“Left tackle Jason Peters has phenomenal feet, cat-like reactions and a mean streak.”
By Michael McCarthy
If only this Sunday’s Eagles-Packers game has the same ending as last year’s!
Twelve months ago, the Eagles came to Lambeau Field and beat the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers.
On Sunday, the Eagles come calling again, but this time they’re the ones without their starting quarterback.
Nick Foles, with a passer rating of 149.3 and 38 yards rushing, led the Eagles’ 27-13 victory against a Packers squad quarterbacked by Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien. Now Foles is out for the year (collarbone) and former Jet Mark Sanchez will make his second start.
“Sanchez looks like a different guy in the Philadelphia offense right now,” said an executive in personnel for an NFC team. “He’s playing better than Foles was.
“Now Sanchez will be tested by different looks and the elements and against a team that can score points. We will get to see if he’s back from the dead or a product of the system.”
“I’d like to play against him every week,” a third assistant from a club that played Philly said of Sanchez. “I think if you put pressure on him he’ll throw the ball to you.
“The Eagles are flawed at quarterback. They’re not a real big team, either. I think they’ll have trouble staying with some (top) teams in cold weather.”
The Packers (6-3) are favored by 5 points over the Eagles (7-2), who are off to their best start in a decade.
“I’d take Green Bay the way (Aaron) Rodgers is going right now,” an assistant coach on defense said. “That (expletive) is scary now. You watch the Chicago game…just ridiculous.”
“It will be fun to watch two of the hottest teams in the NFL,” an AFC personnel man said. “I don’t believe Mark Sanchez can sustain their high level of offensive production.”
Added the NFC scout: “Green Bay’s biggest concern will be the different looks and the way Philadelphia uses its defensive personnel to get favorable matchups. Will Green Bay’s wide receivers have time to get open? If they do, they will expose that secondary.”
Former Browns head coach Pat Shurmur is the coordinator but coach Chip Kelly calls plays for his up-tempo, spread attack. The Eagles rank 31st in possession time (26:55) because they seldom huddle and usually snap it quickly. Kelly employs a zone running game, wide splits by WRs, multiple TEs, a diverse screen game and the read option. The Eagles struggle in the red zone (50%). They rank fourth in points (31.0), fifth in yards (404.3) and 31st in giveaways (21).
Jeremy Maclin (6-0, 198) plays 86% of the snaps compared to 85% for Riley Cooper (6-3 ½, 230) and 61% for rookie Jordan Matthews (6-3, 212), a second-round pick drafted 11 slots before Green Bay’s Davante Adams. Maclin, the 19th pick in ’09, is fast (mid-4.4s), smart (25 on the Wonderlic intelligence test), extremely sure-handed and athletic. He’s A-OK 15 ½ months after reconstructive knee surgery. Cooper, a fifth-round pick in ’10, is a power-possession type with massive hands (10 3/8 inches), deceptive speed and ruggedness as a blocker. Matthews, with a Wonderlic of 29, is a polished route runner who is meshing with Mark Sanchez. He’s much taller than the typical slot. TE Brent Celek (6-4, 255) plays 70% compared to 52% for Zach Ertz (6-5, 250) and 15% for ex-Texan James Casey (6-3, 240). Celek, a 102-game starter, continues to play well. An effective blocker, he has fine hands and still can sneak down the seam. Ertz, a second-round pick in ’13, isn’t a blocker but is an appealing target because of his speed (4.70), route running and clutch hands.
LT Jason Peters (6-4 ½, 335), a six-time Pro Bowl pick, is as good as there is. He has phenomenal feet, cat-like reactions and a mean streak. Peters is the only O-lineman to play every game. LG Evan Mathis (6-5, 298) returned last week after missing seven games (knee). Kelly prefers athletic linemen, which Mathis is. A 10-year veteran, he also uses his great strength to get extraordinary movement for inside-zone runs. Back from a sports hernia, C Jason Kelce (6-2 ½, 295), a four-year starter, is very, very quick and very good. For his size, his strength is OK. RG Todd Herremans, a nine-year starter, suffered a season-ending biceps injury in Game 8 and has been replaced by Matt Tobin (6-6, 295). After not playing as a rookie free agent from Iowa, Tobin started five games for Mathis. He can be overpowered but does have exceptional speed. RT Lane Johnson (6-6, 317), the fourth pick in ’13, also is a terrific athlete befitting his days as a QB-TE. Johnson has long arms (35 ¼) and a tough-guy disposition, but given his narrow base he’s just an adequate player now.
Mark Sanchez (6-2, 225) was the fifth player drafted in ’09. An immediate starter, he helped the Jets to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons. They lost to Indianapolis, 30-17, and Pittsburgh, 24-19. His highest passer rating (78.2) came the next year when the Jets were 8-8. He started again in ’12 for a 6-10 team before a shoulder injury ruined his ’13 season. In 119 snaps for the injured Nick Foles, Sanchez has a rating of 97.7. Accuracy (55.2%) will never be his thing. His passes tend to wobble but his arm strength is above average. He runs better, dodges the rush more readily and has had more success in the red zone than Foles. He’s smart (Wonderlic of 28) and loves to pump-fake. He still makes awful throws and has a history of fumbling. Backup Matt Barkley (6-2 1/2, 227), a fourth-round pick in ’13, can run the offense but lacks ability.
LeSean McCoy (5-10 1/2, 208), the NFL’s rushing leader in ’13, has seen his average plummet from 5.1 to 3.7. He needs to accept a short gain instead of trying to break everything. His speed, feet and receiving are elite. Darren Sproles (5-6, 190) is averaging 6.6 in 25% duty. He’s a breakaway threat on every touch. Chris Polk (5-10 , 222), an impressive power back with 4.53 speed, has 41 snaps in the last three games. He finds holes and catches well.