Eagles

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Broncos

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Broncos

The Eagles have a chance to go into their bye week with an 8-1 record and seven straight wins. 

The Broncos stand in their way. 

No, Denver (3-4) hasn't been the team folks in Colorado were probably hoping to see this season. After winning three of their first four, the Broncos are losers of their last three games, including a loss to the Chiefs on Monday night. 

And now they've decided to switch quarterbacks on a short week. 

While the Broncos' offense has looked inept at times this season, that defense is no joke and can keep them in any game. 

Here's a look at five matchups the Eagles need to win Sunday:

Lane Johnson and 'Big V' vs. Von Miller 
This matchup — along with ones against Demarcus Lawrence and Khalil Mack — is one of the reasons the Eagles decided to keep Johnson at right tackle instead of flipping him to left. 

Miller is the best pass rusher the Eagles will face all season or ever. This season, Miller already has seven sacks in seven games. And since he entered the NFL in 2011, he leads the league in sacks with 80½. He's an absolute game-wrecker. 

Now, you're probably wondering why Miller wouldn't just move to the right side of the defensive line and go against Halapoulivaati Vaitai. He probably will, at least some on Sunday. But it's pretty clear Miller is more comfortable on the defensive left, so the Eagles are forcing him to switch sides. 

Menelik Watson vs. Brandon Graham 
On the flip side, there's a reason many top edge rushers line up on the right tackle. Watson is a perfect example. He's just really struggled this season and Graham has a chance to absolutely feast on Sunday. 

Watson, according to ProFootballFocus, has given up an NFL-high eight sacks to go along with 12 QB hurries and three quarterback hits. 

On the other side, the Broncos use rookie Garett Bolles, who has been a little better but still looks like a rookie even though he's 25. Bolles has given up three sacks and will have to deal with a resurgent Vinny Curry and an improving Derek Barnett. 

Eagles' run game vs. Broncos' run D
Nose tackle Domata Peko has made a huge difference for the Broncos, who are really stout against the run this season. They've given up just 72.9 yards per game, second best in the league after the Eagles. 

What's even more impressive is what the Broncos have done against some of the better runners the NFL has to offer. Melvin Gordon had 54 yards and 38 yards in his two meetings against the Broncos, Ezekiel Elliott had eight, LeSean McCoy had 21, Marshawn Lynch had 12, Kareem Hunt had 46. 

The Eagles added Jay Ajayi this week but it's unclear just how big of a role he'll have in his first game. LeGarrette Blount has been performing well so far this season, too, and the Eagles are the fifth-best rushing team in the NFL. But whoever runs the balls is going to have their work cut out for them. 

Broncos' run game vs. Eagles' run D
The flip side of that is the Eagles have the best run defense in the league, giving up just 70.4 yards per game on the ground this season. Meanwhile, the Broncos have been the NFL's 10th-best rush offense. 

The Broncos use a few different backs. C.J. Anderson is still the guy who gets the most work, but Jamaal Charles and Devontae Booker get worked in, too. Charles and Booker might be bigger concerns as receivers out of the backfield. 

Brock Osweiler vs. Jim Schwartz 
Broncos head coach Vance Joseph is making a quarterback switch for his team this weekend. Trevor Siemian is out and Osweiler is in. 

Osweiler found some success with the Broncos a few years ago but then went to the Texans on a $72 million deal and was traded to the Browns for absolutely nothing. The Browns cut him six months later and he returned to the Broncos as a backup. 

Now, he's the starter again. 

It would make some sense if Schwartz tried to knock the rust off Osweiler himself by blitzing a lot on Sunday, but he probably won't need to. The Eagles ought to be able to get plenty of pass rush against the Broncos with their front four alone. It'll be a tough test for Osweiler but it's hard to imagine the Broncos' offense looking any worse than it did on Monday night against the Chiefs. 

Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

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USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Mack Hollins
Roob: Hollins wasn't really a factor later in the season, once Torrey Smith got going, but he did show early in the year what kind of player he can be, notably with that 64-yard TD catch in the second Redskins game. Depending on what the Eagles do about Smith, Hollins should be either the Eagles' third or fourth receiver this fall. Either way, he'll be here, and I expect him to make a big jump in Year 2.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Hollins caught just 16 passes as a rookie and it seemed like he just never started producing the way he seems capable of. Even when Smith struggled, Hollins got more playing time and didn't produce. The good news is he's still young and plays a role on special teams. The Eagles will probably bolster their receiving corps in some way, but if they don't, Hollins will have a shot at starting if Smith is gone next season. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alshon Jeffery
Roob: Jeffery really played better than his stats this year. He made every big catch, caught every big third-down pass, made huge plays in the end zone. Jeffery was a star receiver without a star receiver's stats. His unselfish attitude carried over to the rest of the receivers and throughout the roster. And he did it all with a rotator cuff injury that required post-season surgery. Can't wait to see what Alshon can do healthy.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Jeffery didn't put up eye-popping numbers during the regular season, but if you needed any proof he's a No. 1 receiver, go back and watch Super Bowl LII, when he made that ridiculous catch in the end zone for a huge touchdown. The good thing about Jeffery is he really doesn't care at all about his numbers. There are a lot of diva receivers in the NFL, but Jeffery clearly isn't one of them. All he cared about last year was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and he certainly helped get the Eagles there. 

Verdict: STAYS

Malcolm Jenkins
Roob: Jenkins has so many roles on and off the field — community activist, NFLPA organizer, locker room leader — it's easy to forget just how good a player he is. Jenkins has been here four years and has had four very solid, very consistent, very productive seasons. He made his second Pro Bowl this year and joined Bill Bradley (3) and Dawk (7) as only the third Eagles safety since 1960 to make multiple Pro Bowls. Jenkins is signed to a cap-friendly deal through 2020 and should be an Eagle for many years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: As important as Jenkins is to the Eagles as a safety and defensive back, you could make a legitimate argument that he's even more important to the team as a leader and man. There's a reason he became the guy to follow up Doug Pederson's postgame speeches. He isn't just the leader of the defense; he's the leader of the entire team. And on the field, he's still playing at a really high, Pro Bowl caliber level. He's 30 now but is still signed through 2020 and maybe outside of Fletcher Cox is the Eagles' most important defensive player. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles Stay or Go — 2 young linebackers

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USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — 2 young linebackers

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Darrell Greene
Roob: The Hall of Fame cornerback is now 58 years old and 21 years removed from his last Pro Bowl season with the Redskins. Oh wait … wrong Darrell Green. This is Darrell GREENE, and he's a 6-foot-3, 320-pound guard out of San Diego State who's been on the Eagles' practice squad most of the last two years. The Eagles liked Greene enough to keep him around the last couple years, and unless they see something in Chance Warmack that I missed, Greene has a chance to stick around as a young O-line prospect.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Greene has been around now for the last two seasons. He was without a team for most of 2017; the Eagles didn't bring him back to the practice squad until December. The offensive guard had some real potential coming out of San Diego State, and the Eagles paid him a lot of guaranteed money to sign as an undrafted free agent before 2016. But he's never really impressed them enough to stick around for good. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Hicks
Roob: With Hicks, it's always about durability, not ability. Hicks has played more than half a season only once in his three NFL seasons, and since he's under contract for 2018 with a modest $2.068 million cap figure, he's obviously not going anywhere. The question is what the Eagles do with him after 2018 when he's due to become a free agent. Hicks can play. We all know that. He needs to prove this year that he can stay healthy in order to get a big-money deal a year from now.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Losing Hicks was a problem in 2017 and his absence started showing up late in the season. He's a big-time playmaker. It's a shame he got hurt last year because if he didn't, he'd be in line for a payday. For now, he'll be back in the final year of his four-year rookie contract until he can prove he's the same player he was pre-injury. 

Verdict: STAYS

Kamu Grugier-Hill
Roob: Grugier-Hill must be Howie Roseman's dream. He's signed at the minimum through 2019 but is an awfully valuable member of the roster — a reserve linebacker and emergency kicker and maybe the team's best special teamer. Kamu's not going anywhere.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He really doesn't play at all as a linebacker, but Grugier-Hill has become one of the best special teams players in the NFL and had a real chance to be named a Pro Bowler in 2017. He led the team in special teams tackles with 19 last season. He's still young, cheap and is a big part of Dave Fipp's group. 

Verdict: STAYS