Eagles-Commanders player matchups to watch in week 8

Eagles-Commanders player matchups to watch in week 8 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles (6-1) will head to Landover, Maryland, to face the Commanders (3-4) in a repeat of their Week 4 overtime win.

Let’s get to the matchups:

Sua Opeta vs. Jonathan Allen

For the most part, the Eagles have held up fine with Opeta at right guard as Cam Jurgens has been on IR for the past three games. That means there’s a decent chance this could be Opeta’s final start before Jurgens returns, although we’ll find out more about that next week.

While Opeta has mostly held up, he didn’t have a very good performance against the Dolphins on Sunday night. That showed up on the eye test and PFF charged Opeta with a sack and six total pressures. Opeta was pretty good filling in for Jurgens in Week 4 when Jurgens suffered his foot injury against the Commanders but this time around Washington has a full week to prepare for Opeta at right guard. And if there’s one strength on this Washington team it’s up front on defense with Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.

Jordan Mailata vs. Chase Young

The Commanders also have a couple of really good edge rushers in Montez Sweat and Chase Young, who is really coming on strong. Young was the No. 2 overall pick back in 2020 but he hasn’t turned into the type of player the Commanders hoped. But in 2023, he’s starting to show a ton of promise. In 6 games this season, Young already has 5 sacks and is closing in on his career-high total of 7 1/12 from his rookie Pro Bowl season. Last week against the Giants, Young had his first 2-sack game of the season.

While it’ll be worth watching Lane Johnson vs. Montez Sweat on the other side, I’m more intrigued by the matchup between Mailata and Young. Young only rushes on the defensive right side of the line so that’s why we should expect to see him on Mailata exclusively on Sunday afternoon. Mailata is quietly putting together an extremely good, even Pro Bowl caliber, season but Young will be a big test.

A.J. Brown vs. Commanders corners

The last time these two teams played, the Commanders decided to put rookie Emmanuel Forbes against Brown 1-on-1 and say a prayer that promptly went unanswered. Brown in that game caught 9 passes for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns and hasn’t slowed down his production since. Against the Dolphins on Sunday, he had his fifth straight game with 125+ receiving yards.

In the weeks since that first meeting, the Commanders are playing Forbes way less. The rookie from Mississippi State played just five defensive snaps last week against the Giants. The top cornerbacks in Washington right now are Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste. Through seven weeks of the season, the Commanders have the NFL’s 28th-ranked passing defense.

As a reminder, here’s what Brown has done the last five weeks:

Week 7 vs. Dolphins: 10 catches, 137 yards, 1 TD
Week 6 at Jets: 7 catches, 131 yards
Week 5 at Rams: 6 catches, 127 yards
Week 4 vs. Commanders: 9 catches, 175 yards, 2 TDs
Week 3 at Buccaneers: 9 catches, 131 yards

Eagles defensive line vs. shaky Commanders OL

Back in Week 4, the Eagles sacked Sam Howell five times but three of those sacks came from a blitzing Nicholas Morrow. They actually didn’t get to Howell as much as you might expect with their line. But every team seems to get to Howell this season. He has already been sacked 40(!) times in seven games this season; that’s by far the most any quarterback has been sacked this season. The next closest quarterback is Daniel Jones, who has been taken down 28 times.

Howell is being sacked at a historically alarming rate. Here’s the top five in sacks through seven games since sacks became an official stat in 1982:

1. David Carr (Texans, 2002): 43
t-2. Sam Howell (Commanders, 2023): 40
t-2. Jake Plummer (Cardinals, 1997): 40
4. David Carr (Texans, 2005): 37
5. Paul McDonald (Browns, 1984): 35

And this week, there’s a chance the Commanders might be without left guard Saahdiq Charles, who missed practice on Wednesday with a calf injury. So that’s a spot where the Eagles can attack.

Both edges are also an advantage for the Eagles. Take Haason Reddick against Andrew Wylie all day and Josh Sweat has 6 of his 34 career sacks against Washington.

Eagles’ secondary vs. Sam Howell

Give young quarterback Sam Howell some credit. He played fairly well against the Eagles in Week 4. In that game, Howell completed 29 of 41 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown. But he’s coming off a rough performance last week against the Giants, when he completed just over 52% of his passes for 249 yards and an interception.

The Eagles have beaten Washington four times in the Nick Sirianni Era and those four wins have come against four different quarterbacks: Garrett Gilbert, Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz and Howell. They’ll get a chance to beat Howell for the second time in this game.

Darius Slay vs. Terry McLaurin

In the first meeting between these two teams, Terry McLaurin had 8 catches for 86 yards but Darius Slay idd a pretty decent job against him. McLaurin had 4 for 39 against Slay, per PFF.

Here’s a look back at all their head-to-head matchups:

Week 4, 2023: 4 targets, 4 catches, 39 yards
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

Commanders vs. organizational ineptitude

After last week’s 14-7 loss to the Giants, Commanders veteran Jonathan Allen had enough and went on an expletive-filled rant.

Maybe the Commanders will implode. Or maybe they’ll be extra hungry this week. We’ll see soon enough.

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