Good morning, Eagles fans! The countdown to Minnesota continues. The Eagles practice today at the NovaCare Complex at 1 p.m. Head coach Doug Pederson meets with the media today at 10:30 a.m. and Carson Wentz will speak at 11:55 a.m. We will carry both press conferences live. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft starting with the attitude of the defense heading into a massive game.
1. No Major Changes On Defense
The Eagles' defense has to quickly turn the page after a tough loss in Tennessee as the high-powered offense of the Vikings comes to town. Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media yesterday and was confident in his unit as he announced no major lineup changes. Eagles' Insider Dave Spadaro has more about what Schwartz's plan is to get the defense back on track against a tough opponent:
"We've played a lot like a 2-2 defense. We've played a lot like a 2-2 team right now," Schwartz said. "There have been inconsistencies all around."
There is no panic, then, for Schwartz. He's not moving Jalen Mills from the cornerback position, despite the clear target on Mills's No. 31 jersey – "I'm firmly behind Jalen Mills. That guy has played a lot of good football for us and he epitomizes a lot of things we're about defensively – toughness and competitiveness and the ability to bounce back and I'm confident he will."
2. Eagle Eye: Air Defense
The defense had a tough afternoon last Sunday as several opportunities to put the game away for the Eagles were missed. The main concern was pass coverage as a Titans offense that struggled throwing the ball in the first three weeks threw the ball effectively in a second-half comeback effort. Fran Duffy breaks down the tape and shows where the Eagles' pass coverage went wrong in his Eagle Eye column:
The biggest story coming out of this game is the breakdowns in coverage, and I'm going to cover some of what happened in the secondary. It was not one specific thing that popped up time and time again, as is always the case in football, rather a few different issues. Poor discipline and awareness in zone coverage, getting beaten in man-to-man situations, bad tackling, bad execution in rush lanes up front, and just flat-out good play design from the offense all led to some big plays against this Eagles defense in key moments, particularly in the fourth quarter and in overtime. To start off this piece, however, I want to talk about Cover 3, one of the staple coverages of Jim Schwartz's defense, and why there were some adjustments off of that in this game.
3. Roster Moves
The Eagles announced yesterday that defensive tackle Treyvon Hester was promoted to the active roster. The Eagles also waived defensive tackle Bruce Hector and added linebacker Kyle Wilson to the practice squad.
4. Carson Wentz: The Comeback
Sunday's game against the Vikings will be quarterback Carson Wentz's third start of the 2018 season after recovering from his torn ACL and LCL. When a team aims to repeat a championship run, complacency can be an issue. That is not the case with Wentz. The early ending to his season last year has driven him to be even better than his MVP-caliber season last year and it has made him as hungry as anyone to get back to the Super Bowl. Wentz's comeback journey is the cover story for this week's Gameday Magazine:
"I knew I wanted to still help the team in any way I could," Wentz says. "I just tried to become another set of eyes for Nick, another set of eyes for the offense, and for the coaches, and just be involved as much as I could almost the same way Nick was helping me throughout the season. ... It was challenging, but I thought I did the best I could."
Wentz's mission was a success.
With Wentz in Foles' ear every step of the way, the Eagles marched to Minnesota and captured the first Super Bowl Championship in franchise history. Wentz may not have been throwing (or catching) touchdowns in the game, but he played a vital role.
"It's something you dream of as a kid, playing in that game, being on that field, standing on that podium, and all those things happened other than wearing my pads," Wentz says. "To know I wasn't going to be playing on that field, there's just a lot of mixed emotions and I think that will drive me and motivate me to want to be back there so much more."
5. Lawlor: Everything Matters
The Eagles' defense has lacked its dominant, game-changing form from last season despite similar personnel and the same great leadership. What has changed is the offense's ability to sustain drives consistently, dominate time of possession, and give the defense long breaks. Tommy Lawlor explains that each part of the game affects the other and how the Eagles need more continuity as a team:
Last year, the Eagles ran the third most plays in the league. They led the NFL in time of possession. The Eagles had the best third-down offense for most of the season. Think about what all that means. The Eagles sustained drives and controlled the flow of games. The Eagles' defense faced the sixth-fewest plays in the league. The offense did the defensive players a huge favor by moving the chains and keeping them on the sideline as spectators.
Beyond that, the Eagles were the best red zone offense for most of the season. When those drives got down in scoring position, they turned into touchdowns. That meant the Eagles were playing with the lead most of the time. There was a great synergy between the offense and defense. They fed off each other and helped the Eagles develop into a real juggernaut.
That isn't happening this season. The offense has struggled all year long. Just think about Sunday's game. The Eagles were one-for-four in the red zone. If just one of those failures had turned into a touchdown, the Eagles win that game.