In the Eagles win over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday there were a few takeaways that can be applied to this week’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers which could likely help the team pull out a victory in the upcoming Battle of Pennsylvania.
5) Carson Wentz’s Mobile Ability is still there
Against the Bengals, Carson Wentz displayed the mobile ability that Eagles fans hadn’t seen in a while, rushing 9 times for 65 yards and a touchdown. In last Sunday’s matchup with the 49ers, Wentz displayed the same ability rushing 7 times for 37 yards and another touchdown. The only difference is against San Francisco there were more designed-esque runs (specifically RPO-Zone Read type playcalls), one of which was used in the redzone which resulted in a touchdown. Wentz has shown, over the past few weeks, that he is still useful when moving the chains with his feet.
If Doug Pederson decides to keep calling designed-esque runs for Wentz, it could help to neutralize the attacking defensive front of the Steelers. Specifically in the redzone. But for all of this to work, in my opinion, establishing the running game is key. Run the ball a bit and work in the RPOs with Wentz and when the front attacks, he can pull it out and gain positive yardage.
4) It’s Not All-Bad in the Wide Receiver Room
The Eagles once again are in a position where they have to depend on a trio of young wide receivers to make plays in the passing game. Greg Ward (the eldest of the group at just 25), rookie 5th round pick, John Hightower, and practice squad call-up Travis Fulgham started against the 49ers and the trio was effective.
Ward, throughout his time on the 53 man roster, has always seemed to find soft spots in coverage. With what may be the surest hands on the roster (outside of Alshon Jeffery), Ward has proved that he is a dependable option. Against the 49ers, it was no different, as Ward caught 4 passes for 38 yards. His longest reception was a 20 yard completion in the first quarter.
For Hightower and Fulgham, each had 2 catches but its the magnitude of two catches each receiver had that speaks volumes. Hightower caught a slant on a 4th and 4 in the 4th quarter with 8:36 left remaining. A big time play in a big moment which kept the drive alive. Fulgham had the biggest moment of his professional football career on a 42 yard touchdown catch with 5:56 remaining in the game. This was absolutely the biggest play of the game for the Eagles offense. These two wideouts stepped up tremendously in this game.
In this week’s matchup with the Steelers, this trio of wideouts will have to get open and catch the football against this Steelers defense which leads the league in blitz percentage, so they will attack. They key, as stated for the Eagles wide receivers will be their ability to get open quickly and catch the football against this Steelers pass defense which ranks 12th in the league.
3) SHOCKER: 11 Personnel can Actually work
In the first 3 weeks of the season, according to Sharp the Eagles were in 12 personnel (2 tight ends-2 wide receivers) 59% of the time on offense (74% before the Bengals matchup), but against the 49ers they switched up the offensive personnel groupings and were in 11 personnel 60% of the time on offense. According to Sharp, the Eagles ran a total of 35 plays out of 11 personnel, 19 passing and 16 rushing. Specifically on the passing plays, they generated a 53% success rate. Carson Wentz’s passer rating was 116.4 when the Eagles were in 11 personnel.
Given that Dallas Goedert is out with an ankle fracture, it’s understandable that the offense would shift into the more traditional 1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers sets. However, I think this speaks to a bigger picture. While, yes it was against a depleted San Francisco defense, the number don’t lie. Wentz was 11-16 on passes from 11 personnel and the Eagles moved the ball through the air as Wentz 8.7 yards per attempt (when in 11 personnel against the 49ers) will show.
The Steelers coach Mike Tomlin spoke highly of Zach Ertz this week, saying, “Ertz at tight end creates major issues,” and that, “we (Pittsburgh) gotta be thoughtful of the people that we employ to match him up against.” The Steelers could decide to matchup Ertz with one of their athletic linebackers or they could implore Minkah Fitzpatrick to cover Ertz. Either way, Pittsburgh will locate Ertz and key in on him due to his status as one of the premier pass catching targets in the NFL. It will be up to Doug Pederson to utilize the best offensive groupings to come out on top.
2) Jordan Mialata can actually play the game of football
Before Last Sunday’s game, Jordan Mialata had only touched the field for live action play on 18 snaps (all of which came week one of this season). Many Eagles fans questioned why he held a spot on the 53 man roster. Drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 draft, Mialata was viewed as a project in that he’d never played a down of football. But last Sunday, Mialata shocked everyone. He started and played well, protecting Carson Wentz’s blindside. Surrendering just one pressure in 62 snaps per PFF. Mialata looked stout in pass protection and at 6-foot-8, 346-pounds, the Australian left tackle flat out over powered opposing defensive linemen at times.
In this week’s matchup, Mialata will have a tougher matchup, with the Steelers defensive line. They will attack, whether just with their defensive line, linebackers, or secondary. Mialata will have to be ready for this much tougher matchup.
1) The Eagles Dominance at Defensive Line
The Philadelphia Eagles defensive line flat out took over the game against the 49ers. They generated 15 pressures. As a whole the Eagles defense put up 5 sacks. The full on depth of this defensive line was realized last Sunday. Whether it was Josh Sweat, Genard Avery, Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, or Malik Jackson, there was pressure in Nick Mullens face almost every snap. Even Hassan Ridgeway got in on the action.
Against the Steelers, the Eagles defensive line will have to do the same, but against a much tougher and healthier matchup. Defensive pressure can flat out rattle a quarterback when its consistent and the Eagles have the ability to bring the heat from their front 4, no matter who lines up.