Another week of football, another week of our Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation answers 5 quick questions ahead of our Week 14 matchup, where Jalen Hurts is set to be thrown to the wolves in his biggest test: New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles.
You can check out my side of the exchange over at Bleeding Green Nation.
How much does this matchup have to do with Jalen Hurts’ start, if any? The obvious benefit of Hurts against the top ranked New Orleans Saints defense is his mobility, particularly in scramble drill plays, which we saw glimpses of in his brief stint last week. Past that, what lesser known traits about Hurts make this a preferable matchup for his skillset over Wentz?
Hurts gives the Eagles a better chance to win since Wentz just looks so broken right now. Hurts at least offered some level of competency when he came in last week. The Eagles’ offense averaged 5.5 yards per play with Hurts and only 3.5 with Wentz. There was definitely a spark.
Now, this isn’t to say a quarterback change will magically fix everything for the Eagles moving forward. There are still concerns when it comes to an injured offensive line, a non-threatening collection of skill players, and uninspired play-calling. Not to mention a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start against one of the league’s best defenses. But there’s at least a chance we’ll see that some of the Eagles’ offensive issues stemmed from Wentz struggling so much.
As for lesser known traits, it’s tough to say since it’s such a small sample to work with. I will say I did like his touch and accuracy on key completions to Jalen Reagor (34 yards) and Greg Ward (32-yard touchdown on 4th-and-18) last week. His mobility should allow him to better escape from pressure than Wentz.
On that note, I do think it’ll be specifically interesting to see how Hurts fares against the Saints’ defense as a rusher. New Orleans has only surrendered 76 quarterback rushing yards on 21 attempts (3.6 average) this season.
A large benefit of mobile quarterbacks is their ability to open up the run game, which in turn, would take some of the pressure off of Hurts. I’ve seen some reports that this would be a slight towards Wentz, as he’s had to drop back and pass a substantial amount this season. Or, Hurts simply fits in Philadelphia’s offensive scheme much better. Has the Eagles running game been held back by Wentz, and will Hurts be able to open that up?
Wentz deserves a lot of blame for the Eagles’ offensive struggles but I wouldn’t say he’s majorly held the running game back. The Eagles have actually been pretty efficient running the ball; their 5.0 yards per carry ranks second best in the NFL. The problem is that they haven’t run the ball enough and that’s evidenced by their 30th-ranked rushing percentage (35.7%). The Eagles have been trailing a lot this year and that obviously limits opportunities to pound the rock.
That said, I do think there could be something to the running game being most prominent with Hurts under center. The Eagles could be more likely to run the ball to take the burden of dropping back a ton off the rookie passer. And Hurts will obviously be more of a threat to keep the ball on RPOs.
Finish this sentence: The Saints will win this game unless _________________.
Hurts turns out to be the next Russell Wilson.
Seriously, though, I do think there could be a trap game element here. The Eagles are entirely overlook-able with how bad they’ve been. The Saints have a big game against the Chiefs next week. Maybe they don’t take this one as seriously as they should. I’m not going on that, to be clear. Just thinking it’s within the realm of possibility that Hurts looks better than expected and the Eagles pull off an upset.
Could also see Taysom Hill struggling. I know he’s played relatively well on the whole but if he has an outing like he did against Denver, maybe that allows Philly to steal the game. But more likely than not the Saints should be able to win this one with relative ease.
If you were Sean Payton, how would you game plan to attack the Eagles defense?
The Eagles have been really bad at stopping non-running back runs this season. I’d definitely be looking to test Jim Schwartz’s defense with jet sweeps and reverses and whatnot. The Eagles are also pretty weak at linebacker so I’d also look to get Jared Cook involved in the passing game. Whoever Avonte Maddox is covering should be a very viable target. Can’t even trust Darius Slay to be a lockdown option right now considering he’s battling through injury and has given up really big numbers to D.K. Metcalf and Davante Adams over the past two weeks. In other words, I think the Saints should be fine picking to do what they want. Unless that involves stubbornly running the ball over and over again with Latavius Murray for no good reason.
What is your prediction for the game? Who wins? Final score?
I legitimately think there’s upset potential here. The Saints are a team that’s had the Eagles’ number for some time now. Maybe they’re pissed off about that. And maybe they’re also angry about how they’ve lost four in a row. And perhaps everyone is on top of their game after seeing the $128 million quarterback just getting benched for a rookie.
But the Eagles are still a very flawed team. And the Saints’ defense is so good that it’s going to be tough for Hurts to pull out a win in his first NFL start. I’ll say the Eagles find a way to just cover the spread but still lose.
Saints 26, Eagles 20.
While I’m sure the Eagles are displeased from our last regular-season contest where we ran up the score 48-7, if Philadelphia can somehow pull off a trap game upset, I’ll run three laps around Lincoln Financial Field in the snow.
Thank you, Brandon, for taking the time to answer our questions. Saints fans, make sure you check out Brandon and the work his guys are doing over at Bleeding Green Nation. You can follow Bleeding Green Nation on Twitter @BleedingGreen, Brandon @BrandonGowton, and of course, you can follow me @MaddyHudak_94. Who Dat.