The Chargers don’t get to play the Eagles very often, so it was especially nice to get to ask Brandon Lee Gowton a few questions about them this week. Thanks to Brandon for taking the time to educate us about the Eagles.
1. With Darren Sproles on Injured Reserve, what can we expect the Eagles backfield to look like this week and the rest of the season?
The Sproles injury is a big loss for the Eagles. He’s the team’s best running back. With Sproles out, the Eagles have the following four running backs on the roster: LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, and Kenjon Barner. Blount and Smallwood will likely get the majority of carries moving forward. Smallwood is especially likely to benefit from Sproles’ absence. He has the capability to be a third-down back. The Eagles will also continue to give some touches to Clement, an undrafted rookie free agent they’re high on. Barner, who was obviously with the Chargers the summer, might get a touch or two here and there while mainly contributing as a returner.
Prior to the start of the season, Doug Pederson said the Eagles were going to rotate their backs on a matchup basis. It seems like the Eagles definitely have a predetermined game plan on how they’re going to use their rushers. I’d expect the Eagles to mostly lean on Blount and Smallwood this week. Both players had 12 carries each in Week 3. They averaged 5.6 and 5.9 yards per carry, respectively.
2. What in the world is going on with the Eagles at left guard?
It’s pretty weird. The Eagles essentially cut 2016 starter Allen Barbre in order to name Isaac Seumalo the undisputed starter at LG. Then they benched Seumalo only after two starts in favor of not one player, but a two-man guard rotation between Chance Warmack (who had been a healthy scratch the first two games) and Stefen Wisniewski (the team’s backup center who can also play guard).
Wisniewski clearly outperformed Warmack in Week 3 but Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said the team is going to rotate the two players in practice this week and then make a decision on Friday. If Wis isn’t the guy, I have no idea what they’re doing.
3. Carson Wentz is 19th in both DYAR & DVOA this year. How confident are Eagles fans that he will be able to become a top-tier quarterback?
I’d say Eagles fans feel pretty good about his chances. Wentz clearly has some things to work on. He’s coming off the worst game of his season. But while the flaws stand out, so do the positives. He’s shown the ability to make players very few quarterbacks can make. The big thing right now is he needs to improve his deep passing accuracy.
Wentz has the physical talent and mental makeup to be a top quarterback. It’s just a matter of piecing it together. He needs to be more consistent. There’s hope he’ll show progress as this season goes along.
4. Who is a player that Chargers fans might not be familiar with that we should be watching for during the game?
I’d say to keep an eye on No. 32 — rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas. Douglas, a 2017 third-round pick, was a healthy scratch in Week 1 but was forced into action in Week 2 due to injury. Douglas played well and then made his first career start against the Giants. He picked off Eli Manning in another positive showing. According to Pro Football Focus, Douglas has the lowest passer rating allowed among rookies corners when being targeted this season. I saw Philip Rivers had three picks in Week 3. Douglas might notch another one on him, especially if Rivers underestimates the young kid. Douglas has great ball skills; he was tied for the NCAA lead in interceptions last year with eight.
Another reason why Chargers fans should keep an eye on him is he could turn out to be a weakness. Douglas doesn’t have great long speed so he’s vulnerable to getting beat deep.
5. Who do you have winning and by what margin?
The Chargers are 0-3, yes, but their point differential indicates they’re a little better than their record indicates. They played the Broncos and Dolphins close. I’m hardly expecting this to be a walk in the park for the Birds, especially with the Eagles traveling across the country to play this game.
With that said, I think the Eagles are better than the Chargers. My understanding is that the temporary stadium isn’t particularly hostile to road teams so it’s not like the Eagles are playing in the toughest environment.
I think Philadelphia’s pass rush, which has looked great all season, finds a way to pressure Rivers into making some mistakes. The Chargers will be desperate but desperation isn’t always a good thing.
Eagles win, 24-20.