The Eagles need to find their offensive stride
It’s no secret that with Carson Wentz still sidelined, the Eagles defense is their greatest weapon and strength. The different defensive front combinations of Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham, Haloti Ngata, Destiney Vaeao, and Bruce Hector wreaked havoc on the Falcons offense, holding them to just 12 points. The defense will be able to win some of these close games. However, the Eagles need to find their offensive stride to become the dominant force they were during their Super Bowl-winning season.
Taking a look at the Tampa Bay defense
The Bucs went through a defensive rebuild in their offseason. They added two former Eagles in Vinny Curry and Beau Allen as well as traded for Pro Bowl defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul. They also selected defensive tackle Vita Vea with their first-round draft choice.
The Bucs were last in the NFL in sacks last year with 22, last in yards/game allowed, tied for 23rd in points allowed, and 17th in interceptions. However, they were tied for second in forced fumbles.
Although they were able to beat out the New Orleans Saints, the game was purely offensive. The Bucs defense still gave up 40 points, 432 passing yards, and 475 yards total. So looking at the stats after week one, it appears as if the Eagles offense should be able to capitalize on the Bucs work-in-progress defense.
One of the keys will be protecting the football on the ground
Although the passing game will be available for the Birds to take advantage of, their strong suit in week one was their run game. Nick Foles was not on point, so the running backs had to carry the load. Their two touchdowns for Jay Ajayi were rushing TDs. One aspect of defense that the Bucs thrive in is forcing fumbles. They forced two last week against the Saints. That is something the Eagles will really need to pay attention to on Sunday.
During today’s presser, OC Mike Groh said the Eagles know internally who will start Sunday and are game planning accordingly, however, Doug Pederson will make an official announcement later. I assume the starter will be Nick Foles, but regardless if it’s Wentz or Foles under center, the Eagles offense needs to capitalize on this week’s opportunity to get in a rhythm. The Eagles can hit their offensive stride to take them through the season this week if the passing game can click. Unfortunately, with Hurricane Florence making landfall later this week, it could be a rainy Sunday in Tampa which might negatively affect the passing game.
#Eagles OC Mike Groh said that Doug Pederson will announce the QB on Wednesday, but the team knows and is already preparing for the Bucs knowing who will be under center.
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) September 11, 2018
A better executed running back rotation could spark the offense
Getting a running back rotation working early in the game will help the Eagles get into an offensive stride as well. Ajayi barely touched the ball in the first half against the Falcons. The ball needs to be in his hands more. Getting Corey Clement involved early will also be key. Much of the Eagles offensive success last season came with a well maneuvered running back rotation. Pederson went Darren Sproles heavy in the first half and although he had a good game, just relying on the 35-year-old won’t be the way to win games every week.
Testing the newly put together defensive line early might open up some opportunities in the passing game as well. This would help guys like Mike Wallace, Zach Ertz, and potentially Dallas Goedert get involved. Ertz had a pretty bad week one game, while Wallace and Goedert were non-factors. The Bucs used two of their later round picks in order to draft two cornerbacks to help their struggling secondary.
Another factor that could help the Eagles get into stride offensive is the list of injuries to the Buccaneers’ defense. Vernon Hargreaves is their top corner. He was second in tackles last week behind linebacker LaVonte David. Unfortunately, Hargreaves left the game early on Sunday with a shoulder injury. He could potentially miss the matchup with the Eagles.
#Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves, who missed the end of the game with a shoulder injury, is getting an MRI today, source said. But there is cautious optimism about his status.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 10, 2018
Their other top corner, Brent Grimes is nursing a groin injury. His injury status kept him from traveling to New Orleans with the team last week. The #12 pick in the draft, Vea was also out on Sunday from suffering a strained calf back in July.
Their secondary was pretty bad last year. It didn’t look like they’ve improved, as Drew Brees picked them apart to put 40 points on the board.
Will the Eagles get it going this week?
Hopefully, with their sensational offensive line and speedy receivers, the Eagles will hit their offensive stride on Sunday. If the line gives Foles some time and there is a good balance of running and passing, the Eagles can put up some serious points against this Bucs defense. I have no doubt the defense will put an end to the “Fitzmagic“, but it’s the offense’s turn to shine.
Stats from NFL.com and ESPN.com
Featured Image: Alex Winner via Flickr
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said Vita Vea is "making progress" in his injury recovery but "isn't where he needs to be yet."
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) September 3, 2018