Philadelphia Eagles News

Big Question: Can The Defense Slow Down The Bucs?

Dave Spadaro: Love the sarcasm, but let's not take Fitzpatrick lightly. He's a veteran quarterback who knows his way around the game. The Eagles aren't going to fool him with any of their coverages or pressure packages. He'll know what he sees. Fitzpatrick is coming off a terrific game in New Orleans, one of the best of his long career. He torched the Saints and he did it by spreading the football around to his outstanding arsenal of pass catchers. The Eagles need to beat Fitzpatrick by winning the battle at the line of scrimmage with their four-man pass rush, which would enable them to drop seven into coverage. New Orleans generated very little pressure last Sunday. That has to change this week. The Eagles, as pretty much always, have the advantage at the line of scrimmage. Fitzpatrick doesn't have a great arm and he's not especially tall, so if the Eagles can block his vision and get up in his face, they might have some chances for interceptions.

Fran Duffy: The first thing that has to happen is you have to disrupt his timing and rhythm. Fitzpatrick was very, very comfortable against the New Orleans Saints last week. Even when he was forced to run, he was under control and looked confident. The Eagles' defensive line has to keep that from happening. The line has to stay disciplined in their rush lanes, win one-on-one battles, and impact the quarterback any way they can. That has been a formula for success for this defense under Jim Schwartz, and they will be keys to stopping Fitzpatrick and this Tampa Bay passing attack.

Chris McPherson: Give Ryan Fitzpatrick the right supporting cast and we saw what he could do. DeSean Jackson is questionable which could make a world of difference with the way he can take the top off a defense. But from Mike Evans to Adam Humphries at wide receiver then O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate at tight end, Fitzpatrick has one of the best pass-catching units in the league.

I'm excited to see if the Eagles' defensive backs rise to the occasion. Ronald Darby was outstanding in coverage last week against Julio Jones. Rodney McLeod played an excellent game as the deep safety which will be an integral role Sunday. I do think the law of averages will come into play with Fitzpatrick. Last Sunday was his 134th career game. He had a career-high with 417 passing yards. He went over 400 just once before. He had an astounding 14.89 yards per passing attempt, again a career high. He's gone over 10 yards per attempt five times now. The conditions were perfect and Fitzpatrick took advantage. I wonder if he can be consistent against a much better defense.

Fran Duffy: Perhaps, but perhaps not. I could make an argument either way. On the one hand, you understand the urge to work him in slowly and not put too much on his plate too quickly. Goedert didn't play a ton of snaps against Atlanta last week, and I'm sure that was by design. You would think that, in Week 2, he'd get more snaps with the offense. When you think about it, however, with Vernon Hargreaves out of the lineup, the Bucs will have to rely on their rookie second-round pick, cornerback M.J. Stewart, in their nickel package and already have another rookie, Carlton Davis, starting at corner on the outside. The strategy could be to stay OUT of multiple tight end sets to keep the rookie defensive backs on the field as much as possible. Regardless, we know Doug Pederson and his staff will do what they think is right on Sunday afternoon.

Dave Spadaro: My sense is that, yes, the Eagles would love to get Dallas Goedert more involved, but they aren't going to force it. No need. It's a matchup thing, as the entire NFL works it, and the Eagles didn't use a lot of two-tight end sets last week. I think the offense will try to run the football more, and that could involve Goedert or it could mean that tackle-eligible Isaac Seumalo plays a few extra snaps. Goedert will be a big part of the offense, but I'm not sure that against a team that is low on cornerbacks and high on linebackers, as Tampa Bay is, this is the time to feature the rookie more in the passing game.

Chris McPherson: I think it's going to be a monster game for Nelson Agholor, who played much more on the outside last week against Atlanta with Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins out. From the injuries at cornerback to his homecoming, I think Agholor will provide those chunk plays that were missing against the Falcons. With Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David at linebacker, I don't think the matchup is the best but Goedert proved he could get open against the Falcons' fast linebacking corps if needed.

Fran Duffy: I think the film taught us that, while it was a great win against a formidable opponent in Week 1, there is plenty to improve on as well. There were missed blocking assignments on the offensive line both in the run game and in the passing game. There were too many penalties. There were missed opportunities for turnovers on defense and there were plays where we lucked out a bit thanks to poor execution from Atlanta's offense. There's plenty to work on moving into Week 2, but every team in the NFL can say the same exact thing.

Dave Spadaro: The film taught us that the Eagles are a deep and talented team that can win games in a lot of ways. Just as you knew. The offense needs to be more explosive in the passing game. That's why the Eagles are shuttling wide receivers in and out of here so quickly. The special teams were excellent, but one huge mistake by Tre Sullivan on a punt return turned the ball over to Atlanta and led to Falcons points. The defense was great from start to finish. A couple of penalties from end Derek Barnett need to be cleaned up, and the Eagles let one or two long passes on third down, but by and large the Eagles' defense locked down on a good Atlanta offense. This is a good football team. There are still some key pieces missing, notably quarterback Carson Wentz. Just keep winning, stay as healthy as possible, and don't worry about style points. That's the formula to follow.

Chris McPherson: I'll start with the run game which is as diverse an attack from a schematic standpoint as any in the NFL. The Eagles' offensive line was outstanding in its execution of these various plays, especially in the second half. Kudos to offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland. Tight end Zach Ertz was able to get open but dropped a number of passes. He caught only five of his 10 targets on the night. Once he's back to his elite self, that will help the offense. Defensively, Michael Bennett didn't have the impact of Fletcher Cox, Chris Long, or Jordan Hicks, but was very impressive in his Eagles debut. He will help the Eagles' defensive line rotation remain fresh through the course of the season.

Dave Spadaro: I sat with Lane Johnson on Wednesday and he gave me the detailed scouting report on Vinny Curry, whom he practiced against countless times for years and who he will see on Sunday. Don't you think Vinny has the same detail on Lane's game? I don't think it matters much. Curry and Allen have been studying film all week. There are few surprises. It comes down to execution in the trenches. I call it an even draw.

Fran Duffy: I would say any advantage they have, the Eagles have the same level of it. The entire Eagles offensive line has seen plenty of both Vinny Curry and Beau Allen in practice over the last few years (not to mention they have seen Jason Pierre-Paul twice a year as well). Both sides will work to leverage that knowledge into an upper hand on Sunday, I'm excited to see how it bears out.

Chris McPherson: Expect the Eagles to change some of their signals and calls up front not to give anything away from that standpoint. That's a slight edge for the Bucs. But both team still have to execute. The Eagles have thorough scouting reports on Allen and Curry, who are both outstanding run defenders. And on the other side, Allen and Curry know the Eagles' scheme and personnel. It's a stalemate from that standpoint. It's a matter of who comes to play on Sunday.

Related Content