Eagles Wake-Up Call: Opposition Research
In this installment of Opposition Research, we spoke with Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer about what the Eagles should expect Sunday night.
1) What are Carolina’s strengths and weaknesses?
“The strengths are obviously the defense and what they’re able to do with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis at linebacker, Kawann Short at defensive tackle and Josh Norman at cornerback. Kuechly’s arguably the best linebacker in the game and Norman is elevating his game to elite status. And then on the offensive side Cam Newton is getting it done. Last week wasn’t pretty for the first three quarters and then he turned in his best fourth quarter ever to win in Seattle–something no one does.
“The weaknesses start with the receivers. This isn’t a top tier group and we knew that once Kelvin Benjamin went down in the preseason with an ACL injury. Ted Ginn seems to shine in Carolina but only in Carolina. Their saving grace is tight end Greg Olsen, who’s on his way to another Pro Bowl. And the safeties have had a rough go lately. Seattle beat them several times and Roman Harper has looked somewhat slow in coverage.”
2) What injuries do they have that could impact the game?
“Outside linebacker Shaq Thompson is probably going to be out with a knee sprain, but I don’t think that’s a huge loss for this week specifically. The Eagles have Jordan Matthews in the slot a lot, and so Carolina was probably going to be in nickel more often than not. That would take Shaq off the field and place another corner (Bene Benwikere) on it. So I don’t really see injuries, at least on Carolina’s side, being that big of an impact.”
3) The Panthers made the playoffs last year, but won just 7 games. Now, they’re 5-0. What’s different?
“Cam had a busted ankle, broken ribs and a fractured back at different times last year. The offensive line was in shambles for most of the season. And the defense had to figure itself out after losing Greg Hardy for the year. At one point last season the team started 7 or 8 rookies. This is a much more experienced team with better health and more stability. Those are things that win you ballgames. Cam is in his fifth year and making good decisions. The running backs are healthy. The offensive line has remained consistent all year. The secondary has gotten better. All of things have led to a 5-0 team (along with playing some meh teams).”
4) What matchup do you think will decide the game?
“Not sure just one matchup will decide the game but I think the Panthers need to limit DeMarco Murray and not let him get 10-plus-yard gains like he did against the Giants. If the defense can make Philly and Sam Bradford one dimensional, that’s going to play well into the hands of Carolina’s defense, especially a week after Bradford threw three picks. On the other side, I’m interested to see how right tackle Mike Remmers holds up against Connor Barwin, who had 3 1/2 sacks last year against Carolina and was a real problem for the Giants this week. Remmers has played well since getting inserted into the lineup late last year, but he had a rough go against Seattle and Barwin looks every bit the Pro Bowler that he is.”
5) Who do you think will win and why?
“I’m having trouble picking this game. I think if this game were in Philadelphia the Panthers would lose. A night game with the crowd is really going to help the Panthers, who haven’t lost a home game since mid-November. But Philadelphia has given the Panthers fits with their quick offense. While I think the Eagles’ defense presents a lot of problems for this Carolina offense, I also just don’t trust Bradford and the Eagles’ offense. Norman has four interceptions this year and taken two back to the house. If Bradford is as charitable with the ball Sunday night as he’s been all season, then Carolina’s defense can turn those into points (or at least great situations for the offense), and that can be the difference in the game. I’ll take the Panthers in a close one at home.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
An All-22 look at how the Eagles’ defense kept Odell Beckham Jr. in check.
“Azzinaro was administered last rites in 1999.” An in-depth profile of defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro.
Notes from Thursday’s practice, including Chip Kelly‘s explanation for Riley Cooper‘s success.
In the latest episode of Press Coverage, Tim and Josh examine whether Bradford is beyond saving.
“We faced a different Cam.” The Eagles will have to try and limit a healthy Newton on Sunday.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Colin Cowherd took to his radio show Thursday to weigh in on Kelly, writes Philly.com’s Rob Tornoe.
Now that the Eagles have won two straight, including a 20-point, Monday night win over the Giants to put them in first place, media personalities can’t line up fast enough to defend Kelly’s unique coaching style.
The latest is Fox sports radio host Colin Cowherd, who made the argument on his radio show that Kelly’s coaching has improved and transformed the Eagles more than any other team in the league.
“Name an NFL team that has improved more than Philadelphia in the last month,” said Cowherd, who noted it was just five weeks ago that the Eagles were a national laughingstock. “There’s not an NFL team that looked so bad five weeks ago and now can win their division.”
The Panthers have far better weapons at their disposal to keep Jordan Matthews in check than they did a year ago, writes ESPN’s David Newton.
The second-round pick had his breakout performance as a rookie, catching seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Matthews was so impressive that he jokingly said he felt like veteran Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin, now with Kansas City.
The difference between now and last season for Carolina is that it has options. Starting nickel back Bene’ Benwikere, who would have covered Matthews in the slot, was in Charlotte nursing an ankle injury last season.
An All-22 on Bradford and more.