Eagles-Titans player matchups to watch in Week 13

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The Eagles (10-1) will host the Tennessee Titans (7-4) on Sunday afternoon at the Linc.

Here are some key matchups to watch:

Derrick Henry vs. Eagles run defense

Last week, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon walked up to the microphone in front of the NovaCare Auditorium already talking about Aaron Rodgers. Derrick Henry got similar treatment this week.

As Gannon walked away from his press conference, he let out a “King Henry!”

So, yeah, we know who the defensive coordinator is thinking about this week.

“I’ve played against this guy multiple times being in that division for three years with him, and he's a tall order,” Gannon said. “He's one the premier players in the world at his position, so we have our challenge cut out for us.”

Henry, 28, is having another incredible season. He leads the NFL in rushing attempts again with 247 and already has 1,048 yards. He’s averaging 95.3 per game after averaging over 100.0 per game in each of his last three seasons. And at 6-3, 247 pounds, everyone knows how hard he is to bring down. Sure, Henry’s average is down to 4.2 yards per carry this season but he gets a ton of carries.

This season, Henry has broken 25 tackles to lead the NFL. To put that into perspective, Miles Sanders, who is running harder than he’s ever run in his career, has nine.

Maybe the Eagles are seeing Henry and the Titans at the right time? Over the last three weeks, against the Broncos, Packers and Bengals, Henry is averaging just 2.78 yards per carry and hasn’t gone over 100 yards after five straight 100+ yard games.

But we all know the Eagles have had their struggles stuffing the run this season. They’re 18th in rushing yards allowed but 23rd in yards per attempt at 4.7.

Getting big Jordan Davis back for this game would be a big boost because the Eagles seem to be able to stop the run pretty much only when they’re in their 5-man front. Having Davis and Linval Joseph to rotate as the nose tackle spot would go a long way. Davis is eligible to return from IR this week after missing four games with a high ankle sprain and he has been practicing.

Another note on the Titans’ run game: As you’d expect, Ryan Tannehill is very good using play action. His passer rating on play action ranks fourth in the NFL.

Eagles run game vs. Titans run defense

As good as the Titans are at running the football with Henry, they’re even better at stopping the run. They are third in the league in yards allowed (930) and are second in yards per attempt at 3.9.

This is a really fun matchup between the strengths of these two teams. The Eagles had 363 rushing yards last week against the Packers and the Titans haven’t given up more than 108 since Week 1.

In fact, the Eagles had more rushing yards against the Packers (363) than the Titans have given up in their last five games combined (349).

The Titans have been known for their toughness under head coach Mike Vrabel and that really shows up with their run defense.

“They’re really good coaches and you always knew — when we play them twice a year, we always knew that team was going to be really well coached, really disciplined, really physical, right?,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said.

“Those were three knowns that you knew going into every one. So you needed to be physical and you needed to be disciplined and you needed to be -- your job detail had to be very crisp and we had to do a good job putting the guys in position and making sure the detail was right.”

Eagles iOL vs. Jeffery Simmons

The Titans have some really good players on their defensive line. You can’t forget about Bud Dupree or Denico Autry or Teair Tart, but the star of the show is Simmons.

The 25-year-old former first-round pick out of Mississippi State is right now in the prime of his career and is playing at an All-Pro level for the Titans. After an 8 1/2 sack season in 2021, Simmons is already at 6 1/2 in 10 games this season and is well on his way to another Pro Bowl nod.

Simmons is ranked as the fifth-best interior defensive lineman in the NFL by ProFootballFocus. The only guys ahead of him are Chris Jones, Dexter Lawrence, Aaron Donald and Quininen Williams. For comparison’s sake, Eagles DT Javon Hargrave comes in at No. 12.

It’s important to note that Simmons plays on both sides of the center so the entire Eagles iOL has to be ready for him on Sunday. Keep that in mind with Landon Dickerson, who has been dealing with some injuries this season and was forced out of the Packers game for four snaps.

Simmons (ankle) and Autry (knee) missed two days of practice to start the week and that’s worth monitoring. Autry hurt his knee a couple weeks ago and missed last week’s game against the Bengals. Simmons has been dealing with this ankle injury for a while now so even if he plays, he might be limited. That’s a big deal.

Dennis Daley vs. Josh Sweat

Earlier this season, the Titans lost three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan to a season-ending injury so the left tackle spot is one the Eagles should be able to exploit. Daley took over as the starter in Week 3 and has played every snap protecting Ryan Tannehill’s blindside but with shaky results.

According to PFF, Daley ranks as the No. 72 tackle in the NFL out of 76 qualified players. Daley has given up 32 total pressures and 6 sacks this season. And Daley has been equally as shaky in the run game.

Sweat is typically the starter at the right edge spot for the Eagles’ defense, which means he sees left tackles every week. That can be a tough job. But in the last few weeks, Sweat has been making some plays. In the last three games, Sweat has 2 sacks, 3 QB hits, 2 TFLs and 9 tackles.

An important note for the Titans: Center Ben Jones is expected to return in this game, which is a boost for Tennessee.

Jalen Hurts vs. Titans pass defense

Jalen Hurts had a masterful game against the Packers in Week 12 but the highlight was clearly his 157 yards on the ground. This week, he’s facing a Titans’ pass defense that ranks 31st in the NFL in passing yards. They’ve given up nearly 3,000 already this season.

The Titans have some good players in their secondary but are young at the cornerback spots:

CB Kristian Fulton: 24 years old, 3rd NFL season, 24 starts

CB Roger McCreary: 22 years old, 1st NFL season, 11 starts

NCB: Elijah Molden: 23 years old, 2nd NFL season, 8 starts

The Eagles feel like they have an advantage with their wideouts just about every week but this one feels legit. If Hurts has enough time in the pocket, he might be able to throw a little bit to his savvy receivers against the Titans. McCreary (5-11, 190) isn’t very big so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try to target him when he’s matched up against A.J. Brown, who will play his former team for the first time.

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