While the Philadelphia Eagles should be excited to unleash their blackout uniforms in primetime with their black eagle-wing helmets, they have a difficult opponent in the Green Bay Packers that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The following is a look at each of the likely matchups that the Eagles are likely to face and how the coaches should best prepare the players for those matchups.
The Packers are supposed to have a top-5 defense. Between injuries to Rashan Gary and possibly mismanagement due to alleged incompetence by Joe Barry, the team has an average DVOA according to Football Outsiders.
Packers fans have a lot of the same frustrations that Eagles fans do – a conservative off-coverage zone coverage defense when you have almost nothing but man-press defensive backs. The Packers run a two-high Quads defense – the same defense that the Eagles run – and the unit has a lot of communications issues led by free safety Darnell Savage.
How Coach Steichen can fix the Philadelphia Eagles offense
Coach Shane Steichen likes to use a lot of tight splits but mostly uses doubles formations and used nothing but 11 personnel in the second half of the Colts game. The best way to challenge zone defenses is to flood zones and run routes across many zones. Barry doesn’t like to blitz a lot so Hurts should have some time in the pocket to make some big plays.
The Eagles need to run more unbalanced formations
As a third-down adjustment, the Philadelphia Eagles can run a 3×1 with 11 personnel where the tight end is the #3 receiver and Watkins, Smith, or Brown – the strongside #2 – can get a free release on the shallow crossing route. Though the Eagles miss Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, and Tyree Jackson can have a role as the #3 receiver setting screens for Hurts’ preferred pass-catching targets.
Though the Philadelphia Eagles will likely live in the middle third of the field in the passing game, Jaire Alexander is more of a slot receiver and it makes sense to play A.J. Brown as the #1 receiver and get him isolated on the boundary. Jalen Hurts should definitely take some deep shots to Brown on 50/50 balls, especially after sudden change – for instance, right after a turnover.
The Philadelphia Eagles are great at the Sail concept and it is a nice option for Hurts in the dropback passing game, especially with Grant Calcaterra as the tight end with the Sail route. Unlike Stoll and Jackson, Calcaterra has proven deep speed and could be a matchup problem for Quay Walker in pass coverage. Giving the Packers safeties multiple deep routes to the same side of the field puts Savage and Amos in conflict – whether to take the tight end or the receiver – and Brown and Calcaterra should be open.
The Eagles need to add running backs and tight ends to the pass protection
While the Philadelphia Eagles have a nice dropback passing game and Jalen Hurts has grown a ton as a passer, pass protection issues will likely have them living in their RPO offense and the quick game. Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson are both elite pass protectors but Jordan Mailata and Landon Dickerson both struggle in their own way – Mailata is a little slow and imprecise with his footwork and Dickerson looks confused on film. Unfortunately, unless Trey Sermon or Kennedy Brooks has something we haven’t seen, the Eagles are below average in pass protection at the running back position.
The Eagles need to diversify the run game and give more touches to Gainwell and Scott
The Philadelphia Eagles are a great running team, especially with a lead. While 40 fronts are often vulnerable on the backside bubble, 50 fronts are more vulnerable up the middle. Miles Sanders lacks the vision and the physicality to excel at the inside zone running game that Coach Steichen prefers and they would be great against the Packers front.
Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott both have their roles. Gainwell hasn’t worked out as a third-down back – either as a receiver or in pass protection – but is great in the red zone and near the goalline as an inside runner. Scott has strength as an inside zone runner because he can effectively hide behind his blockers and make defenders pay with his vision and footwork.