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 mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

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Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

We split up your questions, so Part I of the mailbag ran yesterday (see story).

Just a reminder: training camp starts on July 25 and the first practice will be July 26. 

Let’s not waste anymore time. 

I’ve heard this a ton from people and it makes sense. Douglas seems to have what you’d look for in a safety and the Eagles value coverage skills in that position, something Douglas clearly has. So I see that as a possibility, but the Eagles have seemed hesitant to move him or even to really cross-train him. For me, the time to do it would have been during the OTAs and minicamp. Why not slide him back there for a few days to see how he handles it? That’s how I would have handled it. Without any extended time at safety in the spring, it’s hard for me to envision real cross-training in the summer. Eventually, though, you’re right; this makes sense. 

I don’t think so. Pumphrey looked a little better this spring, but he better have a great training camp. Right now, I have the Eagles keeping four running backs: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Matt Jones. If they keep five, Pump has a real chance; he’d just need to beat out Wendell Smallwood for that final spot. I think he has a decent chance, but I haven’t seen enough to give him a roster spot. He’s a player I’ll be watching extremely close at training camp. 

I’ll preface this by saying I’m no punter expert, but Cameron Johnston looks pretty solid to me. He was a really good punter at Ohio State and seemed to boot the ball pretty well this spring. The Eagles were comfortable enough with him to move on from Donnie Jones. 

To answer the second part, he will be the holder for Jake Elliott. The two have been working together this spring. While Johnston held last summer, Elliott was still in Cincinnati. They have to gel. 

In my latest 53-man roster projection, I actually don’t have Tre Sullivan in there. Instead, I went with Corey Graham, who is still on the street. I agree with you that in most situations going with the younger guy is the move, but not with this team. Not this year. Graham was such an important part of last year’s team. And because the Eagles have a legitimate shot to repeat, I’d try to bring him back. The Eagles have about $6 million in cap space. Get it done. 

Hi, John. Mango. Always mango. 

Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

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Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

We’ve officially reached the only sort of dead period on the NFL calendar. The Eagles are through their spring practices and won’t be back at the NovaCare Complex until July 25 for the start of training camp. 

That sounds far away, but it’ll be here before you know it. 

You guys were great and gave me a ton of questions, so I’ll answer half today and half Sunday. Let’s go: 

I’m tempted to say defensive tackle just for health concerns surrounding Tim Jernigan, but I have to answer linebacker. Jordan Hicks appears to be healthy after tearing his Achilles last year, but as good as he is when healthy, it’s just tough to count on him. Two years ago, he was able to play a full season and things were looking good, but then he suffered another serious injury. If Hicks and Bradham stay healthy, linebackers aren’t a concern. The Eagles will have either Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry or Corey Nelson take the weakside spot on base downs and they’ll be OK. 

But without Mychal Kendricks, it’s fair to be concerned about their depth at the position, especially after veteran pickup Paul Worrilow was already lost for the year. Kendricks came up huge last year as a fill-in; not sure the Eagles have that kind of depth this year. 

Not sure yet. What I can tell you about De’Vante Bausby is that he was impressive this spring and the coaching staff seems to love him. I remain very, very skeptical that he’s good enough to keep Sidney Jones off the field. With that said, I do think he’s talented enough to make the 53-man roster. We’ll get a better sense at camp when the pads go on, but I have him penciled in to make the team. 

Yes on both. The Nate Sudfeld hype is real. In our first extended looks at the young quarterback, he’s been incredibly impressive. It’s starting to make sense why the Eagles snatched him from Washington and then blocked the Colts from signing him last season. They kept him on the 53 in the second half of last year, so they’re completely prepared to keep three QBs on this year’s roster if Foles is still on the team. 

This is going to be the summer of Nate Sudfeld. We’re going to see him play a ton in those preseason games and that will let us know if he’s ready to be QB2 behind Carson Wentz. But the fact that the Eagles didn’t bring in a more experienced veteran after Wentz went down last year pretty much tells you all you need to know about what the Eagles think of him. 

We tried that. Didn’t work out well. We’re up for suggestions. 

You have no idea how out of water this fish is. This is like taking a fish from the ocean and dropping it in Kansas. 

How about Portugal? I’ll go with them because of Ronaldo.