The Past: The last meeting between the Packers and Eagles did not end well for the Packers; with Aaron Rodgers officially out for the first of 8 weeks with a broken collarbone, the Packers then proceeded to lose backup Seneca Wallace and were forced to throw in Scott Tolzein, their 3rd string developmental quarterback. While Tolzein did some good things including a touchdown and feeding the ball to Jarrett Boykin 8 time for 112 yards, Tolzein also threw two interceptions in a strange flip of the usual where his deep passes were on point but his short game was all out of whack. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy did his part with 24 rushes for 74 yards, but ultimately didn’t become the bellcow running back and focal point of the offense until later in the season. At the end of the game, the Packers lost 13 to 27 but the game was never really in question; while the score was relatively close the game felt lost right from the beginning.
The present: The Eagles are one of the powerhouses of the NFC currently and are looking like a playoff contender either as the NFC East champion or as one of the two wildcards, with the Cowboys also playing well this year. On offense, the Eagles are a high volume passing team but have to see if their new starting quarterback, Matt Sanchez, can handle the workload. While Sanchez has somewhat redeemed his career after a stellar performance against the Carolina Panthers, keep in mind this is also the “butt fumble” quarterback; in all honesty Sanchez is probably somewhere in between, the dysfunction that is the New York Jets and Rex Ryan is basically a black hole for quarterback development (which isn’t Sanchez’s fault) but then again the Packers discovered how weak the Panthers are earlier this year so it’s not as if the Carolina defense is all that indicative of a good squad. Ironically, the Eagles have not been doing that well on offense this season, they rank 18th through the air and 20th through the ground, good for 17th overall according to Football Outsiders. For the Packers defense, they will likely have to be able to stop both the pass and run this game as the Eagles are likely going to be doing both and the Eagles are a team with the ability to keep up with the Packers in a shootout.
In a little bit of a surprise, the real strength of the Eagles roster this season is their defense, where they rank 6th overall, 9th against the pass and 5th against the run, again according to Football Outsiders. Luckily, the Packers have the 2nd ranked offense behind only the Denver Broncos so it’s likely that the game will be decided either way when Aaron Rodgers is on the field. Running the ball might be a little tricky considering that the Eagles run defense is one of the best and both starting guards TJ Lang and Josh Sitton, two of the better run blockers on the roster are dealing with significant injuries.
The Future: The Eagles are sitting pretty at the moment in terms of cap space at a little under $16 million, which is quite surprising considering most teams with that much free cap space (such as the Jaguars and Jets) are clearly in a rebuilding mode and looking to get a little more money for next season. With so much cap space, the Eagles definitely have the power to extend any potential free agents that they choose or shift some of it to next season and try to bring in a big name free agent, which is something they aren’t afraid to do (i.e. Nmandi Asomugha). For free agents, the biggest potential name for 2015 is Mark Sanchez, especially if he plays well down the stretch; the question will become what sort of contract will Sanchez command with many teams likely wary of his previous production with the Jets and what the Eagles front office thinks of Nick Foles, who is “their guy” and a free agent in 2015. If Sanchez continues to play as well as he did against the Panthers he will likely try to maximize his already small earning potential and probably won’t be lured by a higher end backup type contract but as a low priced starter, ala Matt Flynn with the Seahawks. Jeremy Maclin is also a free agent after this year and with the loss of DeSean Jackson is their best wide receiver and 2nd best offensive player according to ProFootballFocus.
The 2014 Eagles draft class has been sort of a mixed bag; the surprise selection of OLB Marcus Smith was definitely the shock of the 1st round, and it has been rumored that the Eagles were looking to draft Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who was picked 5 slots earlier by the Packers. Smith is apparently on the “redshirt” plan as a rookie, playing only 59 snaps for the season and grading below average in all categories. 2nd and 3rd round picks Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff have played a lot more than Smith, but neither has played all that well, although Matthews did grade very well with Mark Sanchez throwing him the ball last week. After that all 3 picks in the 4th and 5th round have yet to see a snap on defense with 5th round safety Ed Reynolds being cut and signed to the practice squad. Finally 7th round pick NT Beau Allen has played a fairly large amount of snaps for a nose tackle but unfortunately hasn’t played all that well.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.