WEEK 12: Eagles Try to Fight Adversity, Seahawks

Even before the Lane Johnson news, just about everything was pointing in a negative direction for the Eagles heading into Monday's matchup with Seattle
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PHILADELPHIA - You knew something was up.

The Eagles had just wrapped-up pre-practice Zoom availability on Friday, a non-descript session with receiver Greg Ward and a newsworthy segment with the somewhat reclusive Isaac Seumalo, who confirmed that he underwent surgery for a knee injury that cost the veteran left guard seven games.

About 20 minutes later a text blast arrived that Lane Johnson would be speaking.

The news was about Jonshon’s troubled left ankle and it was not good.

Johnson confirmed another surgery was in his future, one that will require a four- or five-month rehabilitation.

“Essentially from all the high-ankle sprains, and damage I’ve had done to my ankle, it’s really repairing the deltoid ligament,” Johnson said. “The inside of my ankle has collapsed.”

And with it, perhaps so has the tortured 2020 Eagles season.

Even before the Johnson news, just about everything was pointing in a negative direction for the Eagles heading into Monday night’s matchup with Seattle at Lincoln Financial Field.

In house, the pressure is building on Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz, who is in the midst of a career-worst campaign, and the next opponent happens to be the 7-3 Seahawks with QB Russell Wilson, an organization the Eagles haven't beaten since 2008 never mind since Wilson, one of the NFL's top signal-callers, arrived on the scene in 2012.

Wilson is 4-0 as a starter against Philadelphia, including dual 17-9 wins last season, both at the Linc, a Nov. 24 affair just before Thanksgiving Day and the Jan. 5 Wild Card Weekend game in which Wentz was knocked out early with a concussion from a borderline late hit from Jadeveon Clowney, who has now relocated to Tennessee.

All the Seahawks have done in the Wilson era is win. He's the NFL’s all­-time winningest quarterback over anyone’s first nine seasons.

Seattle is 32-8-1 in prime­time games since the 2010 season, including 3­-1 this year. The Seahawks are 10-­2 on Monday Night Football over that same time frame and their .722 overall winning percentage (26­-10) is the best in MNF history.

As for the Eagles, Wentz, if he’s not benched for Jalen Hurts, will be playing behind the 10th different OL group in 11 games this season.

And the moving parts this time not only include Johnson, but also Jason Peters and Jordan Mailata. 

Peters, who was listed on Saturday's injury report as questionable with turf toe, will be moving inside to right guard from left tackle and Mailata will be back at LT, where he started four games for an injured Peters earlier in the season. Matt Pryor is expected to get the nod at RT.

“We just got to come out and then play our ball, play Eagle ball,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “Obviously, I'm, I think, 0-4 against the Seahawks in my entire career and it's not a good feeling, nothing to brag on, but we came close a couple of times, and the biggest thing for this time right now and just to get on track.

“We're facing against a really good football team. They got some playmakers on that offense and we just got to stop them, slow them down, whatever we need to do, and just go out and be physical and make it an attitude game.”

OFFENSIVE SCHEME: The Seahawks' offense, led by coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, are primarily an 11 personnel team (three receivers) to take advantage of a talented group on the outside led by Tyler Lockett and second-year sensation D.K. Metcalf, the super-sized and talented wideout the Eagles’ fan base pines over after Metcalf was passed over in the 2019 draft by Philadelphia in favor of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who has essentially done nothing during his one-plus seasons in Philadelphia and would likely be a scratch Monday night even if he was not on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The third WR is usually the underrated David Moore.

“He's so big,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said of Metcalf. “His arms are so long and things like that. … It's a great challenge for us. It's not just getting him covered, it's tackling him. You have to defend every inch of the field with a guy like that. They can just throw a zero hitch to him and just get him the ball and he's hard to handle. He's strong and fast and he’s like a linebacker, so you have to get him tackled on that stuff. He also has the speed to be able to go deep.”

Seattle has lined up in 11 essentially two-third of the time with 12 personnel (two tight ends) serving as the other option (29 percent). Things should be skewing even more to three receivers now after veteran TE Greg Olsen was lost for the season.

DEFENSIVE SCHEME: The famed Cover-3 philosophy still exists under Ken Norton Jr. but isn’t remotely the same without Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman on the back end.

When Wilson first arrived as a third-round pick out of Wisconsin, he was the playmaker to complement that best defense of the generation, "The Legion of Boom." 

These days the superstar is carrying the load and making up for the deficiencies of the other side of the football where Seattle is ranked dead last in the NFL in defense, allowing 434.9 yards per game.

