NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - INSIDE SLANT
An Eagles defense that is ranked 29th in the league against the pass faces the unenviable task of trying to stop the league's hottest quarterback Sunday.
The 1-2 Eagles travel to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the 3-0 Broncos. The 37-year-old Hall of Fame-bound Manning is off to the best start of his career. He leads the league in passing (134.7). He is first in completion percentage (.730) and yards per attempt (9.37). And he is the first quarterback in history to throw 12 touchdown passes in the first three games of the season.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have a 96.9 opponent passer rating and a .672 opponent completion percentage. But they have regained a little bit of confidence after sacking the Chiefs' Alex Smith five times and holding him without a touchdown pass in a 26-16 loss.
"Football doesn't change just because of Peyton Manning," cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "I know a lot of people are saying how great of a quarterback he is, and he is.
"But at the same time, he's not perfect. He's made mistakes. They're few and far between, and people almost think it's impossible to stop him. But as a defense, we are looking at those things he does wrong, looking at the things we can be effective at."
Manning hasn't done much wrong so far this season. But he's coming off a Monday night win over Oakland that might slightly limit his preparation for the Eagles and their new coaching staff, including head coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis.
The Eagles have two defensive players with recent personal experience at beating Manning. Cornerback Cary Williams was with the Baltimore Ravens last January when they bested Manning and the Broncos in overtime in the playoffs. The Ravens intercepted him twice and held him to 6.7 yards per attempt in that game.
Linebacker Connor Barwin was with the Houston Texans last year when they defeated Manning and the Broncos in Week 3, 31-25. Manning completed just 26 of 52 passes in that game and averaged just 6.3 yards per attempt.
"The formula against Peyton isn't really any different than against anybody else," Barwin said. "And you shouldn't try to make it different. You get guys on receivers and you get pressure on him. That's how you beat him.
"He's obviously better than most at getting the ball out and finding the right guy. But that doesn't change what you do. You've just got to do what you're supposed to do. (Last year), we made a couple of plays on the balls he threw. That's how we beat him. There's no secret."
Blitzing Manning is pretty futile. He may be the best quarterback in history against the blitz.
"Probably him and Tom Brady are the two best I've ever seen (against the blitz)," Kelly said.
Two weeks ago, the Eagles blitzed a lot against San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and he ripped them to shreds. Last week against Smith and the Chiefs, Davis mostly rushed four. The strategy was effective, though Manning is a little better at getting the ball out in the face of pressure than Smith.
SERIES HISTORY: 12th meeting. Eagles lead series, 7-4. The Eagles have won four of the last six meetings, including the most recent one in '09 in Philadelphia, 30-27.
NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Broncos lead the league in total offense, averaging 486.7 yards per game. But the Eagles aren't far behind. They're second with 461.7. They are first in the league in rushing. LeSean McCoy leads the NFL in rushing and yards from scrimmage. Quarterback Michael Vick is averaging 9.5 yards per carry.
"Nobody's really stopped our offense except us," center Jason Kelce said. "That's been the way it's been every game this year. Not too many times has a defense done something overwhelming to stop us. It's when we start shooting ourselves in the foot, it's when we start turning the ball over."
--Most East Coast teams leave on Friday for Sunday games in Mountain and Pacific time zones. But the Eagles will be leaving Saturday afternoon for Sunday's game in Denver against the Broncos. Coach Chip Kelly feels it takes two to three days before jet lag impacts the body.
--After keeping four tight ends on their 53-man roster, the Eagles' offense was expected to be tight end-centric this season. But that hasn't been the case so far. They've played "11" personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) on 85 percent of their offensive plays in the first three games. Starting tight end Brent Celek has played 187 of 199 snaps. But the other three tight ends have seen limited or no action. Rookie second-round pick Zach Ertz has played just 54 snaps. James Casey has played just eight snaps. And Emil Igwenagu has played zero snaps. The tight ends have been targeted just 16 times and have caught a total of eight passes for 148 yards - four by Celek and four by Ertz.
Asked if the Eagles have gotten their tight ends involved in the offense as much as he and Kelly would like, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said, "Yeah, I think so. We feel they're getting their production."
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 - The number of times the Eagles have scored on their first possession in the last 19 games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The biggest thing about playing well against Peyton Manning, it's a simple thing. The execution of your techniques within your call. He has seen every coverage you can throw at him. He sees disguises. The teams that beat them execute their defensive techniques and they get turnovers." - Coach Chip Kelly.
NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--TE James Casey, who signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Eagles in March, has played just eight offensive snaps in the Eagles' first three games.
--LT Jason Peters is coming off one of his poorer performances in recent memory. He gave up a sack and five hurries to the Chiefs' Tamba Hali last week.
--LB Mychal Kendricks has a team-high eight missed tackles in the Eagles' first three games.
--PK Alex Henery has missed 46- and 48-yard field goals in the Eagles' last two games. He also has one of the league's lowest touchback percentages.
--KR Damaris Johnson hasn't had a kickoff return longer than 33 yards in the first three games.
--DL Vinny Curry, who had a sack and three hurries in just 12 defensive snaps last week, is expected to get extended playing time Sunday against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Curry isn't much of a two-gap player, which is why he was inactive for the first two games. But he is one of their better pass-rushers. And they need to get pressure on Peyton Manning Sunday.
--S Patrick Chung, who injured his shoulder in last week's game against the Chiefs, didn't practice Wednesday and is questionable for this week's game against the Broncos.
--S Earl Wolff could get his first start of his career Sunday if Patrick Chung is unable to play. Chung is nursing a shoulder injury. Wolff is a fifth-round rookie who has been splitting time at the other safety spot with Nate Allen.
--RG Todd Herremans hasn't played well the last two games and there is speculation that a knee injury suffered in the Eagles' first preseason game might be bothering him more than he is letting on. He is not listed on the team's injury report.
--LT Jason Peters is listed on the injury report with a finger injury. But he was a full practice participant Wednesday.
GAME PLAN: The Eagles' primary objective will be trying to neutralize the Broncos' red-hot quarterback, Peyton Manning. They likely will try to pressure him with a four-man rush and try to limit his receivers' yards after the catch. That could be difficult for a defense that is 27th in the league in missed tackles.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Eagles ROLB Trent Cole vs. Broncos LT Chris Clark. Clark is a replacement for injured All-Pro Ryan Clady. Cole is coming off a one-sack, two-hurry game against the Chiefs' Branden Albert.
Eagles CB Brandon Boykin vs. Broncos WR Wes Welker. Boykin has done a solid job as the Eagles' inside corner. But he's going up against a slot receiver with 787 career receptions.
Eagles WR DeSean Jackson vs. Broncos CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. After catching 16 passes in the first two games, Jackson had just three receptions vs. the Chiefs. Look for the Eagles to attack Rodgers-Cromartie early with bubble screens.