GREEN BAY—The Eagles are a team of star players, from running back LeSean McCoy to return man Darren Sproles, and from wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to sacks leader Connor Barwin. All three Packers coordinators will have their hands full this week.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum said of Sproles, who’s returned two punts for touchdowns this season. “He’s got a group of guys in front of him in the punt-return game; they’re a good group.”
Slocum’s particular concern is that as the weather gets colder, the ball flies shorter and lower, and that means returns will likely increase, and that makes Sproles an even more important player.
“One of the best things he does is run north and south after the catch. We’ve been good with our punt coverage and we’re going to have to be,” Slocum added.
McCoy is the NFL’s sixth-leading rusher with 622 yards. He rushed for 155 yards in a 27-13 victory over the Packers last season.
“You saw last year a couple of times we had a free hitter outside. He can dip, he can cut. They have two running backs that are very elusive and can make the big play at any time, in the run game or in the pass game,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said, including Sproles in the Eagles run game.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez would seem to be the issue in this game. He came off the bench two weeks ago to replace injured starter Nick Foles, and Sanchez has led two wins with a 97.7 combined passer rating. Can he continue to play at that level?
“He’s got a lot of experience in the league. He’s picked up their system, which is a quarterback-friendly system. They’ve got a lot of weapons for him. The Panthers weren’t able to get much pressure on Sanchez,” Capers said.
Maclin is the Eagles’ top receiver with 48 receptions for 828 yards and eight touchdowns.
“They make a lot of big plays. They’re second in the league in explosive pass plays,” Capers added.
The Eagles offense is No. 5 overall, 13th in rushing and fifth in passing. It’s renowned for its up-tempo style of play.
“They’re probably as fast a tempo as there is in the league. If they don’t want you to substitute, they won’t let you, so you have to be prepared to play one personnel group,” Capers said.
Offensively, the Packers’ main concern would seem to be Barwin, who had 3.5 sacks against the Panthers and is one of the league’s leaders with 10.5.
“They use him to spy. He’s gotten some sacks that way. He’s relentless and a good player,” Packers Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said of Barwin. ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - NOV. 14