For Arizona Cardinals fans, it seems like forever since that fateful Sunday Night Football game where everything changed.
The world was introduced to David Johnson, but the Cardinals lost their heart and soul on defense in their big win in Philly.
It's a different Eagles team now, so we talked with Bleeding Green Nation's head man, Brandon Lee Gowton to get the lowdown on the Iggles.
1. The Eagles sit at 3-1 with their lone loss to arguably the best team in the NFL. What are the expectations for this team?
Prior to the start of this season, I thought the Eagles were bound to improve a little while the rest of the division was poised to take a step back. So far, it looks like the Eagles are on track to meet my expectations.
I don’t think the Eagles are some elite team (but maybe I’m wrong about that). I still think 9-7 or 10-6 is where this team ends up. I think it’s very possible the Eagles could win the NFC East.
From there, it’d be great to win a playoff game. The Eagles haven’t won in the postseason dating all the way back to the 2008 season.
But there’s still a long way to go before we can really dream about the playoffs. The Eagles also started off 3-1 last year and finished 7-9. The hope is that Carson Wentz will play better in Year 2 and the defense won’t crumble like it did at times last season.
2. Has Wentz lived up to the expectations and where can he improve the most?
Wentz is definitely showing signs of improvement in Year 2. He hasn’t been perfect by any means; his accuracy could still stand to improve. With that said, he’s doing a good job of taking care of the ball (both interceptions were tipped passes) while also taking more shots down the field. Wentz has been crazy efficient on third down and in the red zone. He’s been really clutch in these areas.
One of the notable areas of improvement for Wentz is how he commands the offense at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles have given him more freedom to adjust calls and make changes at the line of scrimmage. Wentz is often lauded for his intelligence. That quality shows up when it comes to mastering the pre-snap phase.
3. Is the Eagles dominant offensive line back to form?
You know, it’s weird. The Eagles’ offensive line didn’t look so encouraging in Week 1 and Week 2. But then Philly benched 2016 third-round pick Isaac Seumalo at left guard in favor of the rotation of both Stefen Wisniewski and Chance Warmack. Since then, things have really been clicking. The Eagles haven’t been allowing a lot of pressure on Wentz. The run game went from “inefficient” to “awesome.”
I do think the running attack has been aided by the fact the Eagles have played some poor run defenses (Giants, Chargers) over the last two weeks. But the pass protection has been legit against good pass rushers. The Eagles held both Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa to zero sacks in Week 4.
The presence of starting right tackle Lane Johnson, who was suspended for 10 games in 2016, has been critical for the Eagles. The team is 8-2 in their last 10 games when he’s started. The two losses were both very close games.
I’m still curious to see how the run game holds up when the Eagles play better run defenses, but the way the Eagles offensive line has been playing is very encouraging, for sure.
4. Can you spend a couple sentences gushing about just how special Fletcher Cox is.
Let me put it simply: Cox is a beast. He’s a game-wrecker when he’s playing at his best. Cox is more than capable of defending the run and he can generate pressure from the interior as well. The Eagles sometimes line Cox up as a defensive end and he can rush the passer from that spot at well.
It’ll be a significant loss for the Eagles if he can’t play on Sunday against the Cardinals. The Eagles beat the Chargers without him, sure, but he makes the defense a whole lot better when he’s in. The good news for Philadelphia is that they have Tim Jernigan, who has played well this season. Cox’s backup, Beau Allen, is far from being a star but he’s at least a capable fill-in guy.
5. Who is a player most may not know that will impact this game?
I think Jernigan is the guy who could have a big impact in this game. The Cardinals’ offensive line has their issues and he’s able to generate pressure up the middle. That impact could force Carson Palmer off his spot and into the path of oncoming edge rushers.
Philly’s defensive line as a whole should figure to give the Cardinals trouble. This could be the week where 2017 first round pick Derek Barnett notches his first sack. Though I’m not sure I’d call him unknown, that’s another name to keep an eye on.
How much do the Eagles win by on Sunday?
I like how you phrased that question. I’m taking the Eagles to win this one, 28-20. I think Philadelphia’s pass rush will cause problems for Arizona’s offensive line and force Palmer into a turnover or two. I think the Cardinals will have some success moving the ball thrown the air due to the speed in their receiving corps. Not to mention the fact that Larry Fitzgerald absolutely kills the Eagles. In eight total games against Philadelphia (including playoffs), Fitz has 50 receptions for 845 yards and 11 touchdowns.
But I ultimately think the Eagles come out on top. They’ve played very well at home dating back to last season.