Eagles-Commanders player matchups to watch in Week 3 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Eagles (2-0) are on the road to face the Washington Commanders (1-1) in an NFC East battle in Week 3.
Here are some key matchups to watch:
Terry McLaurin vs. Darius Slay
Slay is coming off a masterful performance against Justin Jefferson that earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. But it won’t get any easier in the third week of the season when he faces McLaurin, who has gone over 1,000 yards in each of his last two seasons. McLaurin is off to a good start in 2022 as well with 6 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in the first two games. He had 4 for 75 in Week 2 against the Lions.
Slay has been very complimentary about McLaurin dating back to their first matchup in 2019. Slay was impressed by McLaurin as a rookie and that hasn’t changed.
Here’s what Slay said about McLaurin back in 2020:
“I just know what type of player he is and how talented he is as a young guy,” Slay said. “Like I said, I think he’s a very talented guy, he can stretch the field, he’s good at it and he competes every play. That’s what I learned about him mostly, during the game and then watching him this offseason."
Over the last two years since Slay joined the Eagles, these two have had their battles, but Slay has really held McLaurin in check when he’s been on him. Per PFF:
Week 1 2020: 3 targets, 2 catches, 28 yards
Week 17 2020: 1 targets, 1 catch, 3 yards
Week 15 2021: 3 targets, 2 catches, 51 yards
Week 17 2021: 2 targets, 2 catches, 20 yards
Of course, it’s not all on McLaurin anymore. Washington has a much better group of skill players for this matchup, including Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson. So even if Slay takes care of McLaurin, the Eagles will need James Bradberry and Avonte Maddox to play well too.
Carson Wentz vs. Jonathan Gannon
The Commanders fan base is just two games into the season and they’re already getting the full Carson Wentz experience. He makes some of the best and worst plays the quarterback position has to offer. Through two games, Wentz has 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He can beat you but defenses can also help force him into mistakes.
The version of the Eagles’ defense we saw against Kirk Cousins and the Vikings was really refreshing. They challenged Cousins by blitzing and by playing more man coverages and Cousins ended up seeing ghosts. Cousins threw three interceptions and that number could have been considerably higher.
In 2021, Gannon’s defense feasted on awful quarterbacks and was roasted by great ones. They are seeing middle-of-the-pack QBs in 2022 and they should probably treat Wentz the same way they did Cousins. Know he can beat you but take him out of his game and force him into mistakes.
Commanders iOL vs. Eagles DL
The Commanders have lost starting center Chase Roullier (on IR) with a knee injury he suffered against the Lions. The plan is to move guard Wes Schweitzer to center but Schweitzer has been dealing with a hamstring injury this week. A few days ago, the Commanders signed former Texans and Raiders center Nick Martin, who might be forced into action this week if Schweitzer can’t hold up. Martin wasn’t signed until Tuesday, so that would be a pretty quick turnaround. While Martin does have 62 NFL starts under his belt, that’s still a lot to ask.
And this comes on the heels of a pretty good game from the Eagles’ interior. Fletcher Cox had one of his better games in recent memory and Javon Hargrave had a huge pressure on Kirk Cousins Monday night to force a big interception. If Washington is hurting on the interior of that line, the Eagles might be able to take advantage.
Eagles iOL vs. Commanders DL
If you’re looking at the Washington defense, the first thing that really stands out are their two Alabama defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Remember, former No. 2 overall pick Chase Young is injured and will miss this game. But Allen is arguably the Commanders’ best player and is coming off his best professional season in 2021. Allen had a career-high nine sacks and 30 QB hits last year. His previous highs of 8 and 15 came in 2018.
For the most part, Allen lines up at the right defensive tackle spot, which means he’ll be facing off against fellow Alabama product Landon Dickerson. They were never teammates at Bama but did face off last season when the Eagles and Commanders played each other twice in three weeks.
The Commanders have three very good players on their line in this game with Allen, Payne and defensive end Montez Sweat. But their depth is lacking. They are missing Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle, who both left as free agents this offseason.
Eagles’ rushing attack vs. Commanders’ run defense
Through two games, the Commanders have given up 314 yards on the ground on just 42 carries. That average of 7.5 is the worst in the NFL. Guess who has the second worst average? The Eagles have given up 6.2 yards per attempt but they at least really seemed to clean things up against the Vikings after they were gashed by the Lions in Week 1.
Washington, meanwhile, gave up 6.8 yards per carry in Week 1 and 8.0 yards per carry in Week 2. And remember, the Eagles rushed for 356 yards in those two games against Washington last season.
FedExField vs. the inevitable passage of time
Hopefully the guard rails hold up this time.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast