Robert Saleh was asked this week if he was aware of the New York Jets’ futility against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Eleven games. Zero wins.
The only team the Jets have never defeated.
“Yeah, I heard about it,” the Jets coach said, shaking his head.
And what does he make of that?
“That's history,” Saleh said with a laugh.
Well, Nick Sirianni’s squad wants that history to continue, especially after a disappointing 13-7 loss to the Giants last week at MetLife Stadium.
The Eagles (5-7) will be back at the Meadowlands on Sunday to take on the Jets (3-8), who are coming off a 21-14 win at Houston. Philadelphia sits a half-game behind Washington for a playoff spot in the NFC, and has a bye after its two-week commute up and down the New Jersey Turnpike.
“I think we have a fire lit under us, there's no doubt,” Sirianni said. "This is a hungry team that wants to do well, that craves to do well, that works their tail off to play well every week.
“You never want to have a loss, but our mindset is no matter what the circumstance was the week before, work your tail off this week to put yourself in position to win this week.”
And when it has come to Eagles-Jets matchups in the regular season, Philadelphia has always found a way to come out on top.
That includes the very first meeting on Dec. 9, 1973, when John Outlaw intercepted Al Woodall’s pass and returned it 45 yards for the go-ahead score for the Eagles in the third quarter of a 24-23 victory. And the most recent time they squared off, on Oct. 6, 2019, when Philadelphia scored on an interception and a fumble by New York starting quarterback Luke Falk in a 31-6 rout.
But just as Saleh said, that's the past. And this year's group of Jets have their sights set on erasing that zero from the series win column.
“It seems like the Jets have been around forever and I figured they’d have a win against everybody," New York tight end Ryan Griffin said. "It plays a little more importance. I think it would be pretty cool to be on the first Jets team to get a win against the Eagles. But that being said, we just need this game for two in a row and try to get things rolling in the last quarter of the season.”
While the Eagles and Jets have only played 11 times in the regular season, they're frequent preseason foes. And this summer, the squads held two days of joint practices at the Jets' facility before their game.
The final in that one in August: a 31-31 tie.
“You learn a lot,” Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox said of whether those practices help prepare a team to face an opponent. “Of course they're not going to show everything and we're not going to show everything, kind of just playing mind games knowing they're on the schedule for the regular season. ... But they know us and we kind of know them. We're looking forward to it.”
Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson was back under center after missing four games with a sprained right knee. He was up and down against the Texans, but played well in the second half as he led New York to the comeback win.
New York's focus during the last six games will be on Wilson's development. The Jets offense under Mike LaFleur took off during Wilson's absence, and now it's on the No. 2 overall pick to settle in and show he can be just as successful running it.
“He’s got to get comfortable in this thing,” Saleh said, “and it’s going to take reps and time.”
The Eagles have the NFL’s No. 1 rushing offense after Sirianni made a commitment to run the ball following a loss at Las Vegas on Oct. 24.
Since that game, the Eagles have 1,078 yards on the ground and they’ve gone 3-2. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is leading the way with 695 yards rushing and eight TDs, but he’s coming off his worst game as a pro — a three-interception performance in the loss to the Giants. With Hurts inconsistent in the pocket, the Eagles are 30th in passing.
“The passing game is not where we want it to be,” Sirianni said. “I take a lot pride in that. I’ve been on a lot of teams that have been very successful passing the football, and so no one is taking that harder than me and it’s my job to get that fixed.”
CLOSE IS NOT ENOUGH
The Eagles are 30th in the NFL in sacks with only 19, but they’re doing well in pressures, according to analytics. That means they’re getting close to quarterbacks, but aren’t bringing them down.
While defensive tackle Javon Hargrave leads the team with a career-best seven sacks, Cox only has one this season.
“There’s no one that wants sacks more than the D-line and us because those are some splash game-changing plays,” defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. “It’s a way to get off the field on third down. It’s a way on first and second down to put them behind the sticks, and you’re always trying to get them to known pass situations.
“I don’t think just measuring sacks is a good measure as far as how’s your defensive line affecting the game."
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed.
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