The Eagles are just two days away from a showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs. Doug Pederson will face off against the man who carved his coaching path, visiting Arrowhead stadium for the first time since taking the Head Coaching role with the Eagles. A red-hot start for big-red saw him climb over the New England Patriots, but a significant injury may just give the Eagles a lifeline. If they are to capitalize, there are five key matchups they will need to win however.
Justin Houston vs Jason Peters
After leaving the season opener in the second quarter with a groin strain, concerns over the durability of Jason Peters have naturally arisen once again. If there is one player who will be licking his lips at the sheer minor possibility that Peters isn’t 100%, it’s outside linebacker, Justin Houston.
When the Chiefs last met the Eagles, Justin Houston was a severe problem. In the 26-16 loss, Houston bought down Michael Vick 4.5 times along with 7 tackles. Since that day, he’s done nothing but grow into one of the most dominant in his position. One year later, he amassed 22 sacks. Injuries saw his two most recent campaigns limited to just sixteen total games, but he still ruptured offensive lines and amassed 11.5 sacks.
In the season opening win against the Patriots, Houston again caused chaos, getting to Tom Brady consistently and bringing him down twice. IF Jason Peters isn’t at full health or even worse if Vaitai is called into action, Houston is a difference maker that if remains unneutralized, could eradicate any kind of consistency for the Eagles Offense.
Travis Kelce vs Malcolm Jenkins
The Eagles are coming off of a big win over Washington and eccentric tight end, Jordan Reed. With Patrick Robinson called to the outside to fill in for Darby, Jenkins was pushed into the slot to get up close and personal with Reed, containing him in nickel looks and as a Safety, holding him to just 36-yards. This week, they face one of the most dominant receiving tight ends in the league.
Kelce presents a very different challenge however, standing at 6’6, 260 lbs, and running routes crisper than some receivers. He’s extremely physical and as we are all aware, is able to use his size to push through tackles and pick up plenty of yards after the catch.
If the Eagles do shift Robinson outside to fill in for Darby, Jenkins is a shoe-in to step into slot duties and could once again be forced to both hold Kelce accountable from a Safety perspective and a nickel look. The Chiefs are known for their unpredictable offense and it will be interesting to see what Schwartz comes up with to contain the prototypical tight end, but expect Jenkins to factor into those plans.
Tyreek Hill vs Eagles Secondary
This matchup simply needs no explanation. Tyreek Hill set the NFL ablaze in his rookie season with his blistering 4.24 40-yard dash, helping him be a force on special teams and as a receiver, notching up 593 yards and 6 scores.
Jalen Mills was targeted fifteen times in the season opener, giving up 108 yards in man coverage situations as the Redskins looked to exploit a potential weak link behind Darby and the Safeties. The problem is that the “weak link” is now once again the team’s lead cornerback. Expect Tyreek Hill, who is coming off a huge 133-yard game against New England, to line up all over the field as he usually does, causing monumental headaches for a secondary missing their fastest corner.
Torrey Smith vs Terrance Mitchell
On the flip side however, the Chiefs are also missing a huge defensive cornerstone in Eric Berry, the impact of which against an Eagles receiving corps that opened up the offense so much one week ago needs no explanation. But the Chiefs are also missing Steven Nelson…something that has gone clinically underrated.
In his place against the Pats, it was Terrance Mitchell who filled in, being penalized four times and giving up an additional 48-yards. We saw what Torrey Smith is capable of doing to Josh Norman, and make no mistake, the attention of Marcus Peters HAS to be on Alshon Jeffery without Eric Berry next to him…giving the Eagles flashy new deep threat a chance to reel in that evasive home run hit.
Doug Pederson vs Andy Reid
Apprentice meets master in what promises to be a thrilling battle of coaching wit. Who has the most aces up their sleeve? Andy Reid taught Pederson everything he knows and with recent criticism continuing to highlight play-calling concerns, does Reid have a slight edge coming into the game? After all, he is 8-3 against former assistants?
This game all comes down to two things. How the opposing Defense can shutdown an Offense that’s nearly symmetrical to the one they’ve practices against all offseason, and how far both coaches are willing to go outside the box to catch the other off guard. It’s an exciting prospect, and one that will really show the true coaching character of Doug Pederson.
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