BEHIND ENEMY LINES

Behind Enemy Lines: Eagles hope to extend NFL’s hottest start in Arizona

Oct 7, 2022, 8:10 PM | Updated: 9:22 pm
Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts warms up before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jagu...

Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts warms up before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Behind Enemy Lines brings you the key storylines and latest news for the Arizona Cardinals’ opponents each week this season.

Eagles hope to extend NFL’s hottest start in Arizona

By The Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Through four games, the Philadelphia Eagles are the hottest team in the NFL.

The Arizona Cardinals remember days like that, even if they’re OK with their current situation.

The Eagles (4-0) — the league’s only undefeated team — play at Arizona on Sunday. The Cardinals (2-2) were the NFL’s final undefeated team last year, when they started 7-0.

Arizona’s 2021 season could provide a cautionary tale for the Eagles. The Cardinals faded down the stretch, dropping four of their final five regular-season games before a lopsided loss to the Rams in the playoffs.

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has said this year’s early doses of humility — including a lopsided loss to the Chiefs in the opener — could make his team more resilient.

“We started off slow this season,” Murray said. “We’re entering the second quarter of the season and I think it’s a great opportunity. We’ve got a great team coming in. In order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”

The Eagles rank in the top 10 in most major categories on both offense and defense and have a plus-8 turnover margin.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts has entered the MVP conversation with four outstanding performances to help the Eagles reach 4-0 for the sixth time in franchise history. Hurts is first in the NFL in yards per attempt (9.1) and ranks fifth in the league in yards passing.

JUST FOR KICKS

Kickers aren’t expected to be the toughest guys in the locker room. Jake Elliott certainly earned some respect from his teammates after his performance against Jacksonville.

The 167-pound Elliott was drilled by cornerback Tyson Campbell on a 43-yard field goal try. Campbell was flagged for roughing the kicker and the Eagles’ drive was extended. Elliott limped out later in rainy conditions, kicked a 28-yard field goal and hobbled off the field. Elliott, a Pro Bowl selection last season, was clearly in pain. He missed practice Wednesday with a right ankle injury.

“Jake is one of the toughest people I’ve ever met regardless of the position that he plays. Everyone sees a kicker and they think something differently,” special teams coach Michael Clay said. “But he’s tough out there.”

The Eagles signed Cameron Dicker to the practice squad this week in case Elliott can’t play.

REDDICK RETURNS

Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick faces his former team one week after one of the best games of his career.

Reddick had two sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in the Eagles’ 29-21 win over Jacksonville.

Reddick was the Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2017 but struggled until 2020, when the coaching staff made him primarily a pass rusher. The linebacker responded with a career-high 12 1/2 sacks. He signed with the Carolina Panthers for 2021 before ending up with the Eagles this year.

“When I got here, he was a standup, and we were trying to make him middle linebacker,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Finally, we were like, ‘Hey, let’s try him where he played so well in college.’ It’s just been awesome, he’s such a great person, to see the success he’s had.

“You’ve got to have a plan. He wrecked that game against Jacksonville last week creating those turnovers there late, so we’ve got to have some way to try and slow him down.”

SO DOES ERTZ

Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz also faces his former team for the first time since coming to the desert last year in a midseason trade.

Ertz played nine seasons with Philadelphia, where he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a 2018 All-Pro. He also caught the game-winning touchdown in the Eagles’ Super Bowl win after the 2017 season.

The tight end has become an important part of Arizona’s offense, catching 22 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns this season.

“It’ll probably be a little weird for him maybe,” Murray said. “He had such a great career there. To go against them for the first time since being traded, he’ll probably have some emotions, I’m sure.”

DEFENSIVE STARS

The Eagles have nearly monopolized NFC defensive player of the week honors. Reddick won it last week, following teammates Brandon Graham (against Washington) and Darius Slay (against Minnesota) to give Philly players three straight weeks of winning the award.

QB Jalen Hurts makes sure to not overlook Cardinals after Philadelphia media did

By Arizona Sports

Philadelphia reporters peppered quarterback Jalen Hurts with questions about his Manningcast appearing, fame and his t-shirt.

Hurts’ press conference Wednesday went nearly 10 minutes. Yeah, he was asked about Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who like Hurts is a fellow Texas high school product that transferred to find huge success with the Oklahoma Sooners.

But as for the Cardinals defense he was about to face? It wasn’t mentioned.

When the questions were all answered and his presser was about to end, Hurts took the moment to lend one more comment:

“I will say this, too: I didn’t get any questions about the Cardinals for this game so I don’t want y’all thinking (they’re not worth mentioning) — this is a really good team we’re about to play,” Hurts said.

“They have a really good defense, disruptive up front. They have speed on the backend. So let’s not set the precedent for that. This is a good football team.”

Arizona indeed has turned its defense around since halftime of the Week 2 comeback win against the Las Vegas Raiders. It has allowed just three touchdowns since then.

Still, how that holds up against the hottest offense in the NFL remains to be seen. Arizona is still ranked 29th in defensive DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and has given up the most yards after catch (624).

