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Packers-Eagles Q&A, Part 2: Eagles defense is a bit of a mystery

Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation returns for a look at the Philadelphia Eagles defense.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles have a bit of a mystery on defense. They’ve kept the Eagles competitive in some games while taking them out of others. What can the Packers expect to see on Sunday?

For some answers, we again turn to Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation. He gave us some insight into the Eagles’ offense yesterday and returns now for some insight on defense.

Acme Packing Company: The Eagles defense has seemed to fall on both ends of the performance spectrum this year: in six games they’ve held opponents to 23 points or less, but in six others they’ve surrendered 27 points or more. What’s the real Eagles defense?

Brandon Gowton: The defense is solid but nothing spectacular. They actually performed relatively well over the past two weeks. The Eagles only surrendered 13 offensive points to the Browns in Week 11. They also generated a turnover that lead to the Eagles’ only non-garbage time touchdown in that game. The Eagles allowed 23 points to the Seahawks and six of those came when the offense turned the ball over on downs on Philly’s own side of the field.

Jim Schwartz often draws ire from Eagles fans and I get it to some extent. He can be frustrating; he’s not perfect. But, on the whole, he’s a good defensive coordinator. Heading into this season, the Eagles had allowed just the sixth fewest points since he was hired back in 2016. Philly’s defense currently ranks 13th in DVOA this year and 16th in offensive points per game allowed. Hardly an amazing defense, to be sure, but it’s at least competent. Can’t say the same thing about the offense, which has been abysmal and has negatively impacted the defense by giving them so many short fields to work with.

APC: If you were Matt LaFleur, how would you attack the Eagles?

BG: Well, Davante Adams sure didn’t seem to have a problem going off against the Eagles last year. I’d go back to that well until the Eagles show they can stop it. Philly will likely have Darius Slay on Adams this time around, so that’s an upgrade on paper. But Slay is coming off a game where he wasn’t able to shut down D.K. Metcalf at all. If Slay proves to be effective for the Eagles, it’s time for the Packers to turn their attention to whoever Avonte Maddox is covering and pick on him. Maddox has some talent but he’s just not ideally equipped to be an outside cornerback at 5’9” with very short arms. The Packers should also mix in some wide receiver runs since the Eagles can’t really stop running plays by non-running backs. Jet sweeps and end arounds should be able to have success.

APC: If Packers fans had to watch for one player on Sunday, who should they be keeping an eye on?

BG: I’ll say Miles Sanders. A big reason why the Eagles were able to beat the Packers last year is because they run all over Green Bay’s defense. The Eagles should try replicating that formula by pounding the rock with Sanders and maybe even Jordan Howard, who’s currently on the practice squad, again. Control the clock and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field.

APC: What’s your prediction for Sunday?

BG: There’s really no reason to feel good about the Eagles at this point. It’s impossible to take them to win. With that said, I do think they might be able to keep the game somewhat competitive if they can executive last year’s strategy. But I also can’t say I’d be shocked if the Packers just blow this team out with Aaron Rodgers slinging the pill all over this group. I’ll say the Eagles barely cover in a loss, 27 to 20.