Its been a tough season for us 49ers fans and this week it gets even worse. We head to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the team with the NFL’s best record — the Philadelphia Eagles, who sit at 6-1 on the season. This week, we’re changing it up slightly, I speak to a long time Eagles fan, Patrick Meredith, who you can find on Twitter @pmeredith77 for his perspective on the 49ers situation, as well as breaking down the game on both sides of the ball.
Discussion with Patrick:
How long have you been an Eagles fan?
“I’ve been a Eagles fan for 14 years, It started with the 2003 team that lost to the Panthers in the NFC title game.”
What’s your best memory of the franchise?
“Probably the 2004-2005 NFC title game over Atlanta. The Eagles had gone to 3 straight title games and had lost every time prior to that year so breaking through finally felt good.”
How would you say the season has gone so far? What were your expectations before the season?
“ I’d say it’s gone way better than anything I could have imagined. I expected it to be about 4-3 through the first seven games and we are 6-1.”
What are your views on the 49ers this season and moving forward?
“The majority of people and even many 49ers fans felt this was going to be a year to rebuild and retool for them. I don’t think many people envisioned them going 0-7 and I don’t think they are as bad as that record indicates. They’ve lost so many close games (I still feel they got screwed over by a very bad OPI call on Garçon late against Washington) that if one or two plays go different they may have 2 maybe 3 wins and people are talking about how much this team has improved. I still think this team is much better than last years team even though their record indicates otherwise.”
What are your thoughts on how Frank Reich (Offensive Coordinator) and (Head Coach) Doug Pederson will attack the 49ers defense? What would you say is the strength of the Eagles offense?
“The Eagles offense will probably try and attacking the middle of the field, especially with Ertz and Agholor against the 49ers linebackers. I think the strength of this offense comes down to one guy and that is Carson Wentz. I would’ve said the offensive line prior to Monday night but with Peters done for the year that unit will now have to adjust which will be tough because Peters was playing at an elite level and the drop off from him to Halapoulivaati Vaitai will be pretty drastic. That said, with Carson Wentz , the Eagles will always have a chance to win every game. I expect them to take some deep shots with Torrey Smith and Mack Hollins against Rashard Robinson and a highly penalized 49ers team.”
Thoughts on Wentz’s development and improvements from year one to two?
“ Is everything to generic? Because he feels like he’s made strides in every aspect of his game. Mechanics, pocket awareness, deep ball accuracy. You name it, he’s been on another level. There are still moments when he tries to make a throw in a window that he probably shouldn’t (Inception against Arizona being an example of that) but he’s just gotten better in every aspect that it’s unreal.”
How can the 49ers defense can attack the Eagles offense?
“Anything can happen on any given Sunday. Just ask the Broncos after losing to the then 0-5 Giants at home. The best way for the 49ers defense to attack the Eagles is up front especially with Vaiti now in for Peters. The 49ers defensive line is young but a very talented group. I loved Solomon Thomas and Deforest Buckner when they were drafted and I’ve been an Elvis Dumervil fan since his days at Louisville. Vaati has struggled against Athletic edge rushers which could be key.”
What are the strengths/tendencies of the Eagles defense led by defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz?
“ The strength of their defense is the defensive line. This is the deepest group in the NFL by far. They can rotate 4 guys at a time to give guys like Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox a break and keep them fresh for four quarters. As far as tendencies, they are blitzing a little more than last year. I’m sure some things will change now that Jordan Hicks is gone for the year but I think as long as that defensive line is healthy and Malcolm Jenkins is there in the secondary, this unit will be just fine. It helps that they also tend to pay more nickel than anything else. Generally leaving just two linebackers on the field.
Where are the areas the 49ers offense can attack the Eagles defense?
“ Their cornerbacks are probably the only area that is a weak spot for them. That being said, they’ve played much better this year but the 49ers can start there. Especially with quick underneath throws. Now if Ronald Darby plays (unlikely) then that changes things but again, I don’t expect him to play.”
I would like to thank Patrick for taking the time out to discuss this matchup with me, may the best team win. This will be a tough game for the 49ers, but there will be a few chances to make a statement. Monday night was bitter sweet for the Eagles, as they won against a divisional-rival but lost standout, nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters to a season-ending injury. Also, linebacker Jordan Hicks was lost for the season as well. Jason Peters will be replaced by backup offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who will most likely start on the right with standout right tackle Lane Johnson moving to the left side.
The 49ers defensive line manned by DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas should look to exploit the loss of such a great offensive tackle after a subdued performance versus Dallas. The other position that the 49ers might to look to exploit is the cornerback spot of the Eagles defense. With Ronald Darby most likely out, three players have been forced to rotate into the starting lineup. Rasul Douglas, Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson have done remarkably well sharing six interceptions between them. The 49ers will most definitely be on the lookout to find out if they’re the real deal. Expect speedster Marquise Goodwin, who had a good game versus Dallas with four catches for 80 yards, to stretch the field vertically. I’m expecting Kyle Shanahan to involve rookies Trent Taylor and George Kittle heavily in the passing game, especially when attacking the middle of the field strategically with Jordan Hicks out .
The 49ers have been leaning on Carlos Hyde in the run game but this week they face a formidable front-seven, which is rated among the best in the league at stopping the run. This unit is lead by Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Nigel Bradham at the linebacker spot. One position I hope the 49ers improve on this week is the run defense, as we all remember too well how Ezekiel Elliot totaled three touchdowns and two hundred and nineteen yards from scrimmage against this unit per PFF. If they don’t improve, Legarrette Blount — a physical back with an urge for breaking tackles will run all over them. The 49ers are nursing injuries to key players Trent Brown, K’Waun Williams and Reuben Foster, buckle up for another bumpy ride folks. Forever Faithful, #GoNiners!