Blogging The Boys: Talk about Mark Sanchez. What's he do well, what's he struggling with, has it changed the offense in any way?
Bleeding Green Nation: Through three starts with the Eagles, Mark Sanchez has been... Mark Sanchez. He's made some very good throws but he's also made some very bad ones. As he did in New York, he's really struggled with turnovers. He's thrown six interceptions (along with seven touchdowns) in just 292 snaps played.
He's impressed me at times with his pocket presence. He's generally done a good job of avoiding pressure and stepping up in the pocket. He's also made some great throws after scrambling out of the pocket and resetting his feet while keeping his eyes down field.
Philadelphia's offense hasn't really looked drastically different with him taking over for Nick Foles. Foles was also struggling with turnovers; he led the NFL in that category prior to this injury. One difference is that the Eagles don't seem to be pressing the deep ball as much as they did with Foles. Sanchez really likes to throw passes inside the numbers.
BTB: The Eagles offensive line has had a ton of moving parts this season. What's your evaluation of how well they're playing at this point in the season?
BGN: Philadelphia has certainly lacked stability along the offensive line. Against the Titans, the Eagles debuted their eighth different starting offensive line combination. I would say the unit is playing "good enough" at this point in the season, but they're not playing nearly as well as they did last year. Pass protection has been solid. The run blocking hasn't. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy isn't getting the same room to run that he did in 2013.
BTB: How are most defenses playing the Eagles this year? Are they doing anything different to match up with the tempo?
BGN: Defenses seem really keen on cheating against the run due to the prowess of LeSean McCoy. They would rather test the arm of Mark Sanchez than they would Philadelphia's run game. I don't think tempo's been an issue. They seem to be able to go fast when they want.
BTB: The Eagles pass rush has been on fire this season, how do you think that will match up with the Cowboys offensive line? Are there any type of teams that have done a good job protecting the QB this year against the Eagles?
BGN: Good question. I definitely think the match-up of Philadelphia's front seven against the Cowboys' offensive line will be one to watch. The Dallas offensive line has obviously excelled in run blocking but their pass protection hasn't been as good. Football Outsiders ranks the Cowboys' offensive line 21st in adjusted sack rate. Meanwhile, Philadelphia owns the league's second best sack rate. It would be surprising not to see the Eagles generate some pressure.
Mostly recent, the Green Bay Packers did a good job of shutting down Philadelphia's pass rush. Then again, there wasn't a single unit that performed well in that game. The Eagles sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick four times in their game against Houston but Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to dodge some of the rush. Tony Romo's elusive mobility could come in handy for the Cowboys.
BTB: The Eagles special teams have been huge. Who are the main guys making that happen?
BGN: The entire unit is really impressive. Trey Burton, James Casey, and Bryan Braman have all blocked a punt this season. Brandon Bair, who is 6-7, blocked a kick and an extra point attempt. Chris Maragos and Brad Smith have both returned a punt block for a touchdown. All of those guys are solid in return coverage as well.
As far as returners go, Chris Polk and Josh Huff have each scored a touchdown on a kick return. Darren Sproles has returned two punt returns for scores and leads the NFL in punt return average at nearly 15 yards a pop. Cody Parkey has been a revelation at the kicker position. The rookie placekicker ranks fourth in touchbacks with 40 and fourth in kick accuracy at 94.4% (23-25). He's 4-4 from 50+ yards so he's proved he can kick from distance. Only one punter has downed more punts inside the 20-yard line than Donnie Jones.
None of this is by accident. The Eagles put a big emphasis on special teams this offseason by signing players like Maragos and Braman. They also spend a good deal of time on special teams during practice. It's really paid off for them, and it should give them an advantage against a Dallas unit that currently ranks 21st according to Football Outsiders.
Thanks to BGN!
To buy tickets, visit the NFL Ticket Exchange.