It's gameday! Our live coverage begins tonight with The Kickoff Show presented by Axalta at 7:35 PM, which you can watch on PhiladelphiaEagles.com, the Eagles Mobile App, or our social media channels.
The Eagles are in San Francisco for a clash with the defending NFC Champions. And before the Eagles look to get in the win column for the first time this season, here's a rundown of the best stories of the week in our Weekend Water Break, presented by Crown Royal.
1. Quite simply, how do the Eagles win tonight?
The 49ers are off to a 2-1 start, with back-to-back wins on the East Coast against the Jets and the Giants.
In Week 1, the 49ers fell to their division rivals, the Arizona Cardinals, by a score of 24-20. How did the Cardinals go into Levi's Stadium and come away with the win?
• Special teams! It was 10-0 49ers in the first quarter when Cardinals linebacker Ezekiel Turner blocked a punt that gave Arizona the ball at the 49ers' 10-yard line. On the next play, quarterback Kyler Murray threw a short pass to running back Chase Edmonds for a touchdown. The Eagles must get the ball from the 49ers and capitalize. And don't ignore Dave Fipp's unit in this either.
• Carson Wentz has to beat the 49ers' defense with his legs as well as his arm. Murray gave the 49ers fits to the tune of 91 yards rushing to lead the team. Wentz is coming off a career-high 65 yards against the Bengals after losing tight end Dallas Goedert and wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
• Strength on the edge. The 49ers did run the ball for 123 yards in Week 1, but this is supposed to be the strength of the team and they have overall struggled to start the season. In the second quarter, the 49ers were denied on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line that would have been hard to believe in 2019. The injuries to Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert haven't helped, but defensive ends Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett must set a strong edge to keep the 49ers from getting on the perimeter.
• Protect the ball. The 49ers have committed one turnover this season. In the Week 1 loss, Murray threw one interception in the second quarter. The Cardinals punted only once after the first quarter. Head Coach Doug Pederson has to find a way to sustain drives and Wentz must be better at taking care of the ball. In the four-game win streak to end 2019, Wentz didn't throw a single interception. He's got three multi-interception games to open 2020. Certainly not all on his shoulders, but the supporting cast isn't that different now then at the end of last season.
2. Duce Staley has been here before
Head Coach Doug Pederson was part of a significant turnaround in 2015 when the Kansas City Chiefs overcame the loss of star running back Jamaal Charles and a 1-5 start to win their final 10 games of the season and earn a playoff spot.
The Eagles don't want to dig that large of a hole. Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach Duce Staley was part of the famed three-headed monster in 2003 when the Eagles, coming off back-to-back NFC Championship Game appearances, slumped to an 0-2 start. They won 11 of their next 12 games, including nine straight at one point, to finish 12-4 and as the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
"Just some of the things that we teach every day, some of the things that Doug stresses, myself, I stress it, and really taking it one day at a time," Staley said, looking back at that '03 campaign. "Taking it one day at a tame, making sure as a team, not just talking about Carson, as a team we have to go back, make our corrections and making sure we are dotting all our i's and crossing all our t's and making sure we are doing the little things right."
3. Something to watch: The 49ers' long snapper situation
Lost in the shuffle of the 49ers' blowout win over the Giants last week was the performance of long snapper Kyle Nelson, who was released after the game.
Nelson botched several long snaps, which didn't affect the game's outcome because the 49ers were so dominant. But if the Eagles are in search of an edge, the 49ers have a new long snapper in Taybor Pepper, who played in all 16 games for the Dolphins last season but was waived back in May.
4. 10 reasons to believe
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro decided to look at this past week as Optimism Week and highlighted 10 reasons why the Eagles will rise to the occasion and play their best game of the year against the 49ers. One of the reasons, Spadaro wrote, is the run defense:
That Los Angeles game aside when the Eagles gave up 191 ghastly yards on the ground, stopping the run is what this defense does. Washington averaged 2.2 yards per carry in Week 1 and the Bengals averaged 2.8 yards per carry last Sunday. San Francisco is a terrific running team, varied, and the 49ers stick with it. They aren't going to panic away from the running game. In a lot of ways, this is going to be strength on strength, and I'm always going with the Eagles in that battle. Jim Schwartz understands what his defense is going against in this one, and he knows the first priority is to stop the running game. So, let's see the defense do it and set the tone for the night.
5. Game Preview
In the Eagles vs. 49ers Game Preview, presented by Unibet, 49ers radio analyst Tim Ryan offered a look at the Kyle Shanahan offense without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Nick Mullens is the starting quarterback tonight for the 49ers.
"One thing about Nick and he didn't play last year, played a couple of years ago and you know the numbers from the first eight starts – threw for the fourth-most yards of any player in pro football since 1970, the modern era of football and there's been a lot of good ones delivering the mail," Ryan said.
