Key matchups to watch this weekend in Eagles-Ravens originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Eagles (1-3-1) are hosting the Ravens (4-1) at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon.
Here are five matchups to watch:
Lamar Jackson vs. Eagles defense
This will be the Eagles’ first matchup against Jackson, who was the NFL MVP last year. It will take the entire defense to stop him.
“Lamar Jackson is probably the most dangerous player in the league,” Eagles DC Jim Schwartz said, “because there are times you can do everything right on defense and can't catch him, or he can throw a ball side-arm underneath of a free rusher and complete a pass. I think that you've got to have a resilient attitude when you play him, and you know that a playmaker like him is going to make some plays. You just have to limit his big plays, and you have to stay resilient. You can't hang your hat if he ends up making a play.”
Jackson is so dangerous because of his ability as a dual-threat quarterback. He threw for over 3,100 yards and rushed for over 1,200 yards last season. It’s one of the more impressive seasons by anyone in recent NFL history. This year, Jackson isn’t running at the same clip but he’s still a major threat, on pace for over 700 yards rushing and 3,000 yards passing.
The tricky thing is that Jackson hasn’t quite been himself this year because of a lingering knee injury. He barely ran last week against the Bengals. But the Eagles have to prepare like Jackson is healthy.
Without tipping his hand, Schwartz on Tuesday outlined some possible ways to play against a dual-threat QB like Jackson:
- Blitz him
- Use a visual zone to keep eyes on him
- Play man coverage with a spy on him
We’ll see how the Eagles go about it on Sunday but most of this week in practice had to be with a focus on stopping Jackson.
As I wrote those words, I almost couldn’t believe it. But I really want to see this matchup.
The question I’ve heard the most in the last week is this: Is Travis Fulgham for real?
I don’t know the answer but I also know 10/152/1 doesn’t happen by accident. At the very least, Fulgham’s a real NFL player. And he’ll get a really good test in Baltimore this weekend against Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith. With Tavon Young out for the season, Humphrey has been playing a ton of nickel corner reps and Fulgham played everywhere but got a lot of snaps in the slot a ton vs. the Steelers during his breakout game.
So if the Eagles try to use him in this way again on Sunday, he’ll see a lot of the Ravens’ Pro Bowl corner.
Mark Andrews vs. LBs and safeties
I didn’t learn a ton last year from the Eagles-Ravens joint practices but the one thing that really stood out was that Andrews was going to be a major part of their offense. Turns out that was right. Andrews had a breakout season in 2019, going off for 64/852/10. And this year he’s off to a good start with 18 catches, 222 yards and 5 touchdowns through five games.
If the Ravens get favorable matchups with Andrews on Sunday, it could be a long afternoon for an Eagles’ defense that has given up the sixth-most yards to opposing tight ends this season. The Eagles have given up 32 catches for 323 yards and 5 touchdowns to tight ends this year. The Eagles have a weakness in the middle of their defense and the Ravens will try to exploit it.
Ravens OL vs. Eagles DL
This is a matchup between two overall strengths. In addition to the threat of Jackson as a runner, the Ravens still have Mark Ingram and are one of the best running teams in the NFL. That really starts up front.
At left tackle, Ronnie Stanley is one of the best in the NFL and Orlando Brown at right tackle is a pretty good player too. Inside, left guard Bradley Bozeman is quietly becoming one of the best guards in the NFL. Even with Marshal Yanda’s retirement, this is still one of the best O-lines in the NFL.
After feasting against the Bengals and 49ers, the Eagles’ DL didn’t have its best game against the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger minimized the line’s impact by getting the ball out of his hands quickly and the Eagles sacked him just once. Still, the Eagles’ DL rotation is their best position group. Those guys will need to play well for the Eagles to have a shot.
Miles Sanders vs. Ravens run D
Facing the Steelers last week, Sanders ended up with just 11 carries. He broke off a 74-yard run and still finished with just 80 yards on the ground.
Outside of that big run — and I’m not taking it away from him — it was tough sledding for Sanders.
As anticipated, the run wasn’t working so Doug Pederson abandoned it. That could happen on Sunday again, especially if the Eagles get down. This Ravens’ defense is fifth in the NFL in rushing defense, giving up just 92 yards per game.
Sanders needs more touches. If they don’t come in the run game, they need to come as a receiver. He had just 13 touches last week and just 15 the week before. That’s not enough.