Eagles

Key matchups in Eagles-Chargers focuses on opportunity on the ground

Eagles

The Eagles (3-5) are home after two road games to host the Chargers (4-3) at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday at 4:05 p.m.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Eagles running backs vs. Chargers run defense

The Eagles ran the ball down the Lions’ throats last week in Detroit and there will be opportunity to run against the Chargers too.

Here’s a look at the Chargers’ run defense:

Yards per game: 159.4 (32nd)

Yards per carry: 5.1 (32nd)

TDs allowed: 9 (t-28th)

So, yeah, there’s opportunity for the Eagles to run against the Chargers with Boston Scott and Jordan Howard. But will they? Will Nick Sirianni commit to establishing the run or will he abandon it at the first sign of trouble?

“There is no doubt that we want to be able to run it because that will only help our play-action game and help Jalen (Hurts) moving forward,” Sirianni said.

Justin Herbert vs. Jonathan Gannon

Last weekend, Gannon really changed up his defensive strategy against the Lions in a game that obviously called for him to challenge more. In previous games, Gannon used a more passive style of defense to limit big plays but against a Lions team that doesn’t have many big plays in them, he changed it up.

Gannon would probably argue that the Eagles’ defensive line dominated and that allowed him to challenge more. That’s true. But there was also a concerted effort to change up their scheme in that game.

 

The problem here is that the Chargers have a quarterback with a big arm and a few weapons to give the Eagles’ defense trouble. Herbert is averaging just 7.1 yards per attempt and the Chargers have hit five passing plays of 40+ yards, which puts them in the middle of the pack.

So maybe we won’t see the same defense against the Chargers as we did against the Lions. But it might fall somewhere in between that and what we saw against the Bucs, Raiders and Chiefs.

Austin Ekeler vs. Eagles running backs

The Eagles did a good job last week limiting D’Andre Swift in the passing game. The young Lions running back had five catches for 24 yards last week. The Eagles will have a similarly tough test against a good pass catching running back in Ekeler this week.

Ekeler is off to a really good start this season. Through seven games he already had 420 rushing yards (5.0) with 5 touchdowns and 33 catches for 302 yards (9.2) and another three touchdowns.

Since he entered the NFL in 2017, Ekeler is fourth among all running backs in receptions behind just Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey and James White. And he’s third in receiving yards behind Kamara and McCaffrey.

Keenan Allen vs. Avonte Maddox

In the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, Avonte Maddox is playing the best football of his NFL career. But he’ll face a great test on Sunday.

Allen, 29, is one of the NFL’s best receivers and he operates a ton out of the slot — about 55% of his snaps have come inside. He has been a Pro Bowler in each of his last three seasons and is off to another good start in 2021 with 45 catches, 496 yards and 2 touchdowns. Darius Slay will often travel with top receivers but not often into the slot, so this will likely be on Maddox.

It’s a strange thing in the NFL that slot receivers get more acclaim than slot cornerbacks, who generally don’t get paid as much as outside guys. But these nickel CBs have a ton of stress on them and often have tough matchups. Maddox has done a very good job and is a candidate for an extension.

Jordan Mailata, Lane Johnson vs. Joey Bosa

Bosa is a three-time Pro Bowler and through seven games this season has 3 1/2 sacks and 8 QB hits. He’s a handful. Life is never easy in the NFL for offensive tackles.

Bosa typically plays most of his snaps on the left side of the defensive line, which sets up a matchup against Johnson. But there are occasions where he’ll flip and play more snaps on the right side of the defensive line. If that happens, it means he’d see more of Mailata.

It would make some sense if the Chargers want to get him lined up on Mailata instead of Johnson in this game.

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