: Aaron Rodgers is on fire. Rodgers is completing 67.5 percent of his passes (fifth) and averaging 8.69 yards per attempt (first). He’s thrown 25 touchdowns and three interceptions for a passer rating of 120.1, tops in the NFL. Even though Rodgers has the highest YPA in the league, a lot of that is YAC. Per Pro Football Focus, just 8.3 percent of his attempts have gone 20+ yards downfield. That ranks 34th in the NFL.
“I think he’s arguably playing at the tops in the league right now, and there are some quarterbacks playing at a pretty high level that I’m talking about,” said Chip Kelly. “But I think the last couple of weeks he’s just been on fire. It’s going to be a big challenge for us. I know our guys are excited about it. You’re going up against one of the best, so it will be a lot of fun on Sunday.”
2. Rodgers’ favorite target is Jordy Nelson. Nelson has 56 catches for 889 yards and eight touchdowns. Randall Cobb, meanwhile, is having an excellent season in his own right with 44 catches for 650 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s produced 13 catches of 20+ yards, tied for sixth-most in the NFL. Nelson and Cobb have accounted for more than 63 percent of Green Bay’s receiving yards.
Eddie Lacy (24/277), rookie Davante Adams (25/273) and tight end Andrew Quarless (17/145) will also get some looks.
The Packers are the second-best offense in the league, per Football Outsiders, and fifth in passing.
3. On the ground, it’s a two-man show with Lacy and James Starks. Lacy, a second-year player, is a bruising back who can be a load to bring down. He’s got 478 yards and is averaging 4.0 YPC, but is unlikely to break big runs (one 20+ run this season). Starks has 203 yards and is averaging 4.1 YPC.
The Eagles did a good job against Lacy and Starks last season. Lacy had 73 yards on 24 carries (3.0 YPC), and Starks carried four times for 5 yards. But DeMeco Ryans (13 tackles) was a beast in that game, and Green Bay had Scott Tolzien at quarterback.
Rodgers is always a threat with his legs. He has 112 rushing yards on the season. The Packers rank 12th in run-game efficiency, per Football Outsiders.
4. The Packers’ defense ranks 11th – 12th against the pass and 20th against the run. They rank 20th in adjusted sack rate and have had an average pass-rush so far. Julius Peppers leads the team with five sacks. Clay Matthews (3.5 sacks) got moved to inside linebacker last week against the Bears.
“The ability to blitz him as an inside linebacker, as an extra rusher,” said Kelly. “He obviously made a lot of plays, chasing the ball-carrier down. I think sometimes if he was playing one of the ends, you could always scheme it up and run away from him. Now you can’t because he’s in the middle and is playing sideline to sideline.
“It’s interesting that a player that’s played outside his whole career, in college and the impact he’s had in this league, in five short days can switch around and be an inside linebacker. It kind of tells you what kind of football player Clay is.”
5. Green Bay starts veterans Tramon Williams and Sam Shields at cornerback. Casey Hayward is the nickel. The safeties are veteran Morgan Burnett and rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
The Eagles have talked about how they had six players targeted with the No. 22 pick in last year’s draft. It’s believed that Clinton-Dix was one of those players, but the Packers snagged him at No. 21.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Packers played a lot of man coverage with a single high safety last week against the Bears. It’d be no surprise if that’s their plan against the Eagles.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Eagles-Panthers, the Day After: Appreciating Connor Barwin, game balls, five thoughts, snap counts and more.
Kelly says he was not pleased with the offensive performance against the Panthers.
Game review: Eagles-Panthers notes after having re-watched.
T-Mac explains how Jordan Matthews broke out vs. Carolina.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Paul Domowitch of the Daily News writes about how valuable Darren Sproles has been this season:
Sproles has been invaluable this season as a runner, receiver and punt returner. He was the team’s best offseason acquisition. With apologies to Jeremy Maclin, he probably is the team’s most valuable player this season.
Sproles scored his fifth and sixth touchdowns of the season in last night’s lopsided 45-21 win over the down-and-out Carolina Panthers. Ran for an 8-yard score on the Eagles’ second possession to put them up, 10-0, then returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown later in the first quarter.
The touchdown run was Sproles’ fourth of the season. The punt return for a touchdown was his second of the year. He had an 82-yard return for a score against San Francisco in Week 4. He entered the game as the NFL’s top-ranked punt returner, with a 15.4-yard average. That average now is up to 17.0. Ten of his 23 punt returns have gained 16 or more yards.
Elliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com reports that Zach Ertz is itching for more playing time:
“When I was in there, I thought I was open a lot,” Ertz said. “But I can’t control where the ball goes. If the first read is open, and I’m the second read, I’m not going to get the ball. Mark (Sanchez) picked the guys that were open and made great plays.”
Ertz has started to see his role in the offense slowly decrease each week. The tight end was targeted 10 times in the first two games of the season, and was targeted eight times in the team’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago. Since that loss, Ertz has seen the ball come his way just five times in the past two weeks, a lack of action that has the tight end searching for answers.
“I asked them to put me on punt return, just so I could get out on the field,” Ertz said. “I thought I did a good job with that.”
We’re back at practice and will talk to Pat Shurmur and Billy Davis.