Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro offers his game preview of Sunday's showdown with the New York Jets. Here are the six storylines to follow as well as the latest on the injury front – literally, as this story has been updated following the Sauce Gardner news.
1. Eagles defense has injury challenges
You know by now that the Eagles' defense will rely on its depth in some key positions for Sunday's game. Cornerback Darius Slay is out with a knee injury, and the Eagles will turn to a combination of Josh Jobe, Bradley Roby, Mario Goodrich, Eli Ricks, and Kelee Ringo to take the reps. Mekhi Garner was also elevated from the practice squad as insurance. The depth will be relied upon at safety as well with safety Justin Evans being placed on Injured Reserve on Friday and the Eagles aren't yet sure if Sydney Brown will be ready to go, so it looks like Reed Blankenship and Terrell Edmunds will get the call to start. This is nothing new, because the Eagles have been adjusting their secondary all season and have dealt with players going in and out of the lineup since Week 1. This is where the “next man up” mentality is something this football team truly relies upon.
Oh, and there's more: Rookie Jalen Carter is out for this game with an ankle injury and Marlon Tuipolotu is questionable with a triceps injury so, just as last week, the defensive tackle group is taxed. Fletcher Cox returns and he's confident the defensive line will respond.
"They're a good football team, disciplined, and we know we're going to get their best," he said. "We have be on top of our game, physical, and get after it."
More good news is that linebacker Nakobe Dean returns to the lineup, after missing four weeks with a foot injury.
Something notable here: Brandon Graham plays in his 184th game, the most games for any defensive player in Eagles history. Wouldn't it be great to see him have a big game?
"I just love every bit of it," Graham said. "To be in the league this long and to be in this organization the entire time, I just couldn't ask for anything more. I'm going to go out there and do what I always do: Play hard and have energy and do what it takes to win the game. I'm proud of the mark and I expect to keep it going."
2. No Sauce and more for Jets at cornerback
All week, reporters wanted to hear from wide receiver A.J. Brown about Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner, anticipating a great matchup, but no longer. Gardner on Saturday was downgraded to out because of a concussion. In fact, New York won't have its other starting corner, D.J. Reed, and third corner Brandin Echols is also out.
So, digest this: The Jets are playing the Eagles without their top three cornerbacks. That means Brown and DeVonta Smith and Olamide Zeccheaus, whose role will increase with Quez Watkins going on Injured Reserve, going against the Jets' deep backups, including former Eagle Craig James. That is a really tough matchup for the Jets, who all week said that Gardner had an illness and was initially listed as questionable. On Saturday, everything changed.
This is, on paper of course, huge for the Eagles.
3. Jets have a weapon in RB Breece Hall
Twice in five games New York running back Breece Hall has rushed for more than 100 yards, most recently last week when he gained 177 yards in the win over Denver. He's a big back at 6-1, 220 pounds and Hall averages over 7.2 yards per carry. In his rookie season, Hall showed signs of stardom, gaining 463 yards and averaging nearly 6 yards per carry in seven games before suffering a torn ACL, and he has made a remarkable recovery. He is a big-play back, so the Eagles' No. 1-ranked run defense will have its focus on No. 20.
4. Winning at the line of scrimmage
Philadelphia's defensive line has a distinct advantage on paper, even with the injuries. New York lost its starting right tackle, Alijah Vera-Tucker, last week to an Achilles injury and his absence is a big blow. The Eagles have been heating up on the edges, particularly Haason Reddick, so the goal is to put quarterback Zach Wilson in third-and-long situations and then get after him. Philadelphia's offensive line has a lot of respect for the Jets' front seven, and that will be a very good battle.
5. Keeping an undefeated streak alive
Philadelphia is 12-0 all time against the Jets and while that doesn't mean anything in particular for this game, it is a streak the Eagles obviously want to keep going. The schedule doesn't get any easier after this Sunday – Miami at home, at Washington, Dallas, and then a gauntlet after the bye week – so getting to 6-0 for the season is critical. The Eagles understand what is at stake. They have been focused all week on one thing: Going 1-0 this week and winning at MetLife Stadium.
Take a closer look at this week's practices as the Eagles prepare to travel up the turnpike to play the New York Jets.
6. Playing with a high level of consistency
This Eagles team is one that plays with great consistency week in, week out. Keep in mind that the team returned from Los Angeles early in the morning on Monday and now has another road trip. It is the time in the season when players are starting to feel the wear and tear, but that doesn't seem to be an issue when the Eagles line up.
"I think it is the culture in the building and that pre-dates me," said Jason Kelce, who will set a franchise record with his 145th consecutive start Sunday. "I feel like there's been a constant culture in this locker room and in this team and I think the city and all the attention it puts on us, the urgency the city puts on the organization also pumps that. I think it's a lot of things. We've had really good players, really good leaders, and a really good culture in the building and that's sustained through multiple regimes."