There’s a universe out there where former Eagles coach Chip Kelly landed Marcus Mariota in the 2015 draft. Stemming from that, there are universes where the Eagles enjoyed success under that reunion, and probably more where the Kelly/Mariota tandem crashed and burned. Maybe in that universe, former Eagle and midnight green legend Frank Gore was apart of the success (or failure…probably failure) with Kelly and Mariota. I’d like to think that even maybe Jason Avant some how stuck around and won a ring in a dimension where Mariota saved Kelly’s tenure in Philly.
Speaking of Jason Avant, what is he up to nowadays? I know the Eagles signed Jordan Matthews, but Avant caught the ball like 97% of the time it hit his hands (this is a guess but I bet it’s also correct), which is, and I’m just spit balling here, around 50% more than when the ball hits Matthews hands. Not that I dislike J-Matt, I just think Avant had some of the surest hands I’ve ever seen. He’s probably too old now though. What was I talking about again? Any who, no need to worry about any of that, because honestly drafting Mariota would have ended up most likely sucking in the majority of the universes. I think our current (actual) Eagles universe worked out pretty alright.
On Sunday, the Eagles will face the quarterback they almost had and the Titans for the first time since he was drafted in 2015. There are some storylines I should mention before I dive into the full preview. On the Eagles injury front, safety Rodney McLeod was placed on IR and receiver Deandre Carter was recalled from the practice squad. Look out for Corey Graham in relief of McLeod, as his already considerable role (16 snaps in week two and 47 snaps in week three) will expand. Jay Ajayi is listed as healthy and will play, but dealing with a back injury can be a tricky situation and we should perhaps cautiously temper how much we’ll see him. Corey Clement and Nathan Gerry are questionable, as well as Alshon Jeffrey. Clement played through the same injury last week, so I’d expect him to suit up tomorrow. In regards to Jeffrey, he practiced fully on Wednesday, but missed practice Thursday and Friday due to illness. It seemed as if Jeffrey was slated to make his debut, but time will tell if missing the practices at the end of the week will delay that.
Mariota Dealing With Elbow Injury
The Eagles aren’t the only ones with injury concerns. Marcus Mariota missed week two of the season with an elbow injury that made him feel tingling in two of his fingers. That obviously sounds very concerning, but he was able to come in for a concussed Blaine Gabbert last week and lead his team to victory. While his passing stats won’t blow anyone away from that game, just going out there and being able to throw the football shows that it at least isn’t bothering him too much.
Evaluating the Titans So Far
How have the Titans faired in the first three weeks of the NFL season? Well, after numerous delays in their first game, they lost by a touchdown to a Miami team that got off to a hot start. A week later, they beat a less than impressive Houston team with Gabbert at the helm. In week three with Mariota coming back in as relief, they managed to win in a low scoring affair against a Jaguars team that was coming off a strong win against New England. Despite the lack of offense, that has easily been their most impressive win of the season.
Keys to Victory
Keeping the Titans Running Game Contained & the Passing Game to Short Yardage
While Tennessee has a young, up and coming receiver in Corey Davis, he’s no Julio Jones, Desean Jackson, or Mike Evans. The formula to beat the Eagles is with quarterbacks and receivers who can go deep and test our secondary with big plays. The Titans don’t necessarily have that and will look to establish a running game against our dominant front. Taking the running game away and containing Derrick Henry on the inside, and Dion Lewis on the outside, should be the first priority for the defense. When it comes to the passing game and the crafty route running of Dion Lewis, the Eagles have shown an ability to stop that, particularly Lewis (who, if you remember, the Eagles limited greatly in the Super Bowl). He’ll catch a few short passes, but the key will be to wrap up, bring him down, and not allow any big yards after the catch. One thing to note about Mariota is that he’s never thrown a red zone interception in his entire career. If the Eagles defense gets into a red zone situation, history suggests they’ll have to hope to limit the Titans to a field goal – but then again, there’s always a first time for everything. Later in the game, if the Eagles have a lead, forcing Mariota to throw the ball downfield on a bum elbow could lead to takeaway opportunities for the defense, but it all starts with stopping the run.
The Offense Getting Off to a Hot Start and Establishing a Running Game
The Birds scored a touchdown on their first drive with Wentz under center last week, and it would be ideal for them to get going quick again this week. Tennessee showed against Jacksonville that you shouldn’t let them hang around, so scoring points early and being aggressive on offense will be key. Once a decent lead is obtained, they should stay aggressive but also establish the running game. If the Eagles can own the time of possession, that defense will be fresh enough to deal with Mariota and company. Ajayi is listed as healthy, and we can only hope that the back injury is behind him now. If he is limited, Clement and Smallwood looked more than capable a week ago, and even Josh Adams showed that he’s likely an NFL player.
In most universes, the Birds win handedly. Hopefully we’re in one of those. I’ll say 31-14 good guys, and I’ll throw in the bold prediction that Mariota throws his first red zone pick too.