While the Cardinals are last in sack percentage (2.8%) and sacks (4), they are 10th in quarterback knockdowns (15), second in blitz percentage (42.2%) and second in hurry percentage (12.9%).

Andre Dillard designated to return; Eagles navigating issues at LT, K

By Arizona Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles have questions at left tackle and kicker heading into a game at State Farm Stadium against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

At tackle, starter Jordan Mailata left Sunday’s win against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a shoulder injury. Backup Jack Driscoll played 74 snaps in his place, allowing three pressures and an additional sack with one penalty.

Philadelphia head coach Nick Sirianni said this week he believes his injured players all still have a chance to play against the Cardinals, but the team appears to be preparing for Mailata to miss at least this week — the Eagles signed rookie lineman Tyrese Robinson off its own practice squad Monday.

The Eagles could have another option. The team on Wednesday designated tackle Andre Dillard (forearm) to return from IR. The 2019 first-round pick has nine starts and 31 games played.

And at kicker, the Eagles signed rookie kicker Cameron Dicker to their practice squad. Starting kicker Jake Elliott was hit during a field goal this past week.

Like Arizona adding practice squad kicker Matt Ammendola with starter Matt Prater dinged up, Dicker could be elevated to the roster for the game.

The depth chart released Wednesday could shed more light on how serious the injuries are.

RB Miles Sanders quietly starring for undefeated Eagles

By The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Take a look at all the players getting credit this season for the Philadelphia Eagles’ undefeated start — from offensive standouts Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown to defensive stalwarts Darius Slay and Brandon Graham — and it’s easy to see why running back Miles Sanders was overlooked.

Sanders hadn’t rushed for more than 96 yards in a game and scored only one touchdown over three games. It’s not that he couldn’t do more, it’s that Sanders wasn’t necessarily needed to do as much with Hurts throwing the ball at an MVP-level rate.

In the rain Sunday against Jacksonville, the Eagles needed Sanders. And the back delivered. Sanders had 27 carries and rushed for 134 yards, both career highs, and scored two touchdowns in Philadelphia’s 29-21 victory over Jacksonville.

“He played angry, in my opinion,” Hurts said. “He played with a purpose.”

His purpose moved the Eagles to 4-0 this season, the only undefeated team in the NFL.

Sanders became the first Eagle with at least 25 carries, 125 yards and two touchdowns since LeSean McCoy ran for 217 yards on 29 attempts and two TDs on Dec. 8, 2013, against Detroit. McCoy’s game was famous in franchise history for being played in a blizzard. Sanders powered his way to a career-best outing in driving rain.

Maybe bad weather makes for the best backs in Philly.

Sanders’ big day moved him to third in the NFL in yards rushing (356) behind only New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (463) and Cleveland’s Nick Chubb (459). The Eagles had 210 yards rushing against Jacksonville.

“With the weather being the way it is, we still passed the ball effectively,” Sanders said. “And the offensive line, we had over 200 yards rushing. So all over, if the team keeps doing that, we’re going to win a lot of games.”

WHAT’S WORKING

The defense is clicking. The Eagles forced five takeaways, their most in a game since 2017 and most in the NFL this season. The Jaguars were held to 219 total yards.

STOCK UP

Linebacker Haason Reddick had his best game yet since he made his homecoming with the Eagles. The Camden, New Jersey, native and former Temple standout signed a free-agent deal over the summer. He had a breakthrough performance with two sacks, four tackles, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Slay and Graham won the last two NFC defensive player of the week awards. Reddick is certainly in contention to make it three straight winners for the Eagles. Better yet, after playing for Arizona and Carolina, Reddick’s family and friends get to root for him — and their favorite team.

“They are still happy because they get to still root for the hometown team,” Reddick said. “Not only that, but they also get to root for me, and there are no split feelings. I used to hear from my family that they are a Cardinals fan or a Carolina fan because they are a fan of Haason Reddick, but you knew that their true team was the Eagles and they grew up watching the Eagles play, and they were raised to be Eagles fan. Now that I’m back home, it makes it better for them.”

STOCK DOWN

Slim pickings again for the Eagles, but Brown showed why he’s one of the best receivers in the NFL — and not defenders. In one of Hurts’ few mistakes this season, he had a pass intercepted by Andre Cisco and returned 59 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Brown had a chance to tackle Cisco around the 45 but seemingly gave up on trying to run him down. Brown was roasted on social media — which is also where defended himself late Sunday, tweeting: “Lack of effort: No (never) Bad decision: yes lol My thought process was to strip the ball and get it back because defensive guys don’t know how to carry the ball but I got blocked. I’ll just tackle him next time lol forgive me.”

INJURED

Eagles LB Patrick Johnson left the game with a head injury. Tackle Jordan Mailata suffered a shoulder injury. Kicker Jake Elliott was hurt after he was hit hard by Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell on a field-goal attempt. Campbell was flagged for roughing the kicker.

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