"He's certainly talented in terms of being able to go to the right spot. I think his arm has gotten stronger, you could see some illustrations of that on the field against the Giants and throwing outside the numbers and hanging in the pocket for three and a half, four seconds and driving the ball into the middle of the defense off of his back foot. There were a few examples of that. But he's gonna be prepared. He knows the offense as well as anybody and I would say as well as any quarterback could know this offense."
6. Who will start where tonight?
The Eagles made several roster moves on Saturday. In short, the Eagles signed wide receiver Travis Fulgham, center Luke Juriga, and running back Adrian Killins. The team also called up defensive back Grayland Arnold and wide receiver Deontay Burnett from the practice squad for the game. Tackle Jason Peters and cornerback Trevor Williams were placed on Injured Reserve.
The big question is who starts at left tackle. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro on the situation:
This is an iffy picture because left tackle Jason Peters was placed on the Injured Reserve list Saturday with a foot injury. There are some scenarios to consider here against a San Francisco defensive front that has suffered significant injuries – the losses of ends Nick Bosa and Dee Ford and tackle Solomon Thomas – but that still has impact players like Arik Armstead on the edge and rookie Javon Kinlaw inside. The Eagles have Jordan Mailata at the ready, with rookie Jack Driscoll, who has to prepare, basically, at four positions, also prepared for emergency duty. Or that the Eagles shake it all up and start Driscoll – who could also play right tackle if the Eagles wanted to go all-out change and move Lane Johnson to left tackle.
It's unsettling, but that's been the nature of an offensive line that has been roiled by injury since guard Brandon Brooks suffered his torn Achilles tendon in the spring, followed by Andre Dillard's torn biceps, then Isaac Seumalo's knee injury, and now Peters' foot injury. Stability has gone out the window in 2020 and credit goes to the coaching staff and some young players – notably someone like Nate Herbig – for the adjustments made in the last couple of weeks. What's another challenge? No biggie, right?
7. Speaking of Jordan Mailata ...
The third-year offensive tackle took part in the first virtual Play 60 pep rally on Monday with Camden's Big Picture Learning Academy. Mailata, Kyle and Christine from the Eagles Cheer Team, and SWOOP discussed their fitness routines, detailed their diets, and quizzed the sixth-grade students on various health topics.
8. Carson Wentz's teammates have his back
During his weekly day-after radio interview with SportsRadio 94WIP's morning show, Doug Pederson was asked if he is considering benching Carson Wentz. Pederson immediately said no and explained how such a move would be a "knee-jerk reaction."
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro added similar sentiments from Wentz's teammates during the week.
With quarterback Carson Wentz battling the most difficult time in his NFL career, and with the media doing what it does – understood, that's the profession – and the fans wondering what the heck is going on, the players are making sure that Wentz knows who has his back. Everybody at One NovaCare Way.
And that's all that matters.
"He's our quarterback," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said during a Tuesday teleconference when asked what he said to Wentz in the bench area on Sunday during the 23-23 tie with Cincinnati, "and we got his back. I'll let that be known. He's our quarterback. You just go over there and talk to him and let him know, 'Hey, we got your back.' Say strong words and stay positive the whole time and just by saying little words like that, that helps people, that keeps their mind clear."
Wide receiver Greg Ward echoed those thoughts later in the afternoon.
"It's all of us," he said. "You don't single out one player. We are where we are because we haven't played well enough as a team. Carson is doing everything he can to win. He's working extremely hard. He's our quarterback, our leader."
9. Kyle Shanahan certainly remains a fan of Carson Wentz
On his conference call with Philadelphia reporters to preview tonight's game, 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan expects Carson Wentz to bounce back from his slow start.
"He's an unbelievable player and he still is," Shanahan said. "I don't see anything that's changed. It's a matter of time before he plays at a high level. He's too good not to."
"The guy is a helluva competitor, can make a ton of plays, has a big arm and is extremely hard to take down. Just said in our own press conference, he was the best player in the NFL the year you guys won the Super Bowl and he had that unfortunate injury. But he's come back and fought from that.
"And I think anytime when you are that good of a player and you are on a good team like the Eagles are, and your guys' numbers aren't the best and stuff like that, people are always going to look at the quarterback. That's the pressure that goes with that position."
10. Where are they now? G Mark Nordquist
It's amazing when an athlete can carve out a successful nine-year career in the NFL, seven with the Eagles, and yet that's almost a footnote in the person's life.
Jim Gehman profiles Mark Nordquist, a guard for the Eagles in the late '60s and early '70s, who founded a widely known successful medical device company. The anecdote about Pro Bowl defensive tackle Floyd Peters alone makes this worth checking out.