Lions at Eagles Week 3 Scouting Report: Key weapons missing

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 15: Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles passes in the first half of an NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 15, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 15: Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles passes in the first half of an NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 15, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

Can the Detroit Lions defeat a Philadelphia Eagles team missing several key players? SideLion Report examines what to look for on each side of the ball.

Rejoice, Detroit Lions fans! Your team is undefeated! Okay, they coulda-shoulda-woulda been 2-0 and needed a fourth-quarter comeback to secure their first victory last week against the Los Angeles Chargers. Still, early-season momentum is paramount in the NFL, and the Lions will look to build on last week’s win as they hit the road to face the Philadelphia Eagles.

For the second game in a row, the Lions will face a quality opponent that is ravaged by injuries. A host of key Eagles contributors have either been ruled out or are questionable for today’s tilt.

For their part, the Lions were able to take advantage against a shorthanded Chargers squad, registering their first win of the year. Can they do the same against a Philadelphia team that is sure to make shrewd adjustments?

Here, and each week, we’ll scout each team’s offense, defense, and special teams units, how they match up against each other and offer two players to watch from each squad.

When the Lions have the ball

Two games in and the difference in the Lions’ offense is certainly noticeable compared to years past. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell wants to run the ball with regularity and hopes to use that to set up deep shots down the field. So far, the results have been uneven, but the Lions will need to put it together in an efficient manner to upend a tough road opponent in the Eagles.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has played well in his first two games under Bevell, yet the consistent deep-ball connection to receivers Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay has yet to surface. Stafford and Golladay did take a solid step forward last week, with Golladay registering 117 yards through the air and grabbing the game-winning touchdown. Still, Stafford tossed his first two interceptions of the season, on deep attempts to Golladay and Jones, respectively.

The Lions will also look to jumpstart a scuffling rushing attack in order to support their aerial attack, but that may be difficult against the Eagles, who are surrendering just 42.5 yards per game on the ground thus far, third-best in the league. The Lions, conversely, are averaging just 3.5 yards per tote on their 60 carries. A breakout game from Detroit’s backfield could be the difference, but that will be a tall order against an Eagles front led by veteran defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

Cox is one of the most disruptive interior defensive linemen around, and he is the linchpin of defensive coordinator – and former Lions head coach – Jim Schwartz’s wide-nine defensive scheme. Bookended by edge rushers Derek Barnett and Detroit native Brandon Graham, the Eagles’ defensive front prides itself on controlling outside runs while applying consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks from several angles.

The Eagles have collected just two sacks so far, but rest assured that Schwartz is concocting some sneaky blitz packages and pressure concepts to in an attempt to thwart the Lions’ offensive setup. How will Detroit counter?

One way would be for the offensive line to perform similarly to how they did against the Chargers. The Lions did not surrender a sack in Week 2, despite missing starting left tackle Taylor Decker. In his place, Tyrell Crosby stood tall, though he had help from the Lions’ tight end unit, with a healthy dose of chips and support blocks. Decker could return to the lineup this week, what effect will that have the offensive front?

A similar game plan could be in the cards, but that attack sapped the Lions of a lot receiving production from the tight end group, as rookie T.J. Hockenson caught just one ball for seven yards, a week after a record-breaking performance in his debut. A more balanced attack from their tight ends, including Jesse James, would be a major boost.

The Eagles lack star power at the linebacker position, and starter Kamu Grugier-Hill (knee) is officially doubtful for today. Should the Lions’ ground game sputter early, look for tailback Kerryon Johnson and co. to be the targets of some dump-offs and screen passes to help expose the second level of the Eagles’ defense. Johnson scored the Lions’ first touchdown of last week’s contest on a screen and was the beneficiary of excellent downfield blocks by the Lions’ linemen on the play.

The Eagles’ secondary is led by Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins, who is flanked by a group of veteran cornerbacks. They have struggled to defend the pass. However, giving up the second-most yards through the air so far this season. If Stafford is afforded time in the pocket, look for the Lions to take their shots downfield.