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Eagles-Cardinals Game Preview: 5 questions and answers with the Week 5 enemy

We chatted to our Philadelphia site, Bleeding Green Nation, about Jalen Hurts, Haason Reddick and other Eagles players.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals take on the lone undefeated team in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles sit at 4-0 and have looked every part of one of the best teams in the league.

We checked in with Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Lee Gowton to see what is going on with the Eagles.

Enjoy


1. How has Haason Reddick fit in the Eagles defense?

Reddick got off to a slow start with zero sacks and zero quarterback hits in his first two games. It was frustrating to see Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon having him play coverage. Though Reddick wasn’t frequently used in that role, the limited snaps in that capacity were still damaging. The Eagles surrendered a touchdown to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2 on a play when Reddick dropped back.

Reddick has been much more effective as a pass rusher over the last two weeks. As you may have noticed, he just won NFC Defensive Player of the Week for notching two strip-sacks during the Eagles’ win over the Jaguars. He also had a forced fumble on Carson Wentz in Week 3. Reddick is really good at winning quickly and attacking the ball. He’s also a threat to knock it loose by coming in from behind if the quarterback holds on too long.

Reddick is a good fit for the Eagles’ defense when they don’t overthink it and allow him to get after the quarterback.


2. There was a lot of debate on Jalen Hurts being the man heading into this year, there seems to be no debate now, is he the guy moving forward?

Correct. Barring something catastrophic in terms of sudden severe struggles and/or injury, Hurts is on track to receive a long-term extension after this season. The Eagles are wont to pay their guys early as opposed to letting them play out their contract years.

Hurts has been really impressive through four games. He is the top-ranked quarterback in terms of Pro Football Focus’s passing grade. He ranks sixth in EPA per play. He ranks seventh in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.

Hurts has stood out in different ways each week. Against the Lions, he made great plays with his legs. Against the Vikings, he threw the ball with better accuracy and touch than we’ve ever seen from him. Against the Commanders, he aired it out and gave his talented receivers chances to make plays on the ball. Against the Jaguars, he had his worst game but still took care of the football after one bad early turnover and also had a tough touchdown run to spark a 29-point scoring streak.

Entering this season, we already knew that Hurts checked every box from an intangibles standpoint. He’s a great leader and teammate. Now we’re seeing the 24-year-old morph into one of the game’s top quarterbacks. The Eagles aren’t just merely winning with him, they’re winning because of him.


3. A 4-0 start is great, but what is one thing you would like to see the Eagles clean up?

As you might expect, it’s hard to poke a ton of holes in this team. But there are some nits to pick. I’ll name one from each phase.

Offense: Stop trying to make Kenneth Gainwell a thing. The Eagles are too often force-feeding their backup running back. His 19 total touches this season have produced just 73 yards, a 3.8 average. He just hasn’t been an efficient option. The Eagles have too many talented players on offense to be focusing on getting the ball in Gainwell’s hands.

Defense: C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s struggles. CJGJ probably deserves some grace since the Eagles acquired him shortly before the season and asked him not only to get used to a new defense … but to do it at a new position by moving him to safety. CJGJ has been involved in a number of coverage busts and he leads the Eagles in missed tackles, according to PFF. One would think there’s hope that CJGJ can improve as the season goes along. In the meantime, I’d be looking to attack him as an opposing offensive coordinator.

Special teams: Arguably the Eagles’ biggest weakness. This unit ranks 30th both by PFF’s grading and Football Outsiders DVOA. Arryn Siposs has been one of the league’s worst punters so far, too often booting the ball into the end zone for touchbacks. There’s no real juice to Philly’s return game. Jake Elliott is a good kicker but he’s already had a field goal blocked and he might be too injured to play in this week’s game.


4. Who is one under the radar player Arizona Cardinals fans should know about?

I can’t imagine Cardinals fans are too worried about Zach Pascal. Vance Joseph has bigger fish to fry when it comes to trying to stop the likes of A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and even Quez Watkins.

But Pascal might prove to be more annoying than expected. The Cardinals don’t exactly have the biggest defensive backs; none of their starters are listed over 5’11”. There might be a mismatch considering Pascal’s size at 6’2”. This isn’t to suggest Pascal will be a volume target but the Eagles good look to go to him in some high leverage situations. He could be a factor on third down and/or in the red zone. With extra attention potentially dedicated elsewhere, Pascal is capable of winning one-on-one matchups.


5. We’ve seen two great Eagles defensive performances, one really good performance and the first game. So, are you taking the over or under this week?

The first game you reference here has aged well considering the Detroit Lions lead the NFL in scoring. They’re no slouches … when it comes to offense, at least.

With DraftKings Sportbook setting the over/under at 49 points, I actually like the over.

Now, I’m not too worried about the Cardinals’ offense going absolutely off. The combination of Arizona’s sluggish starts and offensive line injuries make me think there’s a cap to the Cards’ scoring. But Kyler Murray is capable of making plays with his legs and it is not like this defense has been tested by a true mobile quarterback threat this season (previous QBs: Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, Carson Wentz, Trevor Lawrence). As mentioned with CJGJ, the Eagles have been good for at least one notable coverage breakdown each week. Their opponents haven’t always been to take advantage but that could happen here. The expected absence of Avonte Maddox could also be a problem at times with Rondale Moore back for the Cards.

My confidence in the over is more about what I think the Eagles will be able to do on offense. Ranking 29th in defensive DVOA and 32nd in PFF grading, the Cardinals’ defense has not been good so far this season. With no pass rush to speak of, Arizona has been especially vulnerable against the pass. The Eagles, meanwhile, are averaging 435.5 yards of offense. Methinks Hurts is poised for another big game through the air.