Eagles

Key matchups in Eagles-Jets show an area Eagles can exploit

Eagles

The Eagles (5-7) are heading back to MetLife Stadium this weekend to take on the Jets (3-8) on Sunday.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Eagles’ run game vs. Jets’ poor run defense

Even in a loss last week, the Eagles still managed for rush for 208 yards. It was their fifth straight game with 175+ rushing yards. This is just the third time franchise history they’ve done that: The other two instances were in 1949 and 1950. So the Eagles are running the ball at a historic rate.

And the Jets can’t seem to stop the run.

Here’s where the Jets rank is several key rushing categories:

Yards allowed: 1,415 (27th)

Touchdowns allowed: 20 (32nd)

Yards per carry: 4.5 (26th)

Last week in a win against the Texans, the Jets held them to 96 rushing yards. That was just the second time all season the Jets have held their opponent under 100 yards rushing.

We’ll see who’s healthy for the Eagles at the running back position this week. Miles Sanders played last week but injured his ankle and Jordan Howard missed the game with a knee injury. On top of that, the Eagles are also without right guard Jack Driscoll for the rest of the season.

No matter, the Eagles still need to run the ball. And they should be able to do it against the Jets.

Landon Dickerson vs. Quinnen Williams

Williams was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft, which means his last season at Alabama was 2018. That also means he just missed facing Dickerson, who transferred in from Florida State the next season.

 

Williams, who turns 24 on Sunday, has been playing at a high level in his third NFL season. He has 6.0 sacks in 11 games and is one away from tying a career high. He halso had 40 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 12 QB hits.

Meanwhile, Dickerson has really settled into his left guard spot after a rough beginning to his rookie season. Dickerson was coming off an ACL tear and missed all of training camp and the preseason so it was predictable that he would struggle early. But now he’s playing well enough at left guard to consider just leaving him there forever.

Zach Wilson vs. Jonathan Gannon

The Eagles visited Florham Park, New Jersey, this summer for a coupe joint practices with the Jets so they got a chance to see Wilson very early in his NFL career. The Eagles have been using that training camp tape this week.

Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick, has really struggled in his rookie season. He has completed just 57.6% of his passes for 1,313 yards with 4 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has missed time but after returning last week, didn’t have a great performance even as the Jets beat the Texans.

It’s also important to note that Wilson has thrown an interception in six of his seven games this season. So the Eagles will try to bait him into some mistakes on Sunday.

Even Jonathan Gannon admitted he’ll do some different things against rookie quarterbacks.

“Depending what schematic system you're kind of playing against, it's a little bit different,” he said. “With them coming, it's a new system, a rookie quarterback, that's different than when you play Bruce Arians and Tom Brady, obviously, you know. Or even when they're playing with Joe (Flacco), that's a veteran quarterback in a kind of year one new system.

“So, you tweak a little bit how you're defending them. But I would say for us, it ultimately comes down to the execution of us, not really what they do, but what we do. So, that's what we'll preach on this week.”

Alijah Vera-Tucker vs. Javon Hargrave

After the Jets took Wilson with the No. 2 pick, they came back in the first round and drafted Vera-Tucker out of USC with the No. 14 pick. They plugged him into their left guard spot at the beginning of the season and he’s been playing well. Vera-Tucker is PFF’s No. 38 ranked guard, which puts him firmly in the middle of the pack. In pass protection, Vera-Tucker has given up plenty of pressure but just one sack and that came in the season opener.

Hargrave, meanwhile, is having a career season but his sack total has really slowed down in recent weeks. He had gone six full games without a sack before finally getting one in the late stages of Sunday’s game against the Giants. That was his seventh sack of the season, setting a new career high.

In this game, the Jets might try their luck with 1-on-1 battles between AVT and Hargrave. If they do, it’ll be imperative for Hargrave to win more of those matchups to really shake up the game.

 

DeVonta Smith vs. Jets’ cornerbacks

In the loss to the Giants last week, Smith was limited to 2 catches on 4 targets for just 22 yards. A lot of that probably had to do with the fact that he was being covered by James Bradberry, who is a pretty darn good corner. The Jets don’t have a James Bradberry.

In fact, the Jets have the NFL’s 29th ranked passing defense, giving up over 266 yards per game. Last week against the Texans, the Jets’ starting cornerbacks outside were Bryce Hall and Javelin Guidry. They are PFF’s No. 46 and 57 ranked cornerbacks, respectively.

Hall, a fifth-round pick out of Virginia in 2020, is the better of the two. But Hall pretty much stays on the left and Guidry to the right. So don’t expect either of them to travel with Smith. This is a matchup worth exploiting.

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