PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Eagles will be shorthanded in their Week 3 matchup against the Detroit Lions. Slow starts and injuries have plagued the team in the first two weeks of the season, so what should fans expect as the Birds look to right the ship on Sunday?
CBS3’s football experts have your weekly breakdown and predictions for Week 3.
With DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery nursing injuries, who must step up in the Eagles’ offense?
Sports Director Don Bell: The obvious answer is Nelson Agholor who dropped a potential game-winner in Atlanta, but I’m looking at Carson Wentz. A transcendent quarterback is like a good deodorant — they can eliminate the stench around a team. If Wentz is going to be an MVP candidate, he has to make rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins and Agholor smell like roses. The only way he does that is by elevating his play.
Sports Anchor Lesley Van Arsdall: The running backs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard or Darren Sproles. One of these guys needs to establish the Eagles as a dangerous running team. That alleviates pressure on Wentz and the passing game.
Reporter Dan Koob: The offensive line. They were a turnstile Sunday night. There are a lot of chunk plays the offense missed that I’m sure showed in film review. Wentz just couldn’t step into throws and I personally think the offense left a lot of points on the field because of it.
Reporter Pat Gallen: Sanders needs to make the most of his opportunities. It’s been talked about all week that he isn’t hitting the gaps with authority. He needs to show why the Eagles think so highly of him this week against the Lions. Detroit has given up 249 yards on the ground through the first two weeks so this could be his breakout opportunity — that is if Doug Pederson gives him a chance.
Sports Producer Andy Wheeler: Pederson. Injuries happen in the NFL, sometimes a lot of them at once. Pederson picked this team along with Howie Roseman, but Doug calls the plays. He must shape his play-calling to fit the people he will have on the field.
Slow starts continue to hurt the Eagles as Carson Wentz looked all out of sorts in the first half before turning it on in the second. What should the Eagles do differently to avoid another slow start against the Lions?
Bell: Clearly this offense has a mental block when it comes to the issue, which causes them to press. At this point, reverse psychology is their best friend. They should just stop talking about it and go play. As far as X’s and O’s, I’d love to see them start the game in a two-minute, no-huddle offense. Think less, do more.
Van Arsdall: It’s not that complicated. Call good plays and then execute those plays. There’s no magic formula.
Koob: I don’t fault the specific slow start in Atlanta. They lost three of their top offensive targets in pregame or on the first drive and had to scrap most of their weekly game plan. Anyone who thinks you might can just roll it out and put up points should put down the sticks. This isn’t Madden.
Gallen: Punt on first down? In all seriousness, and I’m not usually for this, but maybe starting off with a trick play or going five-wide for three downs. Make it interesting and confusing and see if it works, because I can’t figure out how and why this is still happening, and apparently neither can the coaching staff.
Wheeler: It’s going to sound boring but they just have to keep working hard at better starts. All sorts of things could end up being factors as to why they start slow. The only way they can overcome it is to work at that specifically.
Will we see more blitzing from the Eagles this week to pressure Matthew Stafford the same way they did Matt Ryan?
Bell: Jim Schwartz did a masterful job against the Falcons with timely blitzes and random double teams. Given the shortcomings of his cornerbacks and sporadic pressure from his defensive front, I expect more of the same against the Lions.
Van Arsdall: Schwartz is not a big blitz guy. He picks and chooses his spots to be aggressive with the pass rush. I expect the Eagles’ D to rely on their veteran defensive line to pressure Stafford. That’s where they have their best success.
Koob: Probably. Schwartz sensed his defense had to create something and they did. They forced three turnovers in Atlanta. The Eagles also have allowed the second-most pass yards in the NFL, so I expect a similar attacking style to get the ball out of Matthew Stafford’s hands quickly and out of Kenny Golladay’s.
Gallen: I think Schwartz will find a balance here. He’s never going to deviate completely from his game plan, and that never includes going full-tilt, a la Jim Johnson. However, with the defensive line now paper thin, it’ll be up to him to be creative as a means to get to the QB.
Wheeler: I hope not. If you see the Eagles’ defense blitz that means that everything isn’t working. Their defense is meant to pressure with no blitzing — if they are blitzing they are panicking.
The secondary is a major concern for the Eagles once again after Ronald Darby got burned on Sunday night. Who on the defense can defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz rely on to help carry the load?
Bell: No one. If they had another viable option at corner, they would have used it. They simply need to play better.
Van Arsdall: There’s no one guy to carry the load in the Eagles’ secondary, because as we saw Sunday night, if ONE guy fails, it all falls apart. The entire secondary needs to play better, much better.
Koob: Jalen Ramsey.
Gallen: Not sure there’s a simple solution here. They already lean heavily on Malcolm Jenkins and Fletcher Cox, as they should. But these individual players need to step up and make better plays — no one out there will save them. I will say, the imminent return of Kamu Grugier-Hill could be a nice boost.
Wheeler: What we see is what we get. Their secondary can’t be fixed overnight or by magic wand. Schwartz will rely on who he always relies on — Malcolm Jenkins.
Is there anyone on the Lions who concerns you against the Eagles?
Bell: Last week I chose Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Mohamad Sanu. Two of the three had 100-yard games and they combined for three touchdowns. This week, it’s third-year wideout Kenny Golladay. He’s 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and he’s going to be a HUGE factor.
Van Arsdall: Matthew Stafford. The Lions quarterback is smart and he’s been watching film all week looking for holes in the Eagles secondary. He could be a problem on Sunday.
Koob: The Eagles’ front seven has been great through two weeks and nothing about the Lions’ run game excites me. Golladay is a bit of a matchup nightmare and I expect him to get his after the Eagles have already allowed three guys to go over 100 yards receiving this season.
Gallen: Kenny Golladay, another in a line of talented receivers the Eagles could struggle with. He’s big and tough and can wreck a defense. Golladay is building a solid rapport with Matt Stafford. But along those same lines, even if Golladay doesn’t go off, he could open things up for Danny Amendola to have a big day in the slot. There could be a domino effect here.
Wheeler: Stafford. He’s talented, he’s experienced and he can really take advantage of the Eagles’ weaknesses.
Final score prediction?
Bell: I remember what this Eagles’ offense looked like when Agholor was the No. 1 receiver and Zach Ertz was patrolling the seams. That was in Wentz’s rookie season in 2016. It wasn’t pretty. Lions 24, Eagles 19.
Van Arsdall: Eagles win a tight one, 24-17.
Koob: Eagles get right at home even if Alshon and DeSean don’t play. Birds 24-17.
Gallen: I honestly cannot get a feel for this one, especially with the Eagles so banged up. I’ll go Eagles 29-24,
Wheeler: Eagles win 20-14.