After losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road last week, the Eagles are back at the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Indianapolis Colts.
The Eagles got outplayed in all three phases by the Bucs and will be looking to play better, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Last Sunday, Philly’s defense got torched to the tune of 402 passing yards and four touchdowns by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. They also gave up a couple of big plays and could not get off the field when it mattered the most.
The Eagles’ offense had their share of good and bad moments, but still could not create big plays and lost a few players to injuries.
However, things should improve drastically this week for the defending Super Bowl champs as quarterback Carson Wentz is back under center.
How will Wentz do against an aggressive Colts defense? And can the defense redeem itself against an average Indianapolis’ offense led by quarterback Andrew Luck and first-year head coach Frank Reich?
Here are three things to watch out for in this Week 3 matchup.
1. Carson Wentz’s debut
It has been nine months since starting quarterback Carson Wentz last played in a meaningful football game. Wentz suffered a significant knee injury, tearing both his ACL and LCL last season, trying to make a play with his legs inside the red zone against the Los Angeles Rams.
Fast-forward to mid-to-late September and Wentz will be back under center on Sunday. Against the Colts and for the next few games, do not expect Wentz to be firing on all cylinders like he was doing last season.
This will be his first real game action after he only participated in 11-on-11 drills in the summer and working out before preseason and regular season games. Wentz also does not have his top wide receiver in Jeffery yet, so he will be leaning on tight ends Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews to make plays.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and the rest of the coaching staff will do a great job working Wentz into the game and allowing him to play without any limits.
2. More touches for Corey Clement
While there has been a lot of attention on the Eagles’ injured wide receivers, the running back position is not in great shape either.
In last week’s game against Tampa Bay, the Eagles were already without veteran Darren Sproles, which meant a lot of touches for Corey Clement. But things got worse as Jay Ajayi went down with an injury in the first quarter.
Ajayi eventually returned in the second half, but for most of the game, it was the Clement and Wendell Smallwood show. Clement gave the offense solid production with 85 total yards (30 rushing yards) and a touchdown, but Smallwood struggled.
He only had 28 rushing yards on seven carries and a fumble. In total, the Eagles only had 91 rushing yards as a team, which was not good enough to win.
Therefore, the running game must get on track on Sunday to help out Wentz and the passing game. It will not be easy, however, as the team will mostly be without Ajayi and Sproles.
This means that it will be a running back by committee against a Colts’ defense that held Washington to 65 rushing yards last week. The Eagles will be leaning on Clement once again to be their multi-purpose back and hoping undrafted free agent Josh Adams can give them a jolt in the backfield.
3. Colts LB Darius Leonard
On paper, the Colts defense does not look challenging in comparison to both the Falcons and Buccaneers, but they still have playmakers to keep an eye out for.
Through the first two games, the Indianapolis’ defense has only given up 83 rushing yards per game, which is good for ninth in the NFL. One reason why they have been successful in stopping the run is the play of rookie linebacker Darius Leonard.
The second-round pick out of South Carolina State is a fast, tackling machine that the Eagles’ offense will have to account for. Leonard had 18 tackles, a forced fumble, and a sack against Washington last Sunday.
He also leads the NFL in tackles with 28 and won AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance. The 6-foot-2 Leonard will pose issues for the Eagles as he is fast enough to stay with running backs out of the backfield and can easily drop back into pass coverage.