Philadelphia Eagles News

Big Question: Can The Eagles Protect Carson Wentz?

Dave Spadaro: I just don't see it happening anytime soon. The Eagles want to keep Sidney Jones at nickel and give him a chance to learn one position, rather than move him around a bunch and overload him early in his career. Also, despite some plays that Jalen Mills has given up, I'm going to tell you that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz truly likes Mills at cornerback. Now, there is no question that Mills has a giant target on his chest. Opposing quarterbacks are going after him. He has to play better. He has to be more disciplined and he has to play with improved technique. Jalen knows it. He's an extremely competitive young man and he's going to battle. Minnesota brings a varied, explosive, and very talented wide receiver corps into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday and quarterback Kirk Cousins is going to throw at Mills. We'll see how Mills responds. There is a lot of pressure on him.

Fran Duffy: I just really don't think it's necessary at this point. Aside from the fact that, as I wrote this week, I think Mills is getting more blame than he deserves, that's very difficult to do midseason. The coaches cross-train the backups at different positions, but moving a starting corner to safety (outside of a dire emergency) is just a huge risk. I think the corner situation stays as is.

Chris McPherson: I think the Eagles are taking the right approach here. Jalen Mills is tough, physical, instinctive, and aggressive. He hasn't played like that all season and there's a noticeable difference in his game when he doesn't. He has to bring that edge. No question. While the knock on him is that he gets beat on the double moves, Mills is a smart player who understands opposing offenses. That's valuable and important on the field. Mills needs to be on the field. As for safety, I hope everyone appreciates what Rodney McLeod means to this defense. McLeod flew under the radar because he was so reliable. But I like how the Eagles are working in Avonte Maddox at safety. The Eagles view him as another potential playmaker, so why not take this opportunity to get him on the field?

Fran Duffy: That's a good question. The Eagles of 2018 are still struggling to find their identity, as Carson Wentz said this week. They are not the Super Bowl Champs right now – they are a 2-2 team. They have a tough test this week with a reeling Vikings team on a losing streak and out for blood after how their season ended. Sunday will not be a walk in the park.

Dave Spadaro: The one constant through four games is that the Eagles have been inconsistent. They've had too many penalties (third most per game in the NFL). They have missed assignments in all three phases. They've dropped passes and missed tackles. The play in the red zone has not been up to standard. With all that said, the team is 2-2 and nobody in the NFC East is running away with things. Sunday is a big, big game. We all know that. I think the Eagles are going to come out focused and prepared. Minnesota, at 1-2-1, is in the same boat and will play urgent football. Should be a great game. The Eagles have obviously been a better home team the last few seasons and let's hope for another strong game at Lincoln Financial Field. But it won't be the least bit easy.

Chris McPherson: There are some good numbers in the Eagles' favor. Head coach Doug Pederson is 17-3 in his first 20 games at Lincoln Financial Field, including playoffs. That is the best 20-game mark by any head coach in franchise history. And Carson Wentz? He's won nine straight starts at the Linc. How about the defense? Just 12.7 points per game allowed at home since the start of last season, including playoffs. But focusing on Sunday, I like the attitude coming out of the Eagles' locker room this week. No sense of panic. The players know what's at stake. I hope last Sunday served as a good wake-up call for the team.

Dave Spadaro: Teams are going after Carson Wentz, who destroyed blitzes last season. They're stunting and looping and forcing the Eagles to pass off rushers and involve the running backs in pass protection and Wentz has taken too many hits (18) in two starts. So, the Eagles have concentrated on pass protection this week. They are prepared for Minnesota to throw the kitchen sink at them. The Vikings won't have end Everson Griffin, and that's a big loss for Minnesota. But this is a fast, aggressive, downhill defense. The Eagles are going to have to rise to the occasion against a defense that was dominating last year and that now ranks 21st in the NFL.

Fran Duffy: They absolutely can, but they have to clean some things up. First, the entire offense has to get into more third-and-manageable situations. Facing third-and-10 is not ideal, especially against this defense, and when the other team can pin its ears back and go, it makes it harder to protect. A couple of the sacks the last couple of weeks were just bad luck, with the defense making a great blitz call off play-action where Carson had no chance to avoid the rush. And then there were some busts in protection, which comes down to execution across the board. These are fixable issues that I have confidence in them being able to correct.

Chris McPherson: Communication is the key. I think seeing what teams have thrown at the Eagles in recent weeks will only help in that it provided plenty of film to review and digest. It'll be interesting to see if the Eagles make any lineup changes, but at least at running back Jay Ajayi was a full participant in practice all week, and Wendell Smallwood has more experience in the backfield with Darren Sproles out and Corey Clement uncertain for the game.

Fran Duffy: Absolutely, these guys know each other with Mike Groh being on the staff a year ago. Doug Pederson is still obviously calling the plays, just as he has over Carson's career. I don't think that's an issue.

Dave Spadaro: I'm more inclined to say that the mistakes made from lack of execution are more responsible for the inconsistencies of the offense rather than offensive coordinator Mike Groh and/or quarterbacks coach Press Taylor. The Eagles have had players in and out of the lineup all season, they've been plagued by self-inflicted mistakes, and they have missed some easy scoring opportunities. I love this coaching staff. I think the Eagles have a great group. Don't rush to judgement here. Let's see how it plays out from here on out.

Chris McPherson: Doug's still in charge and he knew what Mike and Press were capable of with them being on the staff. There have been multiple starters at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. And in Press' case, Carson was outstanding last week in only his second game off a major knee injury. No excuses, I get it, but if the execution in the red zone is just a little better this team is 3-1 and the conversation is much different. This will be a fun test Sunday.

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