Eagles-Commanders player matchups to watch in Week 10


The Eagles (8-0) will host the Washington Commanders (4-5) on Monday Night Football at the Linc.

Here are some key matchups to watch:

Eagles WRs vs. Commanders CBs

The last time these two teams played, Jalen Hurts had a monster game with 340 passing yards and 3 touchdowns in a 24-8 win. It was the best game of DeVonta Smith’s career — he had 8 catches for 169 yards and a touchdown. Even with Smith’s success that day, A.J. Brown wasn’t left out. He had 5 for 85 and a touchdown.

The Commanders have a very good defensive line — we’ll get to that in a second — but they were clearly susceptible against the pass in the last contest. Washington is still starting the duo of Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste, a duo that was torched in that Week 3 matchup. (The Commanders had William Jackson III but he missed the first game and was traded before the second matchup.)

According to PFF, Fuller in that first meeting gave up 9 catches on 11 targets for 152 yards and a touchdown, while St-Juste gave up 3 catches on 9 targets for 67 yards and another score. Fuller was wrecked in that game by Smith, who had 5/95/1 on him.

The Commanders were still using Rachad Wildgoose as their nickel cornerback back then, but that has since changed. In that Week 3 matchup, Wildgoose was charged with two penalties and gave up three catches on three targets. Last week, the Commanders went with Danny Johnson as their nickel instead and it seems like that will continue in Week 10.

Commanders OL vs. Eagles DL

The Commanders have been dealing with injuries along their offensive line all season and you might remember what happened in Week 3. Carson Wentz was sacked an incredible nine times and eight of those sacks came from the Eagles’ D-line. Brandon Graham had a monster game with 2 1/2 sacks on his way to being named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. But Haason Reddick had 1 1/2, Fletcher Cox had 1 1/2, Josh Sweat had 1 1/2 and Javon Hargrave had 1.

Left tackle Charles Leno was their best pass protecting lineman in that game and his still surrendered a couple sacks, according to ProFootballFocus. Of course, Wentz’s lack of pocket awareness really helped the Eagles. They got a ton of pressure on him and he was seeing ghosts pretty early. They won’t see Wentz in this one. But even with Taylor Heinicke back there, the Eagles have a chance to get pressure and wreck the game up front.

Right tackle Samuel Cosmi gave up three sacks in Week 3. Cosmi then injured his thumb and the Commanders have been starting Cornelius Lucas at right tackle since. Still, the Eagles’ best chance to get pressure might be up the gut.

Keep an eye on Hargrave, who had a good first game against the Commanders and has been on fire since the bye week. He has five sacks in his last two games and might be able to really get after left guard Andrew Norwell (PFF’s No. 46 guard) in this one.

Taylor Heinicke vs. Eagles defense

Speaking of Heinicke, there’s no question he provides a spark to the Commanders. He’s not as talented as Wentz but that doesn’t seem to matter. The Commanders are a better team with him at QB and he has a 2-1 record since taking over for Wentz after the finger injury that landed him on IR.

In his three games this season, Heinicke has completed 63% of his passes for 629 yards with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He has been sacked 6 times in three games.

“I think he presents a certain challenge because he can make a lot of off-schedule plays,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. “He doesn't have a lot of fear of throwing the ball into coverage, and he's got good skill guys around him and he gives them chances to make plays on 50/50 balls, which you've seen him do as he's come back in a little bit.

“It's basically the same offense to me. It's just that he can move around and make some off-schedule plays, which that presents a different challenge to us when we rush and when we cover. We'll have a good plan ready to go, and we have to execute at a high level to give ourselves a chance to win the game.”

If you remember, off-schedule plays were once something Wentz did extremely well. But his pocket awareness was completely shot the last time these two teams met. Heinicke is a scarier player right now, although it’s not like he’s a top quarterback. He’s an overachiever who is well-liked by his teammates and plays with grit. Heinicke gives the Commanders a better shot to win than Wentz but the Eagles should still be able to feast on him.

Heinicke has thrown an interception in each of his three starts and the Eagles should have some opportunities to pressure him enough to get a few more on Monday.

Eagles OL vs. Commanders DL

If you’re looking for the biggest strength on this Commanders team it’s pretty obviously their starting defensive line. Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat have been very good all season and there’s a chance former No. 2 overall pick Chase Young could make his season debut in this one coming back from an ACL tear.

“They're really good,” Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said this week. “I think it starts up front, obviously, with Allen, Payne, Sweat, and then obviously if Chase Young comes back, it's a really good group. They're very powerful inside. You have good play strength up front. They're good against the run and they can rush the passer.

“I think with any football team it starts up front with offensive and defensive lines, and that's how they set the tone defensively with their defensive line. And the good thing is we have a great offensive line to counter that that we feel good about, too.”

This really is a strength vs. strength matchup in this game. The one thing to keep in mind is that the Commanders don’t have the depth on the D-line they once did. During this past offseason they lost Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle to free agency. They’ve missed them.

Terry McLaurin vs. Darius Slay

The Commanders haven’t had an explosive offense but they still have a couple good receivers in McLaurin and Curtis Samuel and they might get Jahan Dotson back against the Eagles.

But McLaurin is still the top wideout on this team. Through nine games, McLaurin has 38 catches for 609 yards and 2 touchdowns, well on pace for his third consecutive 1,000-yard season. In the first matchup against the Eagles, McLaurin had 6 catches for 102 yards but it didn’t matter much in the Eagles’ 24-8 win. Against Slay in Week 3, McLaurin caught 3 of 6 targets for 36 yards so it’s not like Slay didn’t do a good job against him. Look for Slay to travel again with McLaurin in this one.

What we know is that Heinicke isn’t afraid to toss it to McLaurin even when he isn’t really open. In the last three games with Heinicke at QB, McLaurin has averaged 8.3 targets per game. In the previous six with Wentz at QB, he was averaging 6.2 targets per game.

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