The Eagles are just a few hours away from their week 15 matchup against the Washington Football Team. Here are five Eagles players to keep an eye on in tonight’s divisional showdown.
Washington are going to be without Curtis Samuel and JD McKissic this evening, and Terry McLaurin is going to be active. This can mean only one thing – a boatload of targets to their clear receiving leader who is on track to smash past his 2020 total of 1,188 receiving yards. The man tasked with stopping him will be Darius Slay, whose hot run of form has sent him in search of his fourth pro bowl nomination.
I wrote extensively about the matchup between McLaurin and Slay the other day, so if you want a deeper insight into their previous three collisions, this is the place to look.
With next to no other viable receiving targets and with a likely backup QB calling the shots, McLaurin is likely going to be the only release valve for whoever takes the helm. Darius Slay has held the explosive wideout to an average of 44 yards per game across their three meetings, and he’ll need to show much of that same dominance if the Eagles are to win this fame convincingly.
Despite a chaotic lead up to the game, the extended timetable allowed Jalen Hurts to return from his high ankle sprain and get the start. This wouldn’t have happened if the two teams had met on Sunday as originally planned.
It’s great that Hurts will be back in the fold, but he hasn’t played a game in three weeks and we don’t really know how much the ankle injury is going to play a factor. Will he be a little more reluctant to make plays outside of the pocket? Will it impact his ability to throw off his back foot?
Hurts struggled mightily in the loss to the New York Giants and left plenty of meat on the bone as a passer. He wasn’t helped by a couple of key Jalen Reagor drops, but that can’t excuse his lacklustre play. Can he get to back to a nice rhythm against WFT?
For Hurts, this is a huge game. Gardner Minshew didn’t exactly get a ton of action against the Jets, but if Hurts is unable to provide much in the way of passing upside, then change could be on the horizon. Hurts has everything going his way right now if he is fully healthy. The stars are aligning for him to have a huge rebound against a limping WFT outfit. He has to deliver.
Sanders finally got the breakout fans were hoping for in the win against the Jets. The Penn State product carried the rock a season-high 24 times and put up 120 yards. His form and usage have both been wildly unpredictable this year and he will be heading into a contract season.
If Sanders can continue to stay hot, this is the perfect statement game. With playoff implications acting as the cherry on the cake, a big game against against a defense that currently ranks second against the run but is missing key pieces would be the perfect way to lay the contractual gauntlet for Howie and company.
There’s a lot of football left to be played but Sanders is a fan favorite and a lot of people can’t see him going anywhere anytime soon. The chances of that were much higher just a matter of weeks ago. It’s down to Sanders to prove he can become a consistent three-down back and secure the bag before playing his final contracted year.
Fletcher Cox has had a fairly quiet year by his standards, at least from a statistical standpoint. The good news is that before the game against the Jets, he’d actually registered a QB hit in his last 3 games. He has a great chance to re-ignite that streak with no Brandon Scherff in the mix.
Not only that, but we still don’t know if it’s going to be Garrett Gilbert, Kyle Allen, or Taylor Heinicke taking the snaps at QB tonight. For that reason alone, Jonathan Gannon has to dial up the blitz early and often and rock whichever quarterback is unfortunate enough to have to start in these conditions.
With that in mind, it could open up the floodgates for the type of day fans have been craving to see from Fletcher Cox.
The Eagles were stung bitterly at the weekend when they found out that rookie guard, Landon Dickerson, would have to be placed on the COVID reserve list. Depth is pretty minimal at guard and there’s a strong chance that it will be Sua Opeta who steps up to relieve the Alabama product.
Opeta went undrafted in 2019 but caught on with the Eagles and has been an under-the-radar player ever since. He’s appeared in 14 games so far, garnering a pair of starts last season (both against the Giants, and both at LG, where he’ll be playing today).
A beaten up WFT outfit provides a nice ease-in moment for the Weber State product who ended last year on IR. Opeta is an athletic guard with enough upside to keep around. We’ve seen the magic Jeff Stoutland can do with a bucket full of offensive linemen. Let’s see what spells he’s been able to cast during Opeta’s third (Technically second thanks to COVID) NFL offseason as he approaches his first ever NFL start.
Also, don’t forget to have your say in our second annual PSN Awards show! You can vote for your favorite sportswriters and community members here:
Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire