The Eagles face their first divisional opponent of the season this weekend, as they clash with the Redskins at FedExField. While there is plenty to be keeping an eye on in the week 6 matchup, there are some key matchups that could have a heavy impact in Pederson’s first game against a Divisional opponent as a Head Coach.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai vs Ryan Kerrigan:
The suspension of Lane Johnson has seen fifth round pick “Big V” thrust onto the front lines as the starting right tackle against the Redskins. While Vaitai is the same height as the Eagles franchise right tackle and a little heavier, veteran pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan has caused more than a few problems for the Eagles in the past.
Last year against the Eagles, Kerrigan was able to sack Bradford and rack up four tackles..which is an impressive feat..and one he nearly matched in their week 15 matchup as he once again tallied four tackles. In the same matchup just 12 months beforehand, Kerrigan recorded six tackles and a sack..meaning that in his last three meetings with the Eagles, the 2012 Pro-Bowler has a combined 14 tackles and 2 sacks…which is frightening to say the least.
With 10 tackles and a forced fumble through his opening four games, Kerrigan will be looking to run rampant against the rookie in his debut..and with the Redskins Secondary needing a hefty boost, could thrive if Wentz is forced to throw under pressure. Stopping Kerrigan is going to be a top priority for “Big V”..and if he can do it consistently, the Eagles have a great chance of marching down the field with ease.
Nolan Carroll vs Pierre Garcon:
While DeSean Jackson will be drawing plenty of attention, it’s the likes of Garcon, Crowder and company that can cause problems if Jordan Reed is sidelined. McKelvin is still listed as questionable, which means that if he’s out it will be rookie Jalen Mills stepping up to the plate..but it’s the other side where things could get messy.
Carroll struggled massively in the opening quarter against the Lions and is yet to make a big impact on the Eagles Defense. Our weekly cornerback analysis articles haven’t painted the most encouraging picture for Carroll, and if the Eagles run Defense or pass rush takes a while to heat up..it could be the veteran cornerback feeling the pressure.
Cousins is lethal through the air and has tortured the Eagles in the past..but a strong performance from Nolan Carroll, containing Garcon (who already has 230 receiving yards and a touchdown this season) will be absolutely crucial in keeping that pressure off of a less than 100% McKelvin or a rookie who is tasked with stopping one of the league’s most renowned speedsters and a familiar foe to the Eagles, DeSean Jackson.
Eagles pass rush vs Kirk Cousins:
Kirk Cousins has a tendency of making life difficult for Defenses..in fact in his last three games, he has thrown six touchdowns and just two interceptions. Even if Jordan Reed is out of the equation, the Redskins are stacked with playmakers..meaning the pass rush has to hit Cousins early..and often.
Cousins has been sacked 8 times this season..and a capable backfield has helped his Offense find a rhythm after a tricky start. The Eagles have to try and eliminate the deep pass as much as possible, given a weakness at corner and a strength at stopping run.
Preventing Cousins from making us all “like that” will be no easy task, especially if Cox isn’t at 100% or even worse, sidelined..but the DE pressure and consistency of Bennie Logan will be relied upon more than ever this week.
Eagles backfield vs Redskins Run Defense:
The Eagles backfield looks convincing enough on paper, but lead backs Ryan Mathews and Darren Proles are yet to find consistency on the ground. A wild appearance of Smallwood and Barner stunned fans against the Steelers as the fortunes of the backfield turned around, but it was soon cut short as the duo weren’t even credited with a carry against the Lions.
The good news for the Eagles is, the Redskins have allowed an average of 130 yards on the ground per game this season, while the backfield are yet to rush for under 100 yards in a game. Whether this, along with Mathews falling ill on Friday will drive Pederson to get creative in the backfield as he did against the Steelers remains to be seen, but providing a balance for Carson Wentz is going to be extremely vital to the Eagles Offensive success..and they have a near perfect opportunity to do so.
Kirk Cousins vs Eagles Secondary:
As aforementioned, Kirk Cousins has been lighting things up in recent weeks..and he shows no sign of slowing down. Jordan Reed’s questionable status favors the Eagles ever so slightly..but it’s not as if he’s without weapons.
The Eagles Secondary has struggled this season, giving up numerous big plays and narrowly escaping giving up others..but luckily a heroic Rodney McLeod and dominant pass rush has limited the damage. That may not be the same come Sunday, when a cornerback corps potentially missing McKelvin yet again will be tasked with stopping the 6th most successful passing Offense in the NFL so far this season.
Big games will be needed from the likes of Nolan Carroll and ever improving Ron Brooks..but this could be their toughest task yet.
Alex Brandon | AP Photo