The Eagles have the sixth-best scoring offense. The Ravens have the sixth-best scoring defense. The Eagles defense ranks 11th against the run, while the Ravens are the third-best in the league. There are a lot of intriguing storylines that will come to the forefront this Sunday in Baltimore. We hash some of them out in Coach's Clipboard ...
MORNHINWEG: ABOUT THAT RUN GAME ...
It's not difficult to suppose that, until the Eagles' offense gets moving early and consistently, Marty Mornhinweg is going to face the same questions.
Once again, this time against woeful Cincinnati, Donovan McNabb came out of the gates erratic and the Eagles had no run game to speak of. The result was an ugly 13-13 tie that felt like a loss.
"We do need to start faster, especially just looking at the last several weeks here. However, every game is different. You may start fast and have a lull at picking it back up, or you may start slow and then have an excellent game from there on," Mornhinweg said. "But every football team, every offense, wants to start fast, and so we want to do that and we work hard and prepare hard to do that."
One of the major problems could be the absence of Brian Westbrook's typical production. Westbrook has averaged under 80 total yards from scrimmage over the course of the last three games, and hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 9 against Atlanta (when he had two).
McNabb, who admitted Wednesday that he was pressing to make plays over the past couple weeks, might really be starting to feel the strain of a nonexistent running game. Last week, Eagles' coaches called 60 pass plays, as opposed to 18 runs.
"(A run game) can help. However, you need to gain some yards early in the game, and that's one thing that we have discussed as an offense," Mornhinweg said. "We have to run the ball a little bit better early in the game. So, that sort of sets the tone."
Mornhinweg, however, was hesitant to say that his and Andy Reid's offense, by design, doesn't run the ball enough to be a successful scheme, but conceded that the Eagles aren't successful enough with what they're doing.
"I do believe that at least situationally you need to run the football and you have to do it in a physical fashion," Mornhinweg said. "We need to run the ball better. We need to run it better earlier and in our short-yard situation."
- JOE DOLAN
Video Player : In The Studio
* JOHNSON: A THREE-HEADED MONSTER*
In a Week 5 match up against Washington, the Eagles were gashed for 203 yards on the ground as the Redskins converted 11-of-19 third downs in a 23-17 win over Philadelphia.
In Week 10, the Giants racked up 219 yards rushing while converting 7-of-15 third downs in a 36-31 win.
If those two games are any indication, the Eagles' defense will have their hands full when they face the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday.
"(They're) similar in a lot of ways," defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "Good offensive line, they're committed to the run, just like the Giants and the Redskins are committed to the run. If they get -2 (yards), they're still going to come back with the same play.
"They know exactly what they want to do as far as the types of running plays they want. You usually stop them, but it doesn't shy them away from still running. Once they get ahead of you, they're going to run the football, just like the Giants or the Redskins. That's their same type of philosophy and (head coach) John (Harbaugh) may have brought that a little bit too, I'm not sure."
Which is odd considering that Harbaugh had spent the better part of eight years under head coach Andy Reid and his West Coast offense. But after taking over in Baltimore, Harbaugh's path to success has been paved via the run.
The Ravens are averaging 146.8 yards rushing per game, good enough for third in the NFL. Willis McGahee carries a bulk of that load, toting the ball 134 times for 481 yards and five touchdowns.
But when's he's out, the Ravens don't miss a beat because of Ray Rice (85 carries, 375 yards) and Le'Ron McClain (99 carries for 371 yards and five touchdowns).
"You have a Pro Bowl running back in McGahee and then you have a young kid by the name of Rice, who I think is an excellent, excellent running back," Johnson said. "He's a breakaway-type guy. He's had some big games and long runs over 20 yards. I know McGahee can too, but they're using Rice in a lot of situations, even in third down, getting the ball to him. To me, he's a completely different runner than those other two guys."
Despite the way New York's offensive line beat the Eagles, Johnson said they are ready to rise to the occasion in Baltimore.
"All of our guys, I think, every game, they're eager to prove something," Johnson said. "You don't think about the Giants or the Redskins right now. All you do is think about the Ravens. They know what their job is and what their goal is and how they're going to have to stop the run. They're up to it."
- STEVE LIENERT
SEGREST: HARBAUGH INHERITED TALENTED SQUAD
Rory Segrest was hired by the Eagles in 2006 as a special teams quality control coach. The special teams coordinator that year - John Harbaugh.
Now, Segrest is the Eagles' special teams coordinator and Harbaugh is the head coach of the team the Eagles square off against this weekend - the Baltimore Ravens.
"I think primarily the organization of practice. The structure there and making sure you get all the fundamentals covered and all the fine points of practice," said Segrest of what he learned from Harbaugh. "You need to make sure you get all your bases covered on things. Obviously, he had some great ideas and things that are very successful, but the main thing is the structure and organization of practice, more than anything else."
As he broke down the tape of the Ravens special teams, Segrest said that he can see Harbaugh's fingerprints all over on the Ravens squad.
"In terms of return schemes, for example, just base techniques they'll use both in protection and returns," Segrest said. "Just the basic techniques, more than anything else."
The return game is anchored by Yamon Figurs, the second-year receiver-returner who ran the fastest 40 at the 2007 combine. However, Figurs hasn't figured out how to break a big one this season. He's only averaging 6.5 yards per punt return and 21.2 yards on kickoffs.
At kicker, Harbaugh inherited the ever-so-reliable Matt Stover who is fourth in NFL history with an 83.4 percent field goal success rate. He's also made 372 consecutive point after attempts, the longest streak in the NFL. Punter Sam Koch is fifth in the NFL in net average this year thanks to the two longest punts in Ravens history - a 74-yard bomb against Houston and a 67-yard rocket vs. Miami.
A few years back, Segrest and Harbaugh were helping each other figure out how to gain an extra edge on special teams. Now, Segrest has to formulate a game plan to stop Harbaugh's crew.
"It definitely presents a unique challenge this week," Segrest said. "You're competing against a guy who you have kicked around some ideas with and shared some philosophies with, and even terminology. Obviously, Harbs is a great special teams coach. He had a lot of success here and it was a great opportunity for me to work with him."
- CHRIS McPHERSON