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Previewing the Jets’ opposition: Philadelphia Eagles

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

If the Jets are going to avoid going 0-4, they’ll need to beat a 2-2 Eagles team on the road, a task that seems increasingly unlikely with the list of players not suiting up. Philadelphia needs to win to keep touch with the NFC East-leading Cowboys, having narrowly avoided a three-game losing streak with a win over the Packers last week.

In their entire history, the Jets have never beaten the Eagles. They did outscore them 6-0 in preseason though, although hardly any of the contributors from that game will play a major role on Sunday.

Quarterbacks

Carson Wentz continues to post consistently good numbers, but he’s only 7-8 as a starter since returning from injury last season. His completion percentage is down to 61 percent this year too, having been third in the league at 70 percent last season.

Wentz has been running a bit more than last year and with greater success. He’s been sacked at a much lower rate too as his ability to extend plays is a key feature of their offense.

Ex-Jet Josh McCown is listed as the number two, having been added during the offseason. Nate Sudfeld, whose brother was a Jets tight end a few years ago, is the number three.

Offensive Line

The Eagles’ offensive line has some serious talent with four of their starters having gone to multiple pro bowls.

The group is led by left tackle Jason Peters - a nine-time pro bowler - who shows no signs of slowing down at 37 years old. Jason Kelce is another leader at center but the right side of the line is also solid with guard Brandon Brooks and tackle Lane Johnson.

Left guard Isaac Seumalo is the weakest link on the line. He’s given up a team high three penalties, is the only lineman to have given up multiple sacks and has also given up the most pressure on the line. Seumalo shared the left guard role with Stefen Wisniewski last year.

The main reserves are first round pick Andre Dillard and Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Vaitai, who can play either tackle position or at guard, started 13 games in 2017, including all three playoff games in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. However, he’s only started one game since then.

Another rookie, the undrafted Nate Herbig, is listed as the backup center and last year’s sixth roung pick, Matt Pryor, is the backup at left guard. Neither has played any regular season snaps on offense yet.

Running Backs

The Eagles’ leading rusher from last year - Josh Adams - is actually on the Jets’ practice squad now. Two backs from last year’s team - Corey Clement and Darren Sproles - did return but rookie Miles Sanders and offseason trade pickup Jordan Howard have been getting more of the work.

Sanders is off to a decent start, but Howard leads the team with 4.7 yards per carry, 186 yards and three rushing scores.

Sproles still features as a third down back, but Clement has been mostly inactive. They caught 37 passes between them last year.

Receivers

DeSean Jackson had a huge game in the season opener against Washington, catching eight passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He has been injured since then though and has been ruled out for Sunday.

Nelson Agholor was in the news recently after a viral video that featured a local who had just caught a baby that was thrown from a burning building implying that Agholor would’ve dropped it. As amusing as that was, he only actually has two drops this year and leads all Eagles wideouts with 18 receptions and three touchdown catches.

Alshon Jeffery only has eight catches so far, but he’s also missed some time. All three of their top options are solid, but none of them has a thousand-yard season in the past two years.

The Eagles have two big targets on their bench with Mack Hollins and this year’s second round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Whiteside hasn’t done much yet, but Hollins has been a reliable option with other players missing time. He has 10 catches.

Pro bowler Zach Ertz is off to another strong start at tight end as he comes off a thousand yard season which saw him catch 116 passes, including eight for touchdowns.

Last year’s second round pick, Dallas Goedert, had 33 catches as a rookie, but is off to a slow start this season. Alex Ellis, the third-stringer, is out with a knee injury.

Defensive Line

The Eagles have a nice mixture of youth and experience at the defensive end positions with veterans Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry joined by four recent draft picks. The pair have combined for 67 career sacks despite the fact neither has been to a pro bowl or had a double-digit sack season. Graham was a second-team all-pro in 2016 though and remains a big threat despite only having four sacks last season and none so far this year.

2017 first rounder Derek Barnett is listed as a starter and is one of only three Eagles to have registered a sack so far this season, although he does lead the team with eight quarterback hits. The Eagles have just three sacks in four games, after having had 44 last season. Losing Chris Long and Michael Bennett - who combined for 15.5 - didn’t help.

The rest of the rotation comprises recent draft picks Josh Sweat, Daeshon Hall and Shareef Miller. Miller, a rookie, is yet to make his debut. The former third-rounder Hall was acquired towards the tail end of last season as he spent most of his first two years on injured reserve and practice squads. Sweat is one player who seems to have progressed since last season.

On the interior, the Eagles are led by Fletcher Cox, who racked up another 10.5 sacks last season. Timmy Jernigan has been listed as the other starter since Malik Jackson got injured in the first game of the year but he’s currently out with a foot injury.

Akeem Spence and Hassan Ridgeway provide depth. Both are new to the team. Ridgeway started the last two games with Jernigan out.

Linebackers

Nigel Bradham is the leader of the linebacker unit, having tied for the team lead with 97 tackles last season. Alongside him, Kamu Grugier-Hill is a good coverage backer, but has barely played this year due to injuries, making his first appearance last week.

Veteran Zach Brown is the other starter. The Eagles acquired the former second round pick in free agency after he wore out his welcome in Washington. He’s been exploited a little in coverage so far this year.

Off the bench, the Eagles have Nathan Gerry, who was a safety in college and rookie TJ Edwards who is more of a thumper and considered limited in college despite intercepting 10 passes in the last three seasons at Wisconsin. Gerry had been getting reps in Grugier-Hill’s absence.

Depth was obviously a concern for the Eagles, because they traded for former third round pick Duke Riley last week. It’s unclear whether he’ll be expected to contribute yet.

Defensive Backs

The Eagles have been struggling at cornerback this year due to injuries. While Jets fans were keeping an eye on what seemed like a deep group in anticipation of Joe Douglas making a move, the Eagles have Jalen Mills on the PUP list and Cre’Von LeBlanc on injured reserve and now they are struggling to cope with a few injuries.

Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox are listed as the starters with the latter having stepped up to start nine games last season as a fourth round rookie. Both are going to miss Sunday’s game due to injury.

A pair of day two picks from the 2017 draft - Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas - are listed as second-stringers with the recently re-signed veteran Orlando Scandrick and the inexperienced Craig James on the third unit.

So far the top four have all played a role, giving up six touchdowns and several big plays between them. However, Douglas is the only one who is fully healthy right now. Jones is battling his way back and should play unless he has a setback, but Scandrick and James will need to step up either way.

At safety, the Eagles traded Jonathan Cyprien to get Brown, so they are left with the veteran trio of Malcolm Jenkins, Andrew Sendejo and Rodney McLeod as their top three.

Sendejo, who signed in the offseason after eight years with the Vikings, has been getting plenty of work as the third safety while the other two start.

Special Teams

Jake Elliott is the Eagles’ kicker and he’s made all 14 of his kicks so far this year. Last year, he missed five field goals and two extra points. He was 2-for-5 from beyond 50.

The punter is Australian Cameron Johnston for the second straight year. He was sixth in the NFL in net average last year.

In the return game, Sanders showed off some wheels on a 67-yard kickoff return in the Packers game, while Sproles is a dependable option to field punts.

In coverage, the Eagles gave up a 100-yard touchdown return on a kickoff against the Lions. Sendejo, James, Gerry and Grugier-Hill are among their main contributors in coverage.