Eagles-Colts player matchups to watch in Week 11


The Eagles (8-1) will travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts (4-5-1) on Sunday afternoon.

Here are some key matchups to watch:

Jonathan Taylor vs. Eagles run defense

Some bad timing for the Eagles, who will be seeing a healthy Taylor on Sunday in Indianapolis. Taylor was dealing with an ankle injury earlier in the season but in last week’s win over the Raiders, he had 22 carries for 147 yards and a touchdown on his way to being named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

“They've got a good O-line and he's one the premier backs in the league,” Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon said. “I was with him (in Indianapolis) -- I told our guys a story -- the first two or three days of training camp he broke a run and literally just ran away from all our defensive backfield. Guy has major gas. He's big, physical. He has really good vision.”

This is obviously a huge matchup because the Eagles’ run defense has been leaky at times this year and opposing teams clearly think the best way to beat the Eagles is to run the football. Overall, the Eagles have the 20th-ranked run defense in the NFL but are 25th in yards per carry at 4.7. On Monday night against the Commanders, the Eagles gave up 152 yards but just 3.1 yards per attempt. So the run defense wasn’t quite as bad as it appeared live. The Eagles’ bigger problem in that game was their inability to get off the field on third downs.

Still, Washington stuck with the run for a reason, giving rookie Brian Robinson 26 carries. If the Colts stick with the run at the same rate with Taylor and an offensive line that seemingly improved a bit, this is something to worry about on Sunday.

The Eagles are still without Jordan Davis for this game. They added two veteran defensive linemen in Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh this week, but it's unclear how much they'll play.

Matt Ryan vs. Eagles secondary

The big change implemented by Jeff Saturday when he took over as interim head coach was to put the veteran quarterback back into the lineup. While the Colts’ offense really struggled earlier in the season before Ryan was benched under Frank Reich, Ryan wasn’t playing too poorly. And in his return against the Raiders, Ryan completed 21 of 28 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. Ryan is clearly not at his MVP peak anymore but he isn’t an awful player and he has a few weapons in Michael Pittman, Alec Pierce and Parris Campbell.

The one thing to note about Ryan’s season is that he has thrown some interceptions. He has nine in eight games this season. The only quarterback in the league with more interceptions this season in Josh Allen, who has 10 in nine games. The Eagles' defense is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 13 this season. So they’ve been very good about picking off opposing passers and they might have a chance for a couple more on Sunday.

Of course, that doesn't mean Ryan will hold the football long enough for the Eagles to get to him to force bad passes. He got rid of the ball in an average of 2.35 seconds last week, according to NFL NextGen Stats.

Colts better (?) OL vs. Eagles D-line

The biggest tangible boost the Colts might get from naming Saturday their interim head coach is with the offensive line. That O-line had really struggled this season but in their win over the Raiders, the Colts rushed for over 200 yards and Ryan was sacked just once.

Apparently, Saturday challenged the offensive line before his first game as head coach.

Of course, Ryan got rid of the ball extremely quick when he did pass so that definitely helped the protection. But it all worked in unison for the Colts last Sunday in a way it hadn’t under Reich earlier in the season.

It was one good game from the Colts’ O-line but we’ll see if they can continue it against the Eagles on Sunday. It’s worth noting that the Raiders’ pass rush is nowhere near as good as the Eagles’ pass rush. The Raiders are dead last in the NFL with 10 sacks, while the Eagles are tied for fourth with 29.

Eagles OL vs. banged up pass rushers

The Eagles’ offensive line was dealing with injuries before the bye week — and they still kind of are — but that unit is still one of the biggest strengths of the team. And they’ll be going against a group of defensive linemen in Indianapolis that might not be at full strength.

Their top three pass rushers are banged up. DT DeForest Buckner (neck) and DE Kwity Paye (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday and DE Yannick Ngakoue (back) was limited to start the week. While Buckner and Ngakoue were full participants on Thursday, Paye was still out. Those three have accounted for 14 1/2 of the Colts’ 25 sacks this season.

Buckner has been very good all season and he plays on both sides of the center so the entire interior OL will have to be ready if he plays.

Jordan Mailata vs. Yannick Ngakoue

As long as he’s healthy enough, Ngakoue will be a tough matchup for Jordan Mailata. Ngakoue is is 27 now and he’s on a new team every season these days but he’s still a consistent rusher.

Last season, Ngakoue had 2 sacks, 4 tackles, 2 QB hits and 2 batted passes in the Raiders’ win over the Eagles. He gave Mailata fits in that game on his way to being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Mailata in that game gave up 7 total pressures and a sack, according to ProFootballFocus. His pass blocking grade of 28.7 in that game was the lowest of his career.

"I think we just have to be fundamentally sound with him and just knowing his rush lanes and where he's trying to get to," OC Shane Steichen said. "I think we'll have a plan for him going in. He is a really good football player, someone we’ve got to be prepared for."

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