The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Washington
Here’s a look at how the Birds match up with Washington.
WHEN THE EAGLES RUN…
LeSean McCoy has yet to really get going, totaling 153 yards on 41 carries through the first two games. Teams are game-planning to stop him, and that will continue in the weeks ahead. Darren Sproles has provided a great complement, rushing 15 times for 97 yards (6.5 YPC) and a pair of scores.
The Eagles continue to go with a makeshift offensive line. Andrew Gardner is set to get his second consecutive start at right tackle. Dennis Kelly is expected to start again at left guard. Jason Kelce and Jason Peters were fantastic last week vs. Indy. Todd Herremans has been solid so far at right guard.
Washington’s defense has been stout against the run early on, allowing opponents to pick up just 3.2 YPC. It hasn’t allowed a single run of more than 12 yards and has given up 140 yards overall on the ground.
Washington runs a 3-4, but will employ plenty of four-down looks in sub packages. Jarvis Jenkins and Jason Hatcher man the end spots, and Chris Baker is the nose tackle. Hatcher gave the Eagles problems in the past when he was with the Cowboys and is the player to watch up front.
Perry Riley and third-year player Keenan Robinson are the inside ‘backers.
WHEN THE EAGLES PASS…
We have to start up front. Washington had 10 sacks last week against the Jaguars, and the Eagles have had some breakdowns in protection. The toughest matchup for the Birds is right tackle Gardner against outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan piled up four sacks in Week 2.
Hatcher can also get pressure on the interior; he’s got 2.5 sacks so far.
Nick Foles has not looked comfortable when faced with pressure. His performance through two games has been uneven. Foles is 48-for-82 (58.5 percent) and averaging 8.0 YPA. He has thrown three touchdowns compared to two interceptions. Foles has been chucking it downfield a ton so far. According to Pro Football Focus, 22 percent of his passes have traveled 20+ yards from the line of scrimmage. That’s the top mark in the league. But Foles will need to have time to feel comfortable in the pocket and hit on those shot plays.
Tight end Zach Ertz has six catches of 20+ yards and is averaging a league-best 22.3 yards per reception. Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis had a 63-yard touchdown last week against Washington.
Sproles went off last week with seven catches for 152 yards. Look for the Eagles to run a lot of screen passes to take advantage of Washington’s pass rush and blitzes
Eagles wide receivers have yet to get going. Jeremy Maclin has had some chances for big plays, but he and Foles have not been on the same page. Maclin and Jordan Matthews have each only caught 38 percent of the balls thrown their way. Per Football Outsiders, of the 79 wide receivers who have been targeted at least eight times, only two have lower catch rates. Riley Cooper has five catches for 37 yards, and his longest grab has been for 13 yards.
Washington’s secondary is not a strength. DeAngelo Hall and second-year player David Amerson will start at cornerback. Veteran Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather get the nod at safety. If the Eagles can protect, there will be plays to be made downfield.
WHEN WASHINGTON RUNS…
Combine what we saw in the first half of last week’s game against the Colts with the fact that Mychal Kendricks is out, and there’s real cause for concern here. Alfred Morris has 176 yards through two games and is averaging 4.9 YPC.
Washington uses a lot of stretch runs (great breakdown here) where the offensive line moves laterally and Morris looks for a crease. It’ll be either Casey Matthews or Emmanuel Acho starting for Kendricks. The guess here is that Acho gets the nod. He told me the key on those run plays is to stay disciplined in case the running back cuts it back.
DeMeco Ryans was fantastic against the run in the second half last week, and the defensive line of Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton has helped up well for the most part.
For Washington, Trent Williams is one of the best in the league at left tackle. Left guard Shawn Lauvao has started 46 career games. Kory Lichtensteiger has moved from guard to center, but is questionable with a groin injury. Nine-year pro Chris Chester gets the start at right guard. And Tyler Polumbus is probably the weak link at right tackle.
WHEN WASHINGTON PASSES…
Kirk Cousins went 22-for-33 for 250 yards and two touchdowns last week. And he was willing to throw it downfield; 18.2 percent of his passes traveled 20+ yards past the line of scrimmage, per PFF.
Tight end Niles Paul has been Washington’s leading receiver with 12 catches for 185 yards. With Kendricks out, don’t be surprised if the Eagles play a lot of dime on third down and bring in Nolan Carroll II to match up with the tight end.
First-round pick Marcus Smith II has been practicing at inside linebacker this week, but the guess here is he’ll only be used there in case of emergency. Most likely, he won’t end up seeing the field.
The Eagles’ pass-rush has been good the first two weeks. Andrew Luck didn’t complete a pass of 20+ yards last week, and the guys up front had a lot to do with that. Cox, specifically, has played really well.
Washington will run a lot of bootlegs off play-action. Connor Barwin generally does an outstanding job of sniffing those out and pressuring the quarterback.
DeSean Jackson is questionable with a shoulder injury. If he plays, he’ll get matched up against both Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. Pierre Garcon has 11 catches for 89 yards, but it’s been all short and intermediate stuff. His longest grab on the season has been 15 yards.
Brandon Boykin will match up with Andre Roberts in the slot.
Cody Parkey hit the game-winner last week but missed an earlier attempt. The Eagles’ coverage units have been good. Once again, it’ll be Sproles returning punts and Carroll returning kicks.
Kai Forbath has hit his only two attempts, but he’s questionable with a groin injury. Washington had an extra point blocked and a punt blocked in Week 1 vs. the Texans. Roberts handles both kickoff and punt return duties.