The major issue is pass defense where the Seahawks are again No. 32, allowing 343.7 YPG. Meanwhile, the run defense for the Seahawks has been more than capable at No. 4 overall but some of that is a chicken-and-the-egg situation in that it's been so easy to throw against Seattle coupled with the realization teams are usually in a shootout anyway because of Wilson's effectiveness.

STRENGTH: Wilson is officially an all-time great. While wins and losses are generally not a valued quarterback statistic, the Seahawks’ All-Pro turns that thought on its head, at least a bit.

Wilson finds ways to win football games and as mentioned is the NFL’s all-­time winningest quarterback over any signal-callers first nine seasons, both in the regular season (93 wins) and when the postseason (102) is factored in.

He’s a marvel when it comes to extending the plays with the innate ability to keep his eyes downfield and the athleticism to gain large chunks with his legs. Wilson is also the best deep-thrower in football with amazing accuracy down the field.

Right now, league MVP is a three-horse race with Wilson involved with Jake from State Farm acolytes Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers.

“I think he's been playing extremely well. You know, MVP-caliber type of season,” veteran safety Rodney McLeod said of Wilson. “We all know Russell controls that offense and he has dynamic receivers. I think each one of them has improved and they're all playing at a high level right now. DK Metcalf, Lockett, they all have the ability to stretch the field, good hands.

“And with Russell throwing the ball, man, they're a dangerous group. So we're gonna have our hands full. We're just gonna have to compete and non-stop, understand Russell's gonna extend plays. We’re gonna have to plaster onto our coverage and we’re gonna have to just fight, cover a little longer than we’re used to. That's the challenge this week that we're ready to take on.”

WEAK LINK: When you’re allowing 343.7 passing yards a game, it’s a good bet that the secondary is an issue and that’s the case with the Seahawks where there seem to be adequate parts, especially with talented safety Jamal Adams back, but the sum just hasn’t been there.

The big issue has been with cornerbacks Tre Flowers and Quinton Dunbar, although obviously, the Eagles WRs have had a hard time taking advantage of any perceived lull in competition.

UNDER THE RADAR: You probably can’t call Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright under-the-radar players but you might be surprised to know that the two stalwart Seattle LBs are playing as well as they ever have despite the team bottoming out on defense. Wagner has arguably been the best LB in the NFL this season and Wright remains a top-20 level ‘backer.

“You look at him in terms of an every-down backer, a guy who can really do it all,” the Eagles’ T.J. Edwards said of Wagner. “I think I’ve been watching him a little bit more this year in terms of rushing the passer. So I think he just keeps adding things to his game, something every linebacker tries to do.

“Obviously, everybody knows the name, and everyone tries to pick little things from guys around the league, and that’s definitely a guy you want to look at to see if you can add something to your own game.”

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jordan Mailata and Matt Pryor vs. Seattle edge rushers Carlos Dunlap, LJ Collier, and Alton Robinson.

The Eagles are going young at OT after shutting down Johnson and moving Peters. This is probably not the worst week to make that move because the Seahawks do not possess difference-making edge rushers giving the younger options a little bit of a chance to gain some confidence.

Dunlap is probably the best, an in-season veteran pickup from Cincinnati, but generating a consistent pass rush has been a huge issue for Seattle and that comes at a great time for the Eagles who have struggled to protect Wentz all season.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles don’t beat Seattle when they are good so Monday night should be a fait accompli now that the Wentz soap opera is married to Johnson being shut down for the season and Peters finally bowing to Father Time?

You can almost see only two potential scenarios: Either the Seahawks put Philadelphia out of its misery or an Eagles team with nothing to lose rising up to shock the world.

Call it a hunch or the law of averages but the original guess here was that Zach Ertz's return to the lineup coupled with Wentz understanding time is running out for him provides an opportunity for the QB to lock into his favorite receiver without hearing all the outside noise about spreading the football to the other playmakers who simply did not produce when Ertz was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Ertz, though, has been ruled out.

“It’s a new year,” McLeod said. “Not really focused on the previous years. We understand where our record stands and losing to them twice last year, but we're both different teams. So it's just gonna take us just fighting to the end, man. It comes down (to) who wants it the most."

Final Score:

JOHN MCMULLEN: Seahawks 34, Eagles 13 (5-4-1 on the season, 5-5 vs. the spread)

ED KRACZ: Seahawks 30, Eagles 17 (3-6-1 on the season, 5-5 vs. the spread)

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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