Eagles Wake-Up Call: Reader Mailbag

What will the Eagles do in nickel against Dallas on Sunday?

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

The first game of the season provided us with several answers about the Eagles, but it also brought up even more questions after their up-and-down performance. You can always email us or comment on our Facebook page, but follow us on Twitter so you know when we’re looking for submissions for the next reader mailbag.

One quick note before I dive in: I was most frequently asked about why the Eagles didn’t take more shots down the field against Atlanta, which is something I discuss in my All-22 later this morning.

Three Cowboys reportedly didn’t practice on Thursday: wide receiver Dez Bryant (foot), defensive end Randy Gregory (ankle) and left guard Ronald Leary (groin). All three are valuable contributors, and even though he isn’t a starter, Gregory is a weapon for Dallas as a pass rusher (especially with Greg Hardy‘s four-game suspension). You also don’t want to play without a starting offensive lineman, but Bryant is the clear choice here.

A few Eagles said they anticipate Terrance Williams will play a similar role to Bryant, but that the Cowboys will likely run the ball a bit more. Given Philadelphia’s weakness at cornerback and strength on the defensive line, that plays right into their hands. I still expect Tony Romo to be able to dissect the secondary, but Leary’s injury also factors into the pressure the Eagles could put on the quarterback.

The bottom line is that similar to Julio Jones, Bryant would torch Philadelphia’s corners. He’s an elite receiver who has the speed to create separation on his routes, the strength to fight press coverage and the size to box out defenders and make the catch. Bill Davis has to be relieved that he doesn’t have to face another great receiver after his defense’s performance on Monday night.

I highly doubt it. The Eagles seemed to find something that worked pretty well with Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond playing the slot corner in nickel, but Chip Kelly constantly reiterates that their nickel package will vary each week.

Even if the Eagles don’t want to bring Jenkins or Thurmond down to the slot and insert Chris Maragos as the fifth defensive back, I think E.J. Biggers is ahead of Eric Rowe as the third corner right now. The rookie defensive back clearly has the higher ceiling, but he still has a lot of room to grow.

According to Thurmond, Maragos is another guy who could play the slot corner. If the Eagles do send in Biggers or Rowe, however, I expect Nolan Carroll to shift inside and the fifth defensive back to play outside.

This is an interesting question. If Chip feels as though he can’t run the ball with Zach Ertz on the field, I’d say yes. But I don’t think he feels that way.

Although Brent Celek is one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, Chip has talked several times about the matchup problems Ertz creates. He’s too valuable of a receiver to keep off the field, and he continues to develop as a blocker in his third year.

That being said, I also don’t expect the running game to struggle much longer. I discuss this in much more detail in my All-22 later today, but one of the problems that lead to the Eagles’ offensive line issues is communication. Their improved chemistry as time goes on will help eliminate those mistakes.


Tim took a look at Vinny Curry’s debut at outside linebacker on Monday night.

Video: What should you expect against Dallas on Sunday?

“That has to be the most disconcerting part of Week 1 if you’re an Eagles fan.” What they’re saying.

All-22: Why the secondary struggled to cover Julio Jones and Roddy White.

Jason Garrett has made the offensive line the focal point of his regime, writes Adam.


Bill Davis is confident Byron Maxwell will improve, reports Corey Seidman.

It was one game. One game against a top-tier quarterback and maybe the best receiver in the NFL in their house, where they usually put up points. Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis admitted Thursday that Maxwell had “terrible technique” on one play, but he’s fully confident in him. Davis has seen firsthand what Maxwell is capable of.

“He did not have a good game,” Davis said of Maxwell. “He’s got to play better. He can play better. He will play better. He’s been a great football player in this league and will continue to be for us. He knows that, we know that. I’ve got nothing but confidence in him. He’s a hell of a competitor.”

Bob Brookover says the Eagles are counting on Brandon Graham because of the lack of outside linebacker depth.

Can he hold up playing 70 percent of the time or more? It’s something he has never had to do over the course of a full season. You wonder if it will have to be more than the 69 percent of the plays he participated in Monday because the Eagles do not have anyone nearly as good as him as the No. 3 outside linebacker this season.

They hoped that role would be filled by 2014 first-round draft pick Marcus Smith, who had a decent preseason debut but then sat out the final three games with a hamstring injury. Kelly was noncommittal when asked if Smith might play this week. Even if he does, it’s no sure thing he will play the role with the kind of competence needed against a team like the Cowboys.


We wrap up our analysis from Monday night’s loss with an All-22 on the offense, and look ahead to the Cowboys game Sunday.