W2W4: New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles

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When the Eagles Pass the Ball:

Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY Sports

Had the Patriots had the good fortune to face Mark Sanchez, a blowout win would be a done deal. However, Sam Bradford had some decent performances before he sprained his AC joint against Miami.

The first overall pick of the 2010 draft had topped 60% completion rate in five of his last six games after hitting the rate just twice while the Eagles went 1-3 to start the season. Bradford remains a frustrating tease in Philadelphia after injuries and ineffectiveness left the St. Louis fanbase tired of waiting for him to fulfill his potential.

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The Eagles have young receiver Jordan Matthews as their top threat. Their 2014 second round draft pick has struggled without Bradford behind center with just 10 receptions for 94 yards combined over the past three games. Matthews has 58 catches for 625 yards but has topped 100 yards just twice this season.

Behind Matthews, the Eagles lean on tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. The veteran and the young tight end have been solid but unspectacular so far in 2015. The Eagles have struggled to find a second wide receiver to step up as veterans Riley Cooper and Miles Austin are below average. Rookie Nelson Agholor has been injured or ineffective much of the season.

Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

New England has had excellent play in the secondary in 2015 despite the cornerbacks being a perceived weakness heading into the season. Malcolm Butler has gone from undrafted free agent and inactive on game day as a rookie to a legitimate number one cornerback.

However, he may not draw Matthews in coverage due to the fantastic work done by cornerback Logan Ryan against larger receivers. Ryan was near flawless in coverage last week against Demaryius Thomas and has allowed just three receptions for 44 yards on 14 targets over the past two weeks combined (per ProFootballFocus.com). Ryan has usually taken the larger receiver while Malcolm Butler matches with the speedy or multi-threat receiver.

What the Patriots do with Malcolm Butler will be interesting because the Eagles offense is such a mess. Do the Eagles go with a two tight end look and toss out Josh Huff, Riley Cooper, or rookie Nelson Agholor to the other side of the field to occupy Butler. If Agholor is healthy at last, the USC product could be a big part of the Eagles’ offensive attack as he is athletic, long, and very quick. He struggled against strong press coverage in college and he will likely see plenty of that coverage against Butler.

To slow the passing attack, the Patriots will also need to get to Bradford and put some pressure on the immobile pocket passer. Chandler Jones has slowed after a strong start and with him off the injury report and fully recovered from his abdomen injury. Jabaal Sheard has returned from injury and continued his strong play rushing the quarterback.

The Patriots will need Patrick Chung, Tavon Wilson, and Devin McCourty to contribute against the tight ends to slow the Philadelphia passing attack. Having Jamie Collins back will give them another athletic body to help cover Ertz and Celek. Slowing down the tight ends is key to slowing down the Philadelphia offense. It should be another strong performance by the Patriots pass defense.


Next: When the Patriots Run the Ball