Eagles

Key matchups in Eagles-Washington in a game with playoff implications

Eagles

The Eagles (6-7) will host the Washington Football Team (6-7) at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon.

Here are five important matchups to watch:

Eagles OL vs. What’s left of Washington’s DL

One of the biggest strengths of Washington’s roster is its defensive line. But there are serious questions about how many of those D-linemen they’ll have on Sunday. We know Chase Young won’t play; he’s out with a torn ACL. But this week, several defensive linemen, including Jonathan Allen, have gone on the COVID-19 list. Allen was put on the list early in the week, so he has a chance to return in time. And that’s something to watch, because he is very, very good. Allen is a game-changer and leads his team in sacks (7.5), TFLs (9) and QB hits (25). He’s a monster inside. So if Allen can’t play, it’s a big loss for Washington.

But they have more than Allen inside. They also have Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis, who are both good players. But now Ioannidis is on the COVID list too.

The Eagles are without Jack Driscoll for the rest of the season and Jason Kelce has been banged up over the last few games. And as well as Landon Dickerson has played recently, he’s still a rookie. For Jalen Hurts (or Gardner Minshew) to have a big game, he needs to be protected. For the Eagles to win this game, they need to run effectively. If the Eagles’ OL can’t handle the middle of that Washington DL, then neither thing can happen.

 

Terry McLaurin vs. Darius Slay

The WFT’s top receiver, McLaurin, is in the concussion protocol but he’s been moving through it. Like Allen, McLaurin is a player Washington can’t really afford to lose. For another season, McLaurin is by far their top receiver with 61 catches, 808 yards and 5 touchdowns. Their next closes wide receiver is Adam Humphries, who has 33/341/0.

So if McLaurin gets cleared, this is a classic game for the Eagles to put Slay on McLaurin and let two great players battle it out. Back in 2019, while Slay was still with the Lions, he came away from the Washington game really impressed by McLaurin, who caught 3 passes on 10 targets on Slay for 42 yards, according to ProFootballFocus. There were a couple chances for big plays when McLaurin beat Slay but the ball didn’t get to him. Slay later said McLaurin was one of the toughest wideouts he covered that season.

Last year in their two matchups, Slay did a nice job on McLaurin. In those two games, McLaurin caught 3 passes on 4 targets for 31 yards, according to PFF.

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Antonio Gibson vs. Eagles’ linebackers

In his second year, Gibson has had some ups and downs this season but after 13 games still has 836 rushing yards and 221 receiving yards. And he’s still a threat to run between the tackles and to catch the ball out of the backfield. While he’s averaging just 3.9 yards per attempt this season, he could be dangerous for the Eagles, who have struggled at times this year to stop the run and could be susceptible to giving up receiving yards to Gibson out of the backfield.

With Davion Taylor on IR, the Eagles are without their most athletic linebacker. T.J. Edwards, Alex Singleton and Genard Avery are their three ‘backers these days and there is probably some opportunity for WFT to get some positive plays if they can get a matchup with Gibson on one of those linebackers.

Jalen Hurts or Gardner Minshew vs. shaky pass defense

This final four-game stretch should tell us an awful lot about Hurts, who had a terrible performance against the Giants and then missed the win over the Jets with an ankle injury. The Eagles hope Hurts will return for this game after the bye week and we’ll see how he bounces back from some adversity.

But even if Hurts can’t play, the Eagles should still be able to take advantage of a Washington defense that has been decimated by COVID-19 this week. Minshew is more than capable of doing damage on Sunday if he gets the start.

 

While Washington has the NFL’s fifth-ranked rushing defense, you can throw on them. In fact, just two teams have given up more passing yards than Washington and no one has given up more passing touchdowns. On the season, Washington has given up 259.1 yards per game through the air. But since their bye week, that number is down to just 214.8, so they’ve been better.

DeAndre Carter vs. Eagles’ coverage units

The Eagles beat the Jets before the bye week but the game started off in terrible fashion when they gave up a 79-yard return to Braxton Berrios to start the game. It wasn’t a good kickoff from Jake Elliott and then the coverage team didn’t do a good job getting Berrios to the ground.

That’s something to keep in mind this weekend because the Eagles will be facing a pretty good return man. You might remember Carter from his stint with the Eagles in 2018. Since then, he’s been with the Texans, Bears and now Washington. This season, Carter is Washington’s fourth-leading receiver but he’s really made a difference as a returner.

On kick returns, Carter is averaging 24.9 yards per attempt (6th in the NFL) and has a 101-yard touchdown return. And his 30 kick return attempts are the second-most in the NFL. As a punt returner, Carter has 10 for 97 with a long of 16. His average of 9.7 yards per attempt is 10th in the NFL. To put those numbers in perspective, the Eagles’ top returner is Jalen Reagor, who is averring 21.3 and 6.4 yards per return.