Eagles vs. Ravens: ITB Scouting Report
When the Eagles (1-3-1) return to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Ravens (4-1) on Sunday, they’ll be accompanied by roughly 5,500 fans for the first time this season.
While the Eagles have home-field advantage, the crowd factor might not matter much. The perennial AFC North powerhouse is well-coached, fundamentally sound in all phases, and riding the wave of momentum.
As a bewildered Eagles defense prepares to chase the electrifying Lamar Jackson while attempting to eliminate big plays on the back end, the offense must overcome its own unique challenges.
A makeshift offensive line coupled with a barren cupboard of bonafide playmakers could spell trouble for Carson Wentz. The Eagles’ offensive brain trust will need to conjure a game plan centered on getting Miles Sanders into an early rhythm or Baltimore could win this one running away.
Eagles Offense vs. Baltimore Ravens Defense
LT Jordan Mailata: Despite a well-orchestrated attack from the Steelers last week, Mailata again did an admirable job contending with the type of ferocious pass rush that typically befuddles young linemen. With veteran Calais Campbell lined up across from him, a diverse array of standup rushers, and exotic blitz packages being thrown at him, Mailata will be tasked with perhaps his biggest challenge of the season.
TE Zach Ertz: The Pro Bowl tight end has been targeted 11 times over the past two weeks but only has five catches for 15 yards to show for it. His connection with Carson Wentz is off, but whether Ertz’s ineffectiveness can be attributed to off-field distractions, coverage allocation, or a product of Father Time is anyone’s guess. If the Eagles expect to move the football through the air, Ertz needs to be a sizable part of the game plan. The offensive game plan should center on getting Wentz outside the pocket and aligning Ertz in multiple spots to create mismatches.
Eagles Defense vs. Baltimore Ravens Offense
LB Nathan Gerry: Teams are 23-of-23 for 267 yards and four touchdowns this season when targeting Gerry in coverage, per Pro Football Focus. Expect that trend to continue this week, with Gerry drawing matchup nightmare tight end Mark Andrews in coverage. Andrews has averaged 10 targets over the past three weeks, compiling 12 receptions for 135 yards and three touchdowns. He might match that haul Sunday alone if the Eagles don’t find a way to mitigate the coverage woes.
DT Javon Hargrave: Much has been made about Fletcher Cox’s quiet start, but you could certainly echo a similar sentiment about Hargrave. The prized free-agent signing has started to come on over the past two weeks, but he must make his presence felt Sunday. As dynamic as Lamar Jackson is, consistent interior pressure is the most significant detriment to any offensive game plan.
The Ravens boast a pair of productive rookie returners in Devin Duvernay and James Proche.
The former currently ranks sixth in the NFL in kick return yardage (238) while the latter ranks fourth in punt return yardage (88).
Duvernay is the more explosive of the two in space – look for him to get the call on a jet sweep – but Proche has some wiggle of his own and can decisively get upfield with few wasted steps. His exceptional vision and toughness have been paramount to the third phase through five weeks.
Against the Steelers, the Eagles’ special teams coverage prominently featured a quartet of cornerback Craig James (17 snaps), running back Corey Clement (16 snaps), along with linebackers Alex Singleton (16 snaps) and Shaun Bradley (16 snaps).
With the nucleus above in place, kick returner Ray-Ray McLeod mustered 48 yards and two kick returns while punt returner Diontae Johnson yielded just 12 yards on two returns.
Philadelphia has produced a 2-2-1 record in the all-time series versus Baltimore (2-0 at home).
The Ravens are one of nine NFL teams who have never beaten the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
CBS–Ian Eagle (play-by-play), Charles Davis (analyst), Evan Washburn (sideline)
Eagles DT Javon Hargrave: One of the biggest splashes to emerge from the 2020 free-agent frenzy, Hargrave has steadily improved each game since his return from a lingering pec strain. The interior mauler, who was brought in to alleviate pressure from Fletcher Cox, has seen his snap share increase each week. Known for his combative hands, lateral quickness, and explosive burst off the ball, Hargrave should have some opportunities to win his 1-on-1 matchups against the Ravens’ interior. The 27-year-old has registered half-sacks in consecutive weeks and will be vital to getting Jackson uncomfortable by collapsing the pocket and moving him off his spot.
Ravens MLB Patrick Queen: The rookie first-rounder, who leads the Ravens with 42 tackles (4.0 for loss) to go along with two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a pair of sacks, has been on a DROY trajectory through five weeks. The fast-flowing linebacker is a ball magnet with the range to patrol sideline to sideline. Queen’s innate instincts and athleticism gives him a distinct advantage in space. I expect the tenacious rookie to zero-in on Miles Sanders and force the Eagles offense to become one-dimensional.
While the Steelers defensive front presented a unique challenge for the Eagles’ makeshift offensive line, the Ravens present similar size discrepancies and scheme complexity.
It starts in the middle with the immoveable Brandon Williams. At 6-foot-1, 335 pounds, Williams has a powerful base and uses his leverage to his advantage. Though he won’t earn a Pro Bowl nod for his pass rush acumen – he has 6.5 sacks since 2015 – Williams’ game is predicated on occupying running lanes and commanding double teams to free up his cohorts. He frequently demonstrates superhuman strength by bench-press opposing guards into the backfield, which will be an area of concern against a substandard Eagles’ interior that struggles against girth.
Veterans Derek Wolfe and Calais Campbell are the Ravens’ left and right defensive ends, respectively.
Wolfe is a lengthy (6-5, 285) edge defender who plays with an attitude, displaying violent hand usage and a relentless motor to power past offensive tackles. The Cincinnati product turns the corner with urgency and cruel intentions.
Wolfe is a particularly challenging matchup for rookie right tackle Jack Driscoll, who is lauded for his football intellect and anticipation on what he sees post-snap but is a more technical, finesse lineman who lacks a mean streak. If Lane Johnson is unable to go Sunday, this matchup is among the most significant cause for concern.
Speaking of lengthy, the battle on the other side – featuring two Goliath-sized linemen – will set the stage early in the contest. The 34-year-old Campbell (6-8, 300) will square off against Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata (6-8, 346), who will be making his third NFL start.
Campbell is a physically gifted athlete who typically wins on power, reach, and the ability to move opposing tackles. While his burst and get-off isn’t quite what it once was, the savvy veteran has an array of moves in his arsenal and remains a steady anchor against the run.
This Ravens’ team is well-coached and remarkably polished. Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale will disguise blitzes and give the Eagles’ offensive line many unfamiliar looks. Doug Pederson must scheme Wentz on the move if he expects to generate any semblance of offense.
Even on their best day, the sputtering Eagles’ offense would be hard-pressed to keep pace with this high-octane Ravens offense.
Ravens 30, Eagles 13
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.