The Philadelphia Eagles will get their first up-close glimpse of reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson as he leads his Baltimore Ravens into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
And it couldn’t be happening at a worse time for the Birds.
Entering Week 6 with a 1-3-1 record, the Eagles are off to one of their worst starts in recent memory, yet they’re still just a half-game behind the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East lead.
There’s obviously a litany of issues that need to be addressed, which has been headlined by the inconsistencies and befuddling regression of quarterback Carson Wentz.
But it’s going to be the defense that will be put under the microscope when facing off against Jackson.
The 23-year-old is as dangerous a dual-threat quarterback as has been seen in the NFL since Michael Vick and he’s off to another strong start in 2020.
In five games, he’s completed 63.7% of his passes for 949 yards, nine touchdowns, and a pair of interceptions to go with 238 rushing yards and a score.
Leading the Ravens’ offense, Jackson has them performing as well as any attack in the NFL. Baltimore has scored at least 20 points in all of his 27 career starts and have already eclipsed the 30-point plateau three out of five times this year. Compare that to the Eagles, who have yet to hit the 30-point mark this season.
It obviously brings a stiff test to an Eagles defense that has been broken a few times this season — including last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers for 38 points.
Entering Week 6, Philadelphia’s defense is ranked 24th in points allowed, 16th in total yards given up, 20th in passing yards allowed, and 18th in rushing yards.
They could get a boost in their secondary with the potential return of Will Parks, who has yet to suit up for the Eagles after signing from the Denver Broncos this offseason. He had been dealing with a hamstring injury that landed him on injured reserve during training camp.
“He’s ready to go. He has to practice and he has to integrate back into the defense and special teams,” Pederson said. “There’s that mental side of things of how much does he retain from when he was here practicing back in camp? He’s another one where we’ll see how the week goes.”
“If we feel like he can help us on defense, then there’s a possibility of us making a move.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the status of lineman Lane Johnson is still very much in the air.
“We’re going to give him some rest and he’s kind of in that day-to-day realm right now,” Pederson said. “We’ll see where he is later in the week. We’ll find out.”
“I want to make sure he’s 100% and if he’s 100%, he’ll play. Players play. Those are conversations we have later in the week with all our guys… We’re not there yet with him.”
Regardless of who is on the field, the Eagles will be playing in front of a crowd. Local government gave the green light for the team to welcome 7,500 fans into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon — the first time spectators will be allowed in a major sporting venue inside the city since the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I’m excited, I’m happy. I’m so glad for this day to be here to have fans in our stands,” Pederson said. “To feel the energy of the crowd, even a small crowd. It was really good in Pittsburgh to have the fans there. Just to see them, to come out of the tunnel and to see people in our bleachers is going to be exciting. Our players are going to feel energized to have them there and to have our families back in the stands is important to them, important to us, and we’re really looking forward to it.”