|Eagles, Jaguars want to 'get things fixed' in London|
The defending Super Bowl champions and one of the teams that reached the AFC Championship Game last season get together on Sunday in London hoping to iron out their issues.
The 2018 season has proved far different from a year ago when the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars experienced extreme success. More of the same was expected, but it hasn't gone like that for either team so far.
The Eagles and Jaguars enter their matchup at Wembley Stadium (9:30 a.m. ET Sunday) with identical 3-4 records. Both teams are clearly attempting to steady the ship.
"They're trying to get things fixed just like us," Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. "I feel like this week is going to be who plays the best 'D.' Our defense has to outplay their defense. We know they have a really good defense, and we can't let the Jaguars get started with us."
Last week, the Eagles let a 17-point lead slip away against the Carolina Panthers in a 21-17 loss.
Philly fans are beginning to grumble about quarterback Carson Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson, each of whom could do no wrong last year.
Wentz had last week's game in his hands in the final minute but frittered away two opportunities to win when faced with third-and-2 at the Panthers' 14-yard line.
The second-year quarterback's season numbers are respectable (10 touchdown passes, one interception), and his 70.8 completion percentage ranks fourth in the NFL behind Drew Brees (77.3), Derek Carr (71.7) and Matt Ryan (71.1), but he has fumbled six times.
"After that game, guys were distraught," said Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who ranks second in the NFL in receptions with 57. "As tough a loss as I've had in my five-plus years here. Thing about this team, guys love playing football, we're a resilient bunch. We typically play our best when everything's kind of stacked against us, when our backs are against the wall."
Pederson was questioned for being too conservative in the fourth quarter, but he's used to the criticism, having played quarterback for the Eagles. He's sharing his experience with Wentz to help him handle the negativity.
"That's something I feel like I can still sort of educate him on and just being able to block it out and be able to focus on the game plan this week, and just (each day)," Pederson said. "It's going to come, good and bad, it's going to come. It just seems like two guys are always going to get the praise and two guys are going to get the blame when things don't go right and you're looking at one of them."
Wentz hasn't struggled as much as Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who has thrown nearly as many interceptions (eight) as touchdowns (nine) while completing 60.6 percent of his passes.
The Jaguars are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, and in those games they've been outscored a combined 57-0 in the first half.
"Things haven't been going the way they've wanted it to," Graham said. "But overall they're still in the running for themselves and I'm sure they have goals they're trying to get to just like us, so we have to make sure we don't get them started and we have to keep grinding and keep enjoying the process and not look ahead too much because there's still nine games left."
The Jaguars want to get their running game going this week after a lackluster effort in a 20-7 loss to the Houston Texans last Sunday.
With Leonard Fournette (hamstring) likely to miss another game, recently acquired running back Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon will be counted on to pick up the slack.
Jacksonville acquired Hyde from the Cleveland Browns, where he rushed for a team-best 382 yards on 114 carries. Yeldon is averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
The Jaguars definitely could use some rushing support for Bortles, who was pulled in the second half last week and replaced by Cody Kessler after losing two fumbles. Bortles has eight turnovers during the three-game skid.
But Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone said this week that he's sticking with Bortles as the starter after earlier indicating there would be competition for the job.
"Blake will take all the starter reps (in practice)," Marrone said. "Does that mean Cody doesn't take any reps? He will take the normal reps that he did the last six weeks, seven weeks."
Marrone still believes in his team but knows it can't take many more losses and still be a playoff contender.
"We're not playing like we want to play or should play," Marrone said. "Obviously, the thing that has been getting us -- the first one is obviously takeaways and giveaways. For us, we're going to spend extra time and put it in the practice schedule to make sure we're putting more of a major emphasis on that.
"We have a lot of things logistically that a lot of us have been through before with this trip going over to London. We have to get ourselves mentally prepared for that, doing all of the things that we have done in the past and get on the field and go practice and look forward to getting out there, putting in the work, look forward to getting out there to play this game."