Wed, 20 Jan 2021

A six-pack of thoughts as Eagles get set for Seattle

Philadelphia Eagles
01 Dec 2020, 18:12 GMT+10

Dave Spadaro

Welcome to the prime time once again.

The Eagles have all three of their wins in prime time this year - at San Francisco, home with New York, and Dallas - so maybe the nighttime is the right time for Philadelphia. It's a tough one here against the 7-3 Seahawks, a team that is rested and healthy and that features quarterback Russell Wilson, who is 5-0 in his career against the Eagles with eight touchdown passes and one interception.

As we get closer to kickoff (8:15 p.m., ESPN, watch live on the Eagles app), here are some notes from the week that was at the NovaCare Complex ...

1. In the first half of last Sunday's game at Cleveland, the Eagles gained 96 yards on 19 rushing attempts and then picked up only 10 yards on six rushing attempts in the final two quarters of the game. It's been like that throughout the season, as the Eagles have found that the running game this season has not been as productive in the second half of games as it has been in the first half of games. Running back Miles Sanders says it is something the team is working on improving.

"Teams are doing, I guess you could say, a better job of just trying to stop us and make us one-dimensional as far as in the second half," Sanders said. "I'm just giving credit to the teams that have been having good adjustments and changing it up to try to stop our run game. It is what it is, you know. We're working every day, like today, on Wednesdays, when they try to stop it this way and we come out and counter option to keep being effective running the ball.

"It's important (to be able to continue to run the ball well throughout a game) especially if you want to set up any play-actions, try to keep them on their toes. They're going to expect the run game, once you're in four-minute mode. It's good to keep it consistent and effective so we can surprise them with play-action and possibly just throw it deep on them."

2. Wide receiver Travis Fulgham has seen his productivity dwindle - he has had just two receptions for 16 yards (12 targets) playing 124 offensive snaps against New York and Cleveland - and he is focused on making himself a better target for quarterback Carson Wentz.

"Just keep playing my game. Keep being there for Carson," Fulgham said. "Running my routes the right way. Making sure I'm at my right depth and executing on our plays."

The soft-spoken Fulgham said he has seen "maybe a few more double teams" but that for the most part teams haven't adjusted their coverage against him too differently.

"The opportunity is still there to make plays," he said.

3. The Eagles' secondary has a tough task tonight against Seattle wide receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf and safety Rodney McLeod is ready for the challenge of once again facing Wilson, whom the defense held to 17 points in both games the teams played last season.

"I think he's been playing extremely well," McLeod said. "MVP-caliber type of a season. We all know Russell controls that offense and he has dynamic receivers. Each one of them as improved and they're all playing at a high level right now. DK Metcalf, Lockett, they all have the ability to stretch the field, with good hands, and with Russell throwing them the ball they're a dangerous group. We're going to have our hands full. We're going to have to compete non-stop. We understand that Russell is going to extend plays. We're going to have to plaster onto our coverage and just fight. Cover a little longer than we're used to, but that's the challenge this week that we're ready to take on."

4. Jordan Mailata gets another start at left tackle as he continues to improve his game and perfect his craft. Mailata was asked the other day about using games like this as an "audition" to show that he is the team's left tackle of the present and the future - remember, Andre Dillard is out for the season with a torn biceps - and Mailata remained consistent with the answers he's been giving all season: It's about the present moment, nothing more.

"I'm trying to do what I can for this team. I'm not trying to 'do me' first, I'm trying to do what I can for this team," he said. "That's what I'm going to do."

Among the things Mailata is working on: Getting off the ball and spatial awareness and timing when he punches. Those are his key thoughts, he said, going into this game.

Where is Mailata in his development? He uses a peanuts analogy.

"I'm just at a half a bag and I'm trying to catch up to Jason Peters' peanut factory," Mailata said, laughing.

In other words, Mailata is not getting ahead of himself. He knows he has made a lot of progress in 2020 and he also knows that he has a long way to go to get to where he hopes to be as measured against one of the great left tackles in the history of the NFL. Tonight is another clean slate for Mailata to gain more experience and improve his game.

5. One of the unsung performers along the offensive line is left guard Isaac Seumalo, who is back and healthy after missing seven games this season with a knee injury. The line, of course, has been a whirlwind in 2020 and tonight will be no exception the projected starters looking like this, left to right: Mailata, Seumalo, Jason Kelce making his 100th consecutive start, Peters at right guard - although he's questionable for the game with a toe injury that limited his practice time during the week, and Matt Pryor at right tackle.

Seumalo had his mother and brother stay with him in Philadelphia while recovering from knee surgery, and he says that he is "forever grateful" for what his mother did during that time - driving him to the NovaCare Complex, cooking, cleaning, and making sure that he had his focus on recovery from the injury. Moms matter in the NFL and Seumalo has clearly been taken care of with love.

6. A key tonight is keeping the offense on the field and that means Carson Wentz and the group must convert on third downs. The Eagles are 2-of-21 on third down in the last two games and rank 28th in the entire NFL with a 37.5 percent conversion rate. They were ninth in the league at the end of September (46.81 percent) and they were 14th on the final day of October with a conversion rate of 43.43.

What do they need to improve starting tonight? First and second downs have been tough, so the offense has been in way too many third-and-long situations. But wide receiver Greg Ward answered the question about third downs and said it was more of a mindset, so we will see what this means tonight.

"I just feel like we all need to get on the same page," Ward said. "We all can do a better job executing and that's what we're definitely aiming for this game."

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