The Colts have to feel good coming off a road win against the Washington Redskins in week two. Now however, they face tougher competition still. Ahead of the Colts’ week three road game against the Philadelphia Eagles, I was able to ask some questions of Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation. Here is what Brandon had to say about the Colts’ opponent Sunday.
1) The Eagles offense hasn’t looked like the force we were familiar with from 2017. Is this a function of the loss of offensive coaches, the absence of Carson Wentz, or the banged up nature of the team? Or is it some combination of all those things?
Yeah, I’d say it’s a combination.
Missing Wentz has been a really big deal. Nick Foles obviously played well enough for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl without him, sure, but Foles is a high variance player. He’s hot and cold. And he hasn’t really been hot to start this season. The Eagles’ on/off splits with Wentz are pretty dramatic.
Eagles QB Carson Wentz has been medically cleared for contact and will start Sunday against the Colts.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 17, 2018
Over the last 2 regular seasons, the Eagles have averaged 2 more yards per pass attempt with Wentz on the field, but the rushing game also was helped with Wentz on the field. pic.twitter.com/IES1mLX1N7
Making matters worse for the Eagles is that they’ve been really banged up on offense. Philadelphia could be without their top two running backs (Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles) this Sunday. Three of their top four wide receivers (Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, and Mack Hollins) are injured and likely won’t play. Third string tight end Richard Rodgers began the season on injured reserve. Starting left tackle Jason Peters had to leave Philly’s Week 2 game early.
Things got so bad for the Eagles against the Bucs that they had to resort to playing Kamar Aiken (former Colt!) for 78% of their offensive snaps. He saw six targets on Sunday, as did fourth string tight end Joshua Perkins. When those two guys are combining for 12 targets in a game, you know things have gone wrong.
Some of these injury issues result from the Eagles having a short offseason after going deep into the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl. Some of it is just bad luck.
2) With Carson Wentz making his season debut on Sunday, what should Colts fans expect from him?
It’s tough to say for sure. On one hand, Wentz looked pretty sharp during the offseason practices I watched. I also think back to when he was a rookie and started the season red hot despite missing a bulk of the preseason due to suffering a hairline rib fracture.
On the other hand, Sunday marks Wentz’s first real game action since last December. It wouldn’t be crazy to think there might be some rust. Perhaps Deshaun Watson, who tore his ACL prior to Wentz, having a slow start to the 2018 season is a cautionary tale.
The Eagles being so depleted at their skill positions certainly isn’t an ideal situation for Wentz. But then again, this is a guy who has defied expectation in the past. I’m not going to be the guy who bets against Wentz because he’s an incredible talent with an insane work ethic and an incredible understanding of the game.
To answer your question, I think Colts fans should expect him to be formidable but not quite at his peak near-MVP form he was at in 2017.
3) What is this team’s greatest strength?
Carson Wentz is usually the Eagles’ biggest strength but given the uncertainty there I’ll shift the attention to the trenches. The Eagles arguably have one of the best offensive lines and defensive lines in the NFL. The o-line can open big holes in the run game and also give the quarterback plenty of time to throw. Philadelphia’s d-line, meanwhile, led the NFL in total pressures generated last season. Fletcher Cox is an absolute beast. He stated he wants to win Defensive Player of the Year this season and he’s been playing like he really means that. The Eagles’ defense has especially played well at home where they’ve allowed just 12.3 points per game.
4) What is their greatest weakness?
Right now, it’s easy to say the Eagles’ lack of skill players is their biggest weakness. Their best remaining weapons are Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz. Those guys are really good players, but it’s much easier for defenses to key in on them with no other threats around. With Mike Wallace going down, the Eagles are now lacking a proven deep threat. Shelton Gibson has the potential to fill that role but it seems like the coaching staff doesn’t really trust him despite the fact he had a strong preseason.
5) Who do you think wins this game, and what is the Eagles’ outlook for the remainder of the season?
Before I answer, I’d just like to say that I have respect for the Colts. I’m rooting for former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich to succeed in Indy. They’re my second favorite AFC team, just behind the Jets since I’m rooting for Sam Darnold to have a great career and constantly make the Giants regret passing on him.
As for this week’s game, I have to take the Eagles. I think the defense will rebound at home after a tough day in Tampa. I also think Carson Wentz’s return will give this team a boost even though they’re lacking a lot of offensive weapons. I don’t know that it’ll be pretty, but I think the Eagles have enough to pull out the win at home. It’d be hard to pick against a Philadelphia team that’s 16-3 at home since the Doug Pederson era began in 2016. Two of those losses were division games (one came when the Eagles rested their starters in Week 17 last year) and the other one came at the hands of Aaron Rodgers with the Packers’ season on the line.
The rest of the season really hinges on the Eagles’ injury situation. If Wentz is healthy and effective, the Eagles should be contenders in the NFC. This team just needs to weather the storm with these injuries they’re going through right now.