Niners Live broke down every angle of the 40-10 beatdown administered by the Dallas Cowboys. Now the 49ers travel East once again, this time to face the Philadelphia Eagles, as they approach the halfway point in the 2017 season. We will break down the key offensive and defensive matchups in the City of Brotherly Love.
Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to wake up from the reality that was served on a silver platter at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. This is the stripped down version of the 2017 San Francisco 49ers that General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan asked us to have patience with during the rebuilding process. Growing pains can be especially cruel in a season like this, but the 31 other teams in the NFL don’t have time to sympathize. The Philadelphia Eagles are no exception, and thus are ready to stake their claim on the NFC East.
49ers Offensive Line & Running Backs vs. Philadelphia’s Front Seven
Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert will have another tough task in front of them this week. They face an Eagles defense that is #1 in the National Football League against the run; giving up only 66 yards per game according to ESPN.com. That’s the bad news. The good news is, the front seven of the Eagles is banged up. The 49ers are the 23rd worst rushing offense averaging only 96 yards per game. All season long the success of the running game has come to the right side, courtesy of Right Tackle Trent Brown, who is questionable as he goes through concussion protocol. The status of Brandon Fusco is also a question mark as he suffered an injury to his biceps during the Dallas game ( via CBS Sports.com). Look for Erik Magnusson and Zane Beadles to step in (at tackle and guard respectively) if neither one can go. For their part, the Eagles run a 4-3 set which features Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham (who is being monitored for a shoulder injury suffered in week 6) at the Defensive Ends, while Tim Jernigan (questionable due to an ankle injury) and 2-time Pro-Bowler Fletcher Cox are the Defensive Tackles. You can also expect to see veteran Pro-Bowler Chris Long inserted at Defensive End on third down and Tackle Beau Allen will also see action. The outside linebacking spots are patrolled by Mychal Kendricks (who is questionable due to a hamstring issue), and the team’s leading tackler Niger Bradham (if he is cleared from an upper-body injury suffered in week 6). Jordan Hicks, middle linebacker, left Monday Night’s game with a severe injury and could be lost for the season (Per Matt Mullin of Philly Voice). Look for rookie Joe Walker to get the start at middle linebacker and Najee Goode to see playing time.
C.J. Beathard vs. Brandon Graham
C.J. Beathard didn’t have a bad game against the Cowboys, but the speed of the NFL seemed to catch up with him at times last week. He has an ability to extend plays with his feet, but does hold on to the ball a bit too long. He should be careful not to do that against Brandon Graham, who currently leads the Eagles in sacks with 4. This will be a put up or shut up game for Joe Staley, who at left tackle is charged with preventing Graham from getting to Beathard.
49ers WRs& TEs vs. Philadelphia’s Secondary
Last week was an important game for Marquise Goodwin in terms of stepping up as a leader in this offense. Goodwin received the most targets, with 8, and had the most receiving yards, 80 from 4 catches. Pierre Garcon will not be around forever and it is up to Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson to help guide Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne and possibly Victor Bolden (if activated this week) in shaping the receiving core. That said, you should expect Garcon to see more targets this week. Meanwhile, expect the unexpected at tight end. George Kittle is basically playing for his #1 spot. Garrett Celek was the starter and we saw Cole Hitukini debut last week. We are still uncertain as to whether Kyle Juszczyk will return. Yet, if the 49ers have one advantage in this game, it is the passing game. Currently, according to NFL.com, the 49ers possess the NFL’s 17th best passing offense and they are facing a secondary that ranks 30th in the NFL. However, the Eagles are balanced in their secondary. Cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Slot corner Patrick Robinson are tied for the team lead with 2 interceptions apiece. You can also expect Dexter McDougle to see playing time. The free safety is former Pro-Bowler Malcolm Jenkins, while Rodney McLeod is the Box Safety.
49ers Front Seven vs. Eagles Offensive Line and Running Backs
LeGarrette Blount has found a home with the Eagles offense, averaging over 5.0 yards per carry. He is facing a 49ers Front Seven that was undisciplined, overmatched and without leadership last week. So the question remains, who will take charge of this defense now that Navorro Bowman plays in the East Bay? Naturally, people will look to DeForest Buckner, who is earning a reputation as one of the NFL’S interior lineman. Perhaps Elvis Dumervil who has experience being the top dog will provide leadership. Will Reuben Foster actually last an entire game without suffering another rib injury? What impact will it be from switching Solomon Thomas to the LEO position have on the defense. and how will Leger Douzable adapt to starting at the 5 technique? These are questions that must be answered quickly as a lackluster performance again this week cannot be tolerated. The Eagles will be without 2-time All-Pro Left Tackle Jason Peters, who was carted off the field in an air cast Monday Night after suffering a knee injury in the 3rd quarter against the Redskins (per Matt Mullen of Philly Voice). Look for Halapoulivaati Vaitai to take his place. The rest of the line consists of: Left Guard Stefen Wisniewski, 2-Time Pro-Bowler Jason Kelce at Center, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson (at right guard and tackle respectively).
Carson Wentz vs. Elvis Dumervil
Getting a sack against Carson Wentz will be a very difficult task. Wentz has the 7th best QBR in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus and is in the top 5 for passing yards and touchdown passes. The Eagles are the NFL’s best team on 3rd down according to Pro Football Focus, and Wentz is the most successful QB on third down this season. The kid from North Dakota has come a long way. Elvis Dumervil will try to his best on the outside to increase his sack total from 3.5.
49ers Secondary vs. Eagles Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
If you are still upset about Navorro Bowman being substituted frequently, then allow me to add, perhaps, some more bad news. The days of Eric Reid as a starter are coming to an end. Jaquiski Tartt’s improvement is making that possible. More bad news, Rashard Robinson aka Mr. Penalty (4 pass interference calls currently tied for the league lead according to Fox Sports). is still starting at left cornerback. Dontae Johnson will try to improve from his poor showing against Dallas, as well. Look for Ahkello Witherspoon to be rotated in at left and right corner yet again. It looks unlikely that slot corner K’Waun Williams will play due to a quadriceps injury suffered in the Dallas game (per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area). This means that rookie Adrian Colbert may see action at the free safety and look for Jimmie Ward to move over to the nickel corner position. The Eagles use a 3 wide receiver set featuring All-Pro Alshon Jeffrey, former 49ers receiver Torrey Smith and speedster Nelson Agholor. Look for Mack Hollins to see playing time as well. Zach Ertz is one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the NFC and will give the 49ers secondary all they can handle.
Storylines: The ties that connect the 49ers and Eagles
This is the first matchup between 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and opposing fellow offensive coordinator turned Head Coach, Doug Pederson. This matchup will also feature a pair of brothers at tight end. Garrett Celek of the 49ers will oppose his brother, Brent Celek. This game will also feature former 49er, Torrey Smith.
One More Thing
Adversity is the thing to look for this week. When you get slapped around like the 49ers did in their last game against the Cowboys, accountability has to come into question. Which players will step up and say, not again? Who will take charge and hold everyone accountable? These next few weeks will be about character building. That is the mark of a young team on the rise.
Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course.
All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author and Staff Writer @NinersLive.net, David Edmondson. Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims