Philly Front Office - Eagles

Previewing the First Quarter of the Eagles’ 2018 Season

I have good news, ladies and gentleman: we are in the last stretch of the year without Eagles football. Our defending champs will be reporting to training camp on July 25th and will have their first preseason game on August 9th. The regular season opener is a Thursday Night game on September 6th against the Atlanta Falcons. The following three games will be played against the Buccaneers, Colts, and Titans. Let’s breakdown the matchups for the first quarter of the Eagles’ season.

 

*All rankings of teams are from NFL.com

 

Falcons @ Eagles

Atlanta’s 2017 Ranks

Offense: Points – 15th

                  Total Yards – 8th

                  Pass Yards – 8th

                  Rush Yards – 13th

 Defense: Total Defense – 9th

                    Points Allowed – 8th

                    Yards Allowed – 9th

                   Pass Yards Allowed – 12th

                   Rush Yards Allowed – 9th

 

The Linc is sure to be rockin’ in the Birds’ first regular season appearance since winning the city’s first Super Bowl, and it’s fitting that the 2018 campaign opens up against the team they faced first in that magical playoff run. That playoff game was sloppy at times and a street fight at others. My biggest takeaway from that game was the bend-but-don’t-break mentality of the Eagles’ defense that played exceptionally well. Allowing only ten points to a team that averaged 22.1 points per game in the regular season and was 8th in the league in passing yards per game was the key to the Eagles victory. Their success on defense should be something we see in 2018 as well.

In 2017, the Eagles allowed only 79.2 rushing yards per game, which gave them the #1 rush defense in the NFL. Adding Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata will only boost the defensive line that made that possible. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, while a very respectable running back tandem, should have a hard time finding running room if the Eagles’ defense is in the same groove they finished the season off with last year. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones led the Falcons to the 8th best passing offense in the NFL a season ago, and there is no reason to believe their potent air attack will be any worse this time around. The secondary was, at times, the weak point of the Eagles’ defense last season, and Sidney Jones should be given a bit of a grace period in adjusting to a larger role after missing most of his rookie season. If the Eagles’ defense can continue their bend-but-don’t-break mentality of 2017, they should be able to manage though.

Whether or not Carson Wentz plays Week One will obviously be a huge factor, but even if he misses the season opener, Nick Foles is more than capable of leading the team to victory. This game will be one of the tougher matchups on the Eagles’ schedule, but with the atmosphere the home crowd will undoubtedly bring, it’s hard for me to imagine them dropping the opener (it’s funny how winning a Super Bowl can take your typical Eagles pessimism away).

 

Eagles @ Buccaneers

 Tampa’s 2017 Ranks

Offense: Points – 18th

                 Yards – 9th

                 Pass Yards – 4th

                 Rush Yards – 27th

 Defense: Total Defense – 32nd

                    Points Allowed – 23rd

                   Yards Allowed – 32nd

                   Pass Yards Allowed – 32nd

                   Rush Yards Allowed – 23rd 

 

The Eagles’ first away game will be in Tampa Bay. In 2017, the Bucs had one of the best statistical aerial attacks in the league. That might’ve not necessarily been their own doing, though. They also had one of the worst defenses in the entire league. In terms of total defense, they actually were the worst defense in the NFL. Playing from behind in most games sort of forces your hand into throwing the ball, as well as former rushing leader Doug Martin’s drastic decline playing a factor. The good thing for the Bucs’ defense is…well it can’t get any worse, literally. They were able to add two former Eagles’ defensive linemen in Vinny Curry and Beau Allen, as well as drafting defensive tackle Vita Vea in the first round, who was Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Getting better on defense was clearly a priority for Tampa, who also took two defensive backs, a safety, and a linebacker in the draft.

 

These additions to their defense will probably improve them on that side of the ball, but it’s hard to imagine them improving by all that much. The Eagles’ balanced offense should be able to put up points against this team. In terms of the Bucs’ offense, the 27th ranked rushing team in 2017 should have a difficult time against the Birds, despite drafting running back Ronald Jones II out of USC in the second round. I expect the Bucs to be playing from behind again in this one.

