Several things will be different Sunday when the Eagles face the winless Los Angeles Chargers, not the least of which will be the 27,000-seat bandbox in which the game will be played.
But a few things will be the same. The field dimensions at the StubHub Center will be exactly the same as the ones at the Linc, and for the fourth straight week, Carson Wentz will be staring down the barrel of a fierce pass rush.
Led by defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, the Chargers already have 11 sacks, second most in the league behind the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have 13.
Ingram and Bosa have combined for 7 ½ of the Chargers’ 11 sacks. Ingram has 5 ½ by himself, including three last week in the Chargers’ 24-10 home loss to the Chiefs.
“Their two edge rushers, as a duo, may be as good as we face all year,’’ Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.
“They’re both very, very good,’’ head coach Doug Pederson added. “Ingram is playing extremely fast. Bosa is a great complement on the other side.
“Bosa is relentless. He’s long. Both of those guys can convert speed to power. They line them both up all over the place. Inside [and] outside. They stand them up. They’re special players. Both of our tackles [Jason Peters and Lane Johnson] are going to have their work cut out for them.’’ Ingram has 80 pass-rush snaps in the first three games, 41 on the right side and 39 on the left, according to Pro Football Focus. Most of his productivity has come on the left side, where he has recorded five sacks and six of his 10 pressures.
Bosa has 85 pass-rush snaps – 53 on the left and 32 on the right. He has two sacks and two pressures from the left side and one sack (PFF has credited him with three sacks) and four pressures from the right side.
The battle between Bosa-Ingram and Peters-Johnson is going to go a long way toward determining Sunday’s outcome. If Peters and Johnson can keep the Chargers’ edge rushers off Wentz, he could have a big day against a pass defense that is ranked 27th in opponent passer rating (104.7) and 24th in completion percentage (68.7) and has just one interception.
“They’re probably the best [tackle] tandem I’ve faced this year, and probably since I came into the league,’’ said Bosa, who had 10 ½ sacks last year as a rookie. “Seventy-one [Peters] obviously has been doing it for a long time, and 65 is a big, strong, athletic guy.
“We definitely have a big challenge this week. But I think Melvin and I are up for it.’’
The Eagles have given up 11 sacks and are 24th in the league in sacks allowed per pass play. But just one of those 11 sacks have been charged to the tackles.
Johnson is ranked seventh and Peters ninth in pass-blocking efficiency by PFF. Johnson has given up one sack, two hits and one hurry in 137 pass plays. Peters has allowed no sacks, no hits and four hurries in 113 pass plays.
“Every week, I go against the best in the league,’’ Johnson said. “Going against good talent just makes me rise to their level.
“Bosa has a little bit of J.J. Watt in him as far as his quickness inside. He uses his hands really well. Has a high motor. It’s just a matter of getting to him before he gets started.’’
Getting off the ball quickly often can be a problem for offensive tackles on the road because of difficulty hearing the snap count in noisy stadiums. Peters and Johnson won’t have to worry about that Sunday at StubHub, where the crowd in the soccer stadium probably will top out at 26,000, and a good many fans probably will be members of Eagles Nation.
Pederson called his former boss, Andy Reid, and other Chiefs coaches he worked with this week to pick their brains about the experience of playing in such a small stadium.
“It’s different,’’ Pederson said. “Smaller crowd, smaller venue. It’s not what the actual norm is for a typical game day. [They said] it just wasn’t the same as playing in a 60,000- or 70,000-seat stadium.’’
Two things that would really help Peters and Johnson on Sunday are: (a) an effective run game along the lines of last week when the Eagles rushed for 193 yards on 39 carries in their 27-24 win over the Giants; and (b) staying out of third and longs.
The second one has been a problem for the Eagles. Twenty-one of their 43 third-down situations have been 8 yards or more this season. That’s the fourth most in the NFL.
The good news is they’ve managed to convert 8 of those 21 third and longs and are third in the league in third-down efficiency (48.8%) after finishing 20th last season.
But you really don’t want to give elite edge rushers Ingram and Bosa too many opportunities to tee off on your franchise quarterback. The fewer third and longs, the better.
The Chargers are very cognizant of Wentz’s mobility. They know they have to be disciplined when they rush him.
“We’re going to focus on keeping him inside the pocket,’’ Bosa said. “You never want mobile quarterbacks to make plays with their feet, get first downs. And he’s good at extending plays. Our approach will be the same as it was last week with Alex Smith.’’