Have you adjusted your sleep pattern yet, fellow Eagles fan? I’m doing the “go to bed an hour earlier each night” thing before the Birds and Jags kick off at Wembley on Sunday morning—er, afternoon London time, of course. Problem is going to bed doesn’t necessarily equate to falling asleep. An extra shot of gin at bedtime helps a little, also reading a book in dim light seems to facilitate sleepy time—but awaking earlier each morning now leaves me feeling a little twitchy the rest of the day. I wonder if the players are experiencing something similar to my coping routine?—all except for the gin chaser at night, of course…(as Kent Phil would say, “ahem!”)…
The game itself will be without these injured players: for the Eagles, slot CB Sidney Jones (hamstring), RB Darren Sproles (hamstring), S Corey Graham (hamstring), and LB/ST Nathan Gerry (ankle, knee).
Questionable is DT Haloti Ngata (calf).
For the Jaguars, these players are out: RB Leonard Fournette (hamstring), CB A.J. Bouye (calf), CB Tyler Patmon (neck), and TE James O’Shaughnessy (hip).
Questionable to Doubtful is CB D.J. Hayden (toe).
What the injury report really means to the Eagles is we will see some new faces on the field, especially in the defensive secondary and on special teams. CB Dexter McDougle was on the street two weeks ago; now he may be getting his second straight start with the Eagles in Sidney Jones’ spot. CB Chandon Sullivan (UDFA rookie) has been called up from the practice squad and will be activated for Sunday’s game. HC Doug Pederson said “Chandon Sullivan has done everything right, and put himself in position to help us. … We’ll see how much time he gets.”
The Eagles practiced Friday on a windy sunny morning at the London Irish Rugby Football Club’s Hazelwood training grounds near lovely Sunbury-on-Thames.
Spies report that the Birds were walking through a lot of running plays. Hmmm…The Eagles are coming off one of their poorest rushing performances of the season. They were held to 2.4 yards per carry by a Panthers defense that had been allowing 4.6. Wendell Smallwood had a couple of nice third-quarter runs, including an 8-yard gain on a third-and-6 on the Eagles’ final scoring drive. But that was pretty much it. He gained 14 yards on his other seven carries, and Corey Clement managed just 6 yards on eight carries. As Paul Domowitch of the Inquirer notes in his scouting report, “Smallwood is a decent runner, but has limited vision and change-of-direction ability.”
Our spies also saw the Eagles offense working on situational formations, most notably 3rd and medium-long scenarios. Last Sunday Carson Wentz completed just 2 of 7 passes on third down.
Guess who will be covering Alshon Jeffrey, currently our best clutch receiver? Yep, it’s big-mouth All-Pro CB Jalen Ramsey, who is likely to shadow Jeffrey all day. Ramsey only shuts up when he gets beat. I yearn for a big old cup of “CHUT UP” to be delivered by Kent Phil personally to Ramsey when the dust clears at Wembley.
If in fact Jeffrey is tire-tracked into a neutral factor on offense, here’s your key to the game—someone, anyone besides TE Zach Ertz has got to step up with some dynamite route-running and give Wentz some kind of viable alternative target to throw to once in a while. The season-long disappearance of our #2 and #3 wideouts in the downfield passing game has become alarming.
On defense, our thin line will be tested by the Jaguars’ reliance upon their run game. QB Blake Bortles is a better runner than he is passer. RB Carlos Hyde, acquired last week from the Browns, will make his Jags debut Sunday. The 6-foot, 229-pound Hyde is a downhill runner with explosive power.
A key matchup to watch is Eagles DT Fletcher Cox vs. Jaguars C Brandon Linder and RG A.J. Cann. Linder and Cann are solid blockers with 102 combined starts. But Cox has been a disruptive force inside all season. We are gonna need all the disruption we can get on defense to offset the loss of depth in the DL rotation right now.
Just in case you’re wondering, Philly’s beat writers are calling it like this:
Les Bowen— Eagles 17, Jags 16
Paul “DOMO” — Jags 17, Eagles 13
Jeff McLane— Eagles 24, Jags 20
Zach Berman— Eagles 19, Jags 17