The Washington Commanders [4-5] badly need a win on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles [8-0] to keep up in the crazy NFC wild-card race. The Commanders also can’t afford to lose another division game, making them 0-3 on the season.
But beating the Eagles won’t be easy. Philadelphia has one of the best rosters in the NFL, and quarterback Jalen Hurts is playing at an MVP level. Philly is strong in the trenches on both sides of the ball and beat you with a strong running game or a quick-strike passing game.
Sounds like a daunting task, huh?
We’ve identified five Eagles the Commanders must either shut down or at least slow down, in order to upset the NFL’s top team.
QB Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the Washington Commanders. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
This is the easy pick, right? Hurts is having a terrific season and has won 11 consecutive starts. Three of those wins have come against the Commanders. A win on Monday would mean 1/3 of his current 12-game winning streak came against Washington. Hurts is difficult to stop. He is a master of the RPO and wins in both the running game and passing game. The Commanders need to make Hurts less of a threat in the running game and go from there.
WR A.J. Brown
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) makes a catch during an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders. (AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.)
A.J. Brown caught five passes for 85 yards and a touchdown the first time these teams played. Now, Brown has 718 receiving yards in eight games and is getting more comfortable each week. Brown is difficult to defend as he’s not just a typical big-play threat down the field; he’s also like a running back with the ball in his hands. Washington’s secondary is playing much better these days, but Brown is an elite wide receiver, and the Commanders must find a way to slow him down.
WR DeVonta Smith
Washington Commanders cornerback Benjamin St-Juste (25) breaks up a pass intended for Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6). (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
The former Heisman Trophy winner had a career game in Week 3 vs. Washington. Smith caught eight passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. He is a completely different receiver than Brown but equally as dangerous. Smith can beat you deep, but he is a technician as a route runner. Outside of his big game against Washington, Smith’s high for yardage in a single game is 87. The Commanders need to keep him at that mark or below.
DE Brandon Graham
Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) passes the ball under pressure from Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham (55). Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Veteran defensive end Brandon Graham had a dominant game against the Commanders in Week 3. Graham isn’t your typical lean or twitchy pass rusher. Graham is compact and powerful, one of the stronger defensive ends in the NFL. In Week 3, he used that power against Washington right tackle Sam Cosmi to record 2.5 sacks against the Commanders. The Eagles have other talented rushers, but Graham should see plenty of Washington’s right tackles, whether it’s Cosmi or Cornelius Lucas.
DT Javon Hargrave
Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (97) tackles Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11). Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Fletcher Cox receives most of the accolades — and rightfully so — but Javon Hargrave is Philadelphia’s best interior defensive lineman these days. Hargrave leads the Eagles with six sacks, and he should feast on Washington’s interior offensive line. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner better find ways to help his offensive line and quarterback Taylor Heinicke. The Eagles are a bit like Washington’s defense; they wear you down from the inside with interior pressure.