Behind Enemy Lines: Analyzing Eagles Week 12 Matchup with Seahawk Maven
Sitting at 5-5, the Eagles have very little margin of error remaining if they want to make the playoffs for a third straight season.
Standing in their way this week are the Seattle Seahawks, who are in a battle of their own. Not to make the playoffs, but, at 8-2, to win the NFC West, which is currently led by the 9-1 San Francisco 49ers.
That makes Sunday’s 1 p.m. game at Lincoln Financial Field an important one for both teams.
I teamed up with Corbin Smith of Seahawk Maven to break down some of the biggest questions for each team.
Here are Corbin’s answers to my questions:
Ed Kracz (EK): Seattle doesn’t seem to allocate much of their salary cap to the offensive line, at least compared to the Eagles, which this season has allocated $28 million in cap space for the guys up front, compared to the Seahawks’ $13.3 million. Yet the Seahawks are ranked fourth in total offense. I know Russell Wilson plays a big role in this, but what have you seen out of the offensive line play this season?
Corbin Smith (CS): This isn’t an elite offensive line as tackle Duane Brown projected it would be in 2019, but compared to some of the units that “protected” Wilson in prior years, it’s a competent, serviceable group that has steadily improved in pass protection and still excels opening up running lanes. As scrutinized as his play has been by fans, fourth-year tackle Germain Ifedi has arguably been the most consistent all-around blocker up front, while D.J. Fluker and Mike Iupati have been decent when healthy at the two guard spots.
Brown has battled numerous injuries, but coming off a bye week, he’s the healthiest he’s been since training camp opened. The most exciting thing about this group has been depth, as Jamarco Jones filled in valiantly at right guard for Fluker for a couple of games and George Fant is as good of a backup swing tackle as you’ll find in the league right now. That’s a sign of good coaching and Mike Solari deserves a ton of credit.
EK: Now in his eighth year, Russell Wilson appears to be having his finest season yet. Do you agree with this? Also, do you agree that he seems to be running the ball less, yet more effectively than in previous seasons?
CS: There’s no question Wilson has taken his game to a whole other level this season. He’s already been a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback during his first seven seasons and now has ascended atop the NFL’s quarterback hierarchy in his second year working with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. He leads the NFL in touchdown passes (23), passer rating (114.9), and interception rate (0.6 percent) and has managed to accomplish this after losing receiver Doug Baldwin to retirement in May and tight end Will Dissly to a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 6.
He’s also still a threat using his legs, but the biggest difference between now and earlier seasons is that he’s learned not to try to do too much. While he still extends plays regularly, he’s willing to go down or throw the ball away to fight another down, whereas as a younger quarterback, he would’ve tried to weave around defenders 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage and either fumbled or lost big yardage on a sack. His pocket discipline has ultimately been the biggest difference maker moving from great to elite.
EK: For a seventh-round draft pick in 2017, Chris Carson is on pace to surpass his career-high in rushing yards of 1,151 and has as many receptions this year (27) than he had in his first two seasons combined. For the record, the Eagles drafted Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round that same year, he never played in a game, and is out of the league. Anyway, what has been the key to Carson’s improvement and how much as he helped Russell Wilson?
CS: Not everything has been rosy for Carson this season – he’s fumbled six times and lost four of them. But the Seahawks have been willing to deal with the ball security issues because he’s a complete package out of the backfield. He’s a 220-plus pound steam roller out of the backfield who seeks out contact and will bowl over defenders as well as power through arm tackles. His 22 broken tackles rank first among all backs this year and he’s generated 584 rushing yards after contact. He also can make defenders miss in space and has improved dramatically as a receiver, already setting career-bests with 27 receptions for 189 yards and two scores. He’s one of the key cogs for this football team and defenders start making business decisions when they are tasked with trying to tackle him late in games, which certainly makes life easier for Wilson orchestrating the offense.
EK: What’s your take on Jadeveon Clowney and Josh Gordon? From the outside looking in, Clowney has been dominant at times and invisible at others. Is that accurate and do you believe the Seahawks will try to sign him in the offseason? As for Gordon, do you see a bigger role for him this week after having two weeks off to after his Seattle debut to learn the offense?
CS: Don’t let Clowney’s stats deceive you. He’s been highly disruptive all season long and letting him leave as a free agent would be a huge mistake for Seattle. He might not have a ton of sacks at the moment, but he’s been pressuring quarterbacks at a high rate all year despite being constantly double-teamed and he’s one of the best run defending defensive ends in the game. Coming off his best game against San Francisco, he seems to be just hitting his stride, though Philadelphia may be fortunate enough to not see him on Sunday due to a sore hip. As for Gordon, he’s now had another full week of practice under his belt and even with Tyler Lockett ready to return from a leg injury, I anticipate he’ll be a bigger focal point in the offense than he was two weeks ago. At worst, he’s going to be one heck of a decoy to draw attention away from Lockett and DK Metcalf.
UPDATE: Clowney is listed as questionable with a hip injury.
EK: The Seahawks’ defense is certainly not what it has been in the past and they have had their share of struggles stopping both the run and pass. What is their biggest weakness?
CS: Seattle has dealt with constant shuffling at both safety positions, but there’s no question inconsistency rushing opposing quarterbacks has been the team’s biggest flaw through 10 games. Prior to beating the 49ers, the Seahawks ranked near the bottom of the league in pretty much every meaningful pass rush stat, including sacks, quarterback hits, and pressure percentage. Several factors have played into those struggles. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah hasn’t been able to return to form coming off shoulder surgery, first-round pick L.J. Collier has done next to nothing, and star defensive tackle Jarran Reed missed the first six games after being suspended in late July.
But there are reasons to be encouraged about the defense as a whole coming off the win in Santa Clara. Quandre Diggs, who was acquired from the Lions last month, looked fantastic in his first start at free safety and the whole secondary played better as a result. Clowney dominated in the trenches, opening up opportunities for other Seahawks to record sacks against Jimmy Garoppolo. Now the million-dollar question is… was that performance a mirage? Or a sign of things to come?