The Eagles are preparing for Monday's Wild Card Playoff Game at Tampa Bay and the coaching staff is digging in. Offensive Coordinator Brian Johnson, Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay, and Senior Defensive Assistant Matt Patricia met the media on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex to discuss what they've seen from Tampa Bay.
Johnson: Preparing for the Tampa Bay blitz game
The Eagles have seen it before and in Week 3's 25-11 win at Tampa Bay, they defeated the blitz and pressure packages created by Bucs Head coach Todd Bowles.
Offensive Coordinator Brian Johnson says communication and everyone being on the same page is key for Monday night to win against Bowles.
"He's done it at a high level for a really long time," Johnson said. "I think just the variety of different fronts, different personnel groupings, being able to mix and match, being able to package it in a way where it looks very similar to other things that they can present. So for us, we really have to be on in terms of our identification system."
Tampa Bay blitzes at the third-highest rate in the league, so that is certainly something to watch in this game. But the Bucs are more than a blitzing defense. They've been together a long time and they are healthy (the team missed cornerback Carlton Davis in the Week 3 game).
Johnson has taken notice.
"They're definitely healthier. They've got a fantastic veteran group that's been there, seems like, forever. And obviously they're very well coached," he said. "Coach (Todd) Bowles does a great job defensively, and they've got some players who are battle tested and who have done it at a high level for a really long time. Everybody here is looking forward to the matchup."
Relive the greatest moments between the Birds and Bucs before they square off in the Wild Card Round.
Michael Clay: Replacing Sydney Brown is key in coverage
Michael Clay's special teams have had an outstanding 2023 season, and part of that success has been the play of rookie gunner Sydney Brown, who made a team-high seven special teams tackles. Brown, however, tore his ACL in Sunday's loss at the Giants, so Clay has to fill that void for Monday night's game at Tampa Bay, a team against which the Eagles dominated on special teams in the Week 3 win.
"Obviously for Sydney, you feel terrible for him. He's been doing such a good job both defensively and special teams-wise. But again, just like anything else, in the special teams room, it's next man up," Clay said. "You saw Tristin (McCollum) take some reps at gunner in terms of taking his place. It will be hard to fill the void. We're ready in this room. We've got all the guys in this room ready to get their name called up to play whenever at a high level. We've done a good job at that for the entirety of the season.
"You just feel bad for Sydney. He does such a good job and plays with such intensity and it's hard to replace a guy that has that much ferocity out on the outside, but (Special Teams Assistant) Tyler (Brown) does a good job getting all those guys in the gunner room to be ready to perform at a high level."
The Eagles have been excellent in the kicking game all season. Punt return man Britain Covey averaged 14.4 yards per return (third highest in Eagles history) and his 417 return yards led the NFL. Jake Elliott nailed 30 of 32 field goals – a franchise-best 93.8 conversion rate – and made 45 of 46 PAT kicks. Elliott, knocking on wood, has never missed a field goal attempt in the postseason in his career. Punter Braden Mann set Eagles records by averaging 49.8 yards per punt with a 43.9-yard net average.
The kicking game, then, is in great, er, feet with long snapper Rick Lovato starting the operation.
"Rick, Jake, and Braden have done an unbelievable job all year," Clay said. "Kudos to them for setting Philadelphia records in their respective positions. But those guys, they come in to work every day trying to get better. You could be in whatever year you're on and get kind of complacent. They never want to look for complacency, they're always trying to get better. Best thing about it is all three of them together, they have fun, which is awesome. It takes a lot of the stresses of the job away when you're just coming in here having a great time, not with those three, but everybody else in this room.
"So just kudos to them for going out every time and being a difference when their number is called."
Matt Patricia: It starts with QB Baker Mayfield
Tampa Bay quarterback Baker Mayfield has resurrected his career this season, throwing for 4,044 yards with 28 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions. Matt Patricia says the key for Monday is to affect Mayfield and go from there.
"The one thing that sticks out right away, and I've got to start with this, is how strong he (Mayfield) is. I think he's No. 2 when you look at it in forced missed tackles. You just can't get him down," Patricia said. "I think that's where he extends plays and can get his eyes back downfield, and obviously between (wide receiver) Mike (Evans) and (wide receiver Chris) Godwin and other guys he's got out there, he's got speed. They have speed on the field, and they will have an issue downfield if you don't have those guys handled.
"Some guys you can just put the ball up to and they'll make plays. He's got good players from that aspect of it. I think he's really good at reading coverages. I think he does a good job getting the ball out fast in those situations and extending the plays when he needs to. And he's savvy enough and elusive enough.
"And his lower body strength is really good and sometimes you just see guys try to tackle him high and he shrugs them off and extends it. And even (running back Rachaad) White, the back, does a good job in the space and getting the ball to him. He's like the No. 1 guy in missed forced tackles, hard to tackle. Playing to the skill they have. Baker does a good job of that. He can read coverages."
The Eagles want to play fast and aggressive, Patricia said. Tampa Bay's running game ranked 32nd in the NFL during the regular season and Patricia said he saw improvement in the run-game communication for the Eagles in the Giants game, so it could come down to Mayfield and how to impact him every time he drops back on Monday night.