If someone told you back in August the Eagles would lose Darren Sproles and Jason Peters to season-ending injuries, you probably wouldn't have been shocked given the age of both players.
Had they told you the Birds would lose those two veterans and still win 11 of their first 13 games while generating the league's most explosive offense - you would have questioned their sanity. Yet, that's exactly what the team has accomplished in spite of losing two key cogs in their offensive machine.
Philadelphia's resiliency only added to the feeling of inevitability around this team as it tore through the first three quarters of the schedule. They appeared destined for a deep playoff run - one which might have finally carried the team to 'The Promised Land'.
With Carson Wentz on injured reserve, the Eagles have lost more than their franchise quarterback and leader - they've lost their offensive identity. This Sunday, Nick Foles will attempt to help Philadelphia establish a new one.
Here are four things to watch on offense as Philadelphia prepares to face the 2-11 Giants.© USA TODAY USA TODAY
Foles under pressure
Wentz's mobility covered-up many of the offensive line's flaws in pass protection. Unfortunately, the ability to evade the rush may be one of Foles' weakest traits.
He took 28 sacks over 10 starts during the "27-2" run, in 2013. His sack rate over 317 pass attempts was 8.8-percent. It ranked as the 12th-highest rate among 38 qualifying quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts that season. Foles took a sack roughly every 11 times he dropped back.
Wentz's sack rate was six-percent prior to the injury, or one every 15 pass attempts. For comparison, Phillip Rivers currently leads the league at 3.1-percent, which equals one every 30 pass attempts.
If the line can't protect Foles this Sunday against the struggling Giants - who have the the third-fewest sacks in the NFL - it could be a sign of bad things to come in the playoffs.© USA TODAY USA TODAY
Foles under even more pressure
Taking the reigns of an 11-2 team with Super Bowl aspirations is a tall order of business. Add to it the praise Foles has been receiving from pundits who've proclaimed he's one of the NFL's most-capable backups. Some even feel Foles gives the Eagles a chance to keep their Super Bowl hopes alive.
When all of this praise, and the expectations that come with it are stuffed in a quarterback's helmet along with the playbook, and the championship dreams of his teammates - it can quickly turn into pressure. Should he respond to this pressure by trying to play the style of "hero-ball" which makes Wentz so dangerous, it could result in disaster.
Whether Foles tries to be the gun-slinger, or simply plays within the confines of the system and keeps the offense 'on-time' will be one of Sunday's most eagerly awaited questions.© USA TODAY USA TODAY
A Jay and a Blount can help with the stress
Lost in the re-telling of Foles' incredible 2013 run is the fact LeSean McCoy had his own career-year. McCoy posted a league-leading 1,607 rushing yards, with another 539 yards through the air, and 11 touchdowns.
Defenders were preoccupied with keeping McCoy in check which bought Foles opportunities. The quarterback needs similar production out of his current backfield.
In the five games since Jay Ajayi joined the Eagles, he and LeGarrette Blount have gained 532 yards on the ground, while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. For Foles to achieve maximum effectiveness, this duo has to dominate games.
New York is allowing the most rushing yards in the NFL, at 1,462 - a byproduct of losing 11 games. This is a weakness Blount and Ajayi must exploit, particularly, to set up the next big key to the game.© USA TODAY USA TODAY
Big Plays on the way?
In 2013, Foles and the Eagles put up the most big plays in the league, with 80 pass plays of 20 yards or more and 18 plays of 40 yards or more. They also led the NFL in yards per pass play at 8.7.
This time around, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, and Alshon Jeffery present a far more capable set of starting receivers than the 2013 trio of Desean Jackson, Riley Cooper, and Jason Avant. Smith and Trey Burton each had their best games of the season last Sunday - a development which may warrant more targets going forward.
And with Zach Ertz passing the concussion protocol on Thursday, Foles will have game-breakers across the entire line of scrimmage against New York - who sits in the bottom-five when it comes to surrendering big plays.
A productive running game will allow Foles to use play action to open up throwing lanes downfield. If the Birds are hitting these chunk plays, they have a great chance to blow the Giants out this Sunday… even without Wentz.
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/eagles-vs-giants-week-15-four-things-to-watch-on-offense/ar-BBGLZrx