Philadelphia Eagles News

Morning Roundup: Finding An Identity

1. Lane Johnson Returns To Practice

Lane Johnson was back in practice on Thursday in a limited role as he continues to battle an ankle injury that put his status for last week's game against the Giants in doubt. Follow offensive tackle Jason Peters was a full participant with his biceps injury. Yesterday's injury report details the two tackles and six Eagles that did not practice.

2. Zach Ertz Belongs In League's Top TE Discussion

Zach Ertz has been good this season. Like, historically good. And it's time the league took notice.

Ertz is the first tight end in NFL history (and the 17th player ever) to have 48 or more receptions through six games. He has a record number of receptions and yards at this point in the season for an Eagle is also on pace for a record number of receptions for tight ends in the league. Those are some of many shocking and impressive Ertz statistics at this point in the season:

"I'm just trying to make plays when the ball is in there, trying to get open as much as possible," Ertz said. "Playing with the same quarterback for three years now helps. Getting everybody else back, so defenses aren't just focusing on me. It's not just me doing my job. There are a lot of things that are contributing to that number. But 3-3, we're not exactly where we want to be. I'd trade 10 catches to be 6-0 right now."

3. Eagle Eye: Prepping For Panthers' Run Game

For the Panthers offense, the ground game is the most dangerous weapon. Running back Christian McCaffrey is a dynamic player and Cam Newton's running ability is especially stressing on a defense. Fran Duffy broke down what makes this rushing attack work and how the ground game drives the Panthers' offense in his Eagle Eye column:

The Panthers aren't the most efficient team in football – they're 21st in the league on third down entering Week 7 – and they're struggling to throw the football at a high rate compared to the rest of the league. This run game is dynamic and Carolina hits you in a lot of ways.

A lot of fans may look at this team and think it's all about Newton and the option element. While that's certainly a big part of it, it couldn't be less true. This is a team that wants to line up and smack you in the mouth up front. Trai Turner is a mauler at right guard, and Ryan Kalil is still one of the best centers in the league. I really liked right tackle Taylor Moton a couple of years ago coming out of Western Michigan, partly because of his physicality. As much as Carolina likes to dress things up and give a defense eye candy in the backfield, it will put Newton under center with Christian McCaffrey behind him, sometimes with a fullback and sometimes not, and pound the rock.

4. What Should We Expect On Sunday?

The Eagles have looked great and not-so-great at times this season. With injuries and players shuffling in and out of the lineup, the Eagles are searching for an identity and consistency going from week to week. The question now is can the Eagles build off of their dominant showing in New Jersey last week and use it as momentum going forward. Eagles' Insider Dave Spadaro broke down what has stopped this team from having an identity so far and what fans can expect to see from the Eagles on Sunday:

"We just have to be consistent, the way we know we can play," said tight end Zach Ertz, who is second among all players in the NFL with 48 receptions. "We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and play our best football. It's there for us. Our goals are there for us to accomplish. It's something where we have to be at our best at all times. We're getting other teams' best shots. We have to be ready for that and we are. We're up for the test. I think we're going to find out a lot about our football team the next couple of weeks."

5. Eagles Everywhere

Two Eagles were among the Top-10 and three were among the Top-20 Player sales from March 1, 2018 -- August 31, 2018. The NFL Players Association released a verified Top-50 list of all officially licensed NFL player products and merchandise and tight end Zach Ertz ranks 18th, quarterback Nick Foles ranks eighth, and quarterback Carson Wentz ranks third.

6. Ahead Of His Time

Former Eagles running back Keith Byars was drafted by Buddy Ryan in 1986 to be a franchise back after setting the Ohio State records for rushing yards and touchdowns. But foot injuries in his first two years in the NFL changed the course of his career. While Byars wasn't able to be a workhorse back early in his career, the Eagles found a new way to get him touches and allow him to make plays. Ray Didinger writes that Byars was a player ahead of his time:

However, they noticed Byars was surprisingly fluid catching the football. He had soft hands, ran nice patterns, and demonstrated a good understanding of the passing game. It wasn't all that surprising considering he was a tight end his first two years at Roth High School in Dayton, Ohio before moving to tailback.

This started the Eagles' coaches thinking: Why keep running Byars up the middle when they can split him wide, throw him the ball, and use his 6-1, 240-pound muscle to trample people in the open field? So they tried it and found that it worked and in a 13-year career, Byars evolved into one of the most versatile – and valuable – players in the NFL.

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