Colts @ Eagles

Indianapolis’ 2017 Ranks

Offense: Points – 30th

                  Yards – 31st

                 Pass Yards – 30th

                 Rush Yards – 22nd

 Defense: Total Defense – 30th

                    Points Allowed – 30th

                   Yards Allowed – 30th

                   Pass Yards Allowed – 28th

                   Rush Yards Allowed – 26th

 

The Colts were, to put it kindly, an unimpressive team in 2017. Star quarterback Andrew Luck sat out the season nursing a shoulder injury that Colts fans have surely been stressing over. The good news for them is that the team’s GM came out and said no limitations will be put on Luck in training camp, aside from a few built-in days off. He even said that he expects Luck to play in the preseason. Obviously, if he’s on the field, their offense takes on a completely different identity. Former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich was hired as the Colts’ head coach this offseason, and based on his experiences with Peyton Manning (when he was QB coach for the Colts) as well as Carson Wentz, he could potentially unlock more in Luck and the offense that the former staff could not. Indianapolis showed in the draft their dedication to improving their offensive line by drafting two guards in the first two rounds. This should help the team that allowed the most sacks last season to protect Luck and control the line of scrimmage, but it’s unlikely that it will help much against the Eagles’ stacked defensive line.

 

The Colts’ defense was bad last season. Now that Chuck Pagano is gone, the Colts will be shifting from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3. Perhaps this will help them improve over time, but one offseason to gain the personnel necessary for a scheme switch could prove difficult. They lost their No. 1 cornerback, Rashaan Melvin, to the Oakland Raiders, and they will rely on in-house players to fill the void. Put simply, the Eagles should be able to score on this team.

 

Eagles @ Titans

Tennessee’s 2017 Ranks

Offense: Points – 19th

                  Yards – 23rd

                  Pass Yards – 23rd

                  Rush Yards – 15th

 Defense: Total Defense – 13th

                Points Allowed – 17th

                Yards Allowed – 13th

                Pass Yards Allowed – 25th

                Rush Yards Allowed – 4th

 

The Titans made some interesting free agency moves. On offense, they moved on from DeMarco Murray, who announced his retirement recently, allowing Derrick Henry to be featured in a more prominent role. They also signed former Patriots RB Dion Lewis to be the lightning to Henry’s thunder, which should prove to be a good tandem alongside Mariota. On the defensive side of the ball, they brought in another former Patriot in Malcolm Butler, as well as re-signing defensive lineman DaQuan Jones. Jones and Jurell Casey were a huge reason they had the 4th best rush defense in the NFL last season, and they’ll hope to repeat that success, despite losing inside linebacker Avery Williamson. The Titans might be able to replace Williamson’s presence with two players they drafted this offseason. ILB Rashaan Evans was taken 22nd overall and OLB Harold Landry in the second round. Overall, it looks as if Tennessee has had a very successful offseason and should build upon their playoff appearance last year.

 

The Eagles held Dion Lewis to just 39 yards in Super Bowl LII, and the #1 rush defense in the NFL a season ago is capable enough to keep Henry in check. One thing to watch out for, though, is that the Titans are bringing back their entire starting offensive line. Consistency in the trenches isn’t something to be taken lightly in the NFL, and you can expect them to not give up on the run game if they don’t have early success. The keys to this one will be limiting the Titans’ success running the ball to a minimum and keeping their offense between the 20’s. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Keeping an opposing offense out of the red zone is always a good idea, you stupid idiot.” And you’re right! It’s especially important when facing Mariota, though. In his career, Mariota has thrown 41 touchdowns and 0 (zero!) interceptions while in the red zone. He’s been remarkably efficient when the offense gets that close to the goal line. If the Eagles can keep him away from there, they should be able to pull out a victory.

 

Predictions

My heart tells me 4-0, but my mind tells me 3-1. I think they could drop a close one to either Atlanta or Tennessee. It’s also far too early to be making such predictions, given we haven’t even seen any of these teams play a preseason game yet. With that being said, my final answer is 4-0, baby. Like I said earlier, it’s funny how winning a Super Bowl can help get rid of your typical Eagles pessimism.

 

Shane Sullivan

Recently graduated from the establishment formerly known as Philadelphia University. Diehard Philadelphia sports fan who was regrettably pessimistic about Nick Foles (I'm sorry, Nick) and was thankfully optimistic about The Process (thank you, Sam Hinkie). Movie lover, book nerd, and horror game enthusiast. I would've eventually won on the show WipeOut if it didn't get cancelled.

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