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Three things to watch for as the Eagles face the Panthers

The Eagles take center stage Monday night in prime time, and sport a new starting quarterback and a much healthier offensive line.
Chris Polk is one of the Eagles' three running backs -- their "three-headed monster."Getty Images

There’s really a lot going on as far as Eagles Week 10 storylines are concerned.

Obviously there’s a new starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez, who gets his first nod in over two seasons for the injured Nick Foles. He gives new flavor and a new slate of unknowns to thos week’s Monday Night Football matchup.

But there are a lot of other things going on that could make a much bigger impact. Sanchez is, after all, an experienced NFL veteran who played very well in the preseason, and more or less has the same skill set as Foles does.

The Eagles defense has been adequate, ranking toward the middle of the pack in most categories.

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Chip Kelly certainly hopes his pass rush, which actually is ranked among the league’s best, can clamp down on the elusive Cam Newton.

The Panthers, 3-5-1, look to get back into things in a very mundane NFC South.

If the Eagles (6-2) have their way, they’ll make it much harder with a win Monday night.

Unleash the ‘three-headed monster’

The Eagles have returned to their run game and it’s no surprise their success on the ground has them at the top of the standings.

LeSean McCoy, Chris Polk and Darren Sproles each add a different dynamic to things offensively and they’re playing behind a (mostly) healthy offensive line.

“When you took LeSean out and here comes Darren Sproles flying in the game, and then all of the sudden Sproles is out and here comes Polk in the game,” Kelly said. “It’s a nice luxury to have.”

The Eagles also likely will get the return of Evan Mathis, and a second-straight start from center Jason Kelce.

Can Sanchez help reduce turnovers?

With Mark Sanchez now on the radar of defenses across the NFL, it’s necessary to look at some of his negative tendencies from his days with the Jets. The quarterback turns the ball over at a pretty high clip and is vulnerable to a good pass rush (like the Panthers have).

But Foles turned the ball over a bunch too. Regardless of who is under center, the Birds have to minimize turnovers.

“We’ve come out of every game we’ve played knowing there are still things we need to continue to do to get better,” Kelly said. “We feel, especially offensively, that we’ve left a lot out there on the field.

Lining up with linebackers

The Panthers have perhaps the best linebacking core in the NFL.

Keeping the pass rush and run defense at bay will be very important for the Eagles offensive line. It will also be important for the receivers, backs and tight ends to help mix things up and control things at the line of scrimmage.

First there’s Luke Kuechly.

“I think Kuechly may lead the league in tackles,” Kelly said. “He’s a tackling machine. I think his worst year is 150 tackles, and I think it was when he was a freshman at Boston College. He led the NCAA in tackles. He’s that type of guy. He’s just always around the ball.”

Then there’s teammate Thomas Davis.

“They go together hand in hand,” Kelly said. “They’re on the field all the time. They don’t sub and get into subpackages.”

The Birds will also have to contend with defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short and defensive end Charles Johnson.

 
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