Eagles analysis

Eagles-Commanders player matchups to watch in Week 4

The Eagles face the Commanders on Sunday afternoon. Here are some key matchups to watch.

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The Eagles (3-0) return to the Linc as one of just three unbeaten teams in the NFL and will host the Commanders (2-1) on Sunday afternoon in their first NFC East battle of 2023.

Let’s get to the matchups:

Eagles O-line vs. a good Commanders front

The strength of the Commanders is their defensive line and it has been for several years. It’s an impressive front of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne inside and Chase Young and Montez Sweat on the edges. It’s about as good a front four as there is in the NFL but the Commanders aren’t as deep as the Eagles on their DL.

The Commanders haven’t been great against the run but they can get after the quarterback. They have 10 sacks through three games, which is tied for seventh in the NFL. The only teams with more are the Steelers, Bills, Colts, Cowboys, Cardinals and Ravens. Sweat has led the way with 3 and those four starters have a total of 6 1/2 of those 10 sacks. For the most part, Sweat has been lining up on the defensive left, which will set up a matchup vs. Lane Johnson, who hasn’t given up a sack since 2020. That means, Young vs. Jordan Mailata on the other edge.

While this DT duo of Allen and Payne is one of the best in the NFL, the Eagles have been really stout in the middle and new right guard Cam Jurgens is coming off his best game in his young NFL career.

D’Andre Swift vs. Commanders run defense

While the Commanders can get after quarterbacks, they haven’t been great against the run. They have the NFL’s 22nd-ranked run defense but are 27th in yards per carry. They’ve given up an average of 4.8 yards per carry early in this season and have given up 122 and 168 in back-to-back weeks.

The Eagles, of course, have the NFL’s No. 2-ranked rushing defense and have gone for 259 and 201 in back-to-back weeks. D’Andre Swift has 130+ in back-to-back weeks, becoming the first Eagle to do that since LeSean McCoy in 2014. The Eagles have averaged 4.9 yards per attempt this season, which ranks 5th in the league.

In the game the Eagles lost to Washington last year, the Commanders really controlled the clock. While the Eagles can probably throw on them too, making sure that doesn’t happen again will be important.

A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith vs. Emmanuel Forbes, Kendall Fuller

The Eagles go into pretty much every week feeling like they have an advantage with their receivers and this week is no different. Strangely enough, Smith went off for 131 yards in Week 2 and Brown had a 131-yard performance in Week 3.

The Commanders’ outside cornerbacks are Fuller and Forbes and they have a big body in the slot with Benjamin St-Juste. Fuller is in Year 8 now and is off to a nice start in his season. But the Eagles could target the rookie on the other side. Forbes was the No. 16 overall pick out of Mississippi State and is pretty slender. The Commanders list him at 6-foot, 180 pounds but Forbes is the player who weighed in at 166 pounds at the Combine in February. We’ve seen Jalen Hurts’ willingness to throw up 50-50 balls to his receivers and he should have confidence in a matchup of Brown vs. Forbes on a play like that this week.

Here’s a look at the stats for Fuller and Forbes in coverage this season, via PFF:

Fuller: 12 targets, 5 catches, 26 yards, 1 INT, 1 PBU

Forbes: 12 targets, 9 catches, 159 yards, 1 INT, 2 PBU

Eagles D-line vs. Sam Howell

Through three weeks, Howell has been sacked 19 times, more than any quarterback in the league. He’s one of just four quarterbacks to be sacked 19+ times in three games and just one guy has been sacked more:

2023: Sam Howell (Commanders): 19
2002: David Carr (Texans): 19
1998: Jeff George (Raiders): 19
1998: Rob Johnson (Bills): 20

The Eagles haven’t gotten off to the fastest start in terms of sacking the quarterback. They have just six as a team. But their pressure rate is 30.3% and tied for second in the NFL. Basically, the sacks are going to come at some point. In the first matchup between these two teams last year, the Eagles had nine on Carson Wentz. While it’s hard to predict that type of performance again, there’s a good chance the Eagles will be able to get home on Sunday.

Haason Reddick vs. Andrew Wylie

This was one of the biggest matchups we wanted to watch in Super Bowl LVII but the poor field conditions really put a damper on it. Wylie was considered by many to be the weakest link on the Chiefs’ offensive line last season but he was able to successfully shut out Reddick in the Super Bowl. Sure, those field conditions helped Wylie out but he still played well.

Entering that game, Reddick already had 3 1/12 sacks in the playoffs and Wylie was ranked 63rd out of 84 qualified tackles by PFF. He gave up a team-high nine sacks to go along with 53 pressures with the Chiefs.

Wylie joined the Commanders in free agency this summer. Through three games as their right tackle, Wylie has given up 3 sacks, 8 pressures and 2 QB hits. Reddick, meanwhile, has been off to a slow start. It’s unclear just how much his thumb — he has surgery this summer — has affected him but he doesn’t have a sack and has just 1 QB hit in three games. But as of Thursday, the cast is finally off. Could this be his breakout opportunity?

Darius Slay vs. Terry McLaurin

Dating back to their matchup when Slay was still with the Lions, he has always had a lot of respect for McLaurin. While Curtis Samuel actually leads the Commanders in receiving by one yard, McLaurin is obviously their best weapon. He has 13 catches for 126 yards with a touchdown in three weeks. McLaurin has gone over 1,000 yards in each of his previous three seasons.

Via PFF, here’s a look at McLaurin’s numbers with Slay in coverage in their seven games against each other:

Week 10, 2022: 6 targets, 4 catches, 85 yards
Week 3, 2022: 6 targets, 3 catches, 36 yards
Week 17, 2021: 2 targets, 2 catches 2 yards
Week 15, 2021: 3 targets, 2 catches 51 yards
Week 17, 2020: 1 target, 1 catch, 3 yards
Week 1, 2020: 3 targets, 2 catches, 28 yards
Week 12, 2019 (with Lions): 10 targets, 3 catches, 42 yards

For the most part, Slay has done an excellent job keeping McLaurin in check. The Eagles will need him to keep that up.

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