As much as fans of the Kansas City Chiefs can identify several ways in which this year's team is quite a bit different than the roster and coaching staff that claimed a win in Super Bowl LVII, fans of the Philadelphia Eagles can do the same. It's hard to follow the nuances of every team, so it's easy to paint with wide swaths and make wrong assumptions about an upcoming opponent, and we'd rather not fall into that trap here in Week 11.
The Chiefs are ready to host the Eagles in arguably the biggest game on the NFL's regular-season calendar. However, because we'd rather not assume anything about the Eagles, we asked for some help to better understand this year's iteration.
Where have the Eagles changed the most? What's working and not working this year? How is Jalen Carter settling in, and why is the secondary struggling? We reached out to our friend Geoffrey Knox from Inside the Iggles to give us the scoop on Philly's season so far.
Coming into the bye week, what was the primary area of focus for the Eagles to work on?
The running game hasn't been as impressive in the past weeks as it had been early, but I'd like to believe several factors contribute to that, even if I'm totally off-base here.
One, Jalen Hurts has evolved as a passer. It doesn't hurt that he has DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown to throw the ball to. The latter is now the owner of the NFL's record for consecutive games with 125 yards or more receiving. That helped him win NFC Offensive Player of the Month, but there are other things to consider as well.
Jalen Hurts is dealing with a bone bruise, and that means the wise decision is to keep him out of harm's way as best as possible. Teams don't seem to fear Philly's rushing attack as much if he isn't a major part of it.
So, to sum things up, all of those things affect the running game, but D'Andre Swift and Kenneth Gainwell need to make the most of their opportunities because this team is void of sledgehammer tailbacks.
Based on the way you’ve seen them play on both sides of the ball, would you expect them to have an 8-1 record or not?
I'm not shocked by the start honestly. I thought the 1st loss to the Jets might occur because Aaron Rodgers would be available. He wasn't. I didn't see this team losing to a Zach Wilson-led team. Boy, was I wrong! So, maybe that might be the biggest shocker of the season for me so far.
I also think there was initially a spot where I thought the primetime game versus the Miami Dolphins might produce the season's first loss. The Birds survived that one in impressive fashion, but I always had ideas that Philly's best-case scenario might be 9-0 at the bye and the worst-case scenario might be 7-2.
The Eagles' pass defense metrics look bad from the outside in. What specifically hasn’t worked there?
Injuries, injuries, injuries. Before the season began, the theory was we'd run with Avonte Maddox as the starting slot corner and Zech McPhearson would back him up. Nope. Zech was lost for the season during a preseason game. Avonte was out after Week 2.
James Bradberry has regressed. Maybe age is catching up to him. Maybe he is just going through a slump, but opposing QBs are abusing his side of the field much more often than they were able to do last season. He also missed a game because of a concussion.
As for that issue at slot corner, bodies have been juggled. They even signed Bradley Roby and reacquired Josiah Scott. Then, Roby got hurt, so we've tried to use everyone from UDFA Eli Ricks to rookie safety Sydney Brown to second-year, former undrafted safety Reed Blankenship to fill in. Neither of those guys is great in coverage.
Sean Desai has done a decent job as the new defensive coordinator, but he has had to juggle bodies all season. At the safety position, Justin Reed has a practice window open but is currently on injured reserve. The aforementioned Brown and Blankenship missed time with injury, but they're back. That should help, as should the addition of Kevin Byard and the experience that Josh Jobe and Eli Ricks are receiving. Rookie cornerback Kelee Ringo simply isn't ready.
Jalen Carter looks like the real deal inside. How does he change the line from the one we saw in the Super Bowl?
Jalen Carter is the real deal. He has been phenomenal. He missed one game with a back injury, but he is receiving early consideration for the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. The Chicago Bears will regret passing on him twice.
The line is stacked. Brandon Graham is on the downslope of what has been a great Eagles career, but he has come up big recently. We also know that, in a long season, he'll contribute veteran leadership and solid play. Josh Sweat is a monster, and he's underrated. Jordan Davis has come on in year two. Milton Williams is another hidden gem.
To answer your question though, Carter has helped offset the loss of Javon Hargrave. This line, though it hasn't produced the outrageous sack numbers like last year's team, is still the defense's strong point. They are the engine that makes Sean Desai's unit go.