The Eagles return home to South Philadelphia this Sunday for a battle with the much improved Jacksonville Jaguars. Led by Super Bowl champion and ex-Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, the Jags have turned out to be a more formidable opponent than most people thought.
They currently lead the AFC South with a record of 2-1, and are looking to match their season win total of 3 games from last year, in 13 fewer weeks. The Eagles come into this game as one of the NFL’s most improved team as well, proving to be the final unbeaten team left in the league. Both teams have talent but there’s a few specific matchups I want to highlight.
Jordan Mailata Vs Josh Allen
At the moment, the other Josh Allen may be the Jaguars best all around player. The 4th year defensive end has been racking up statistics over the first few weeks of the season, with 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 tackles for loss and a pass defended. He is a potential breakout star this season if he keeps the production up, but it won’t be easy for him this week.
Lined up across from Allen, is every Eagles fans’ favorite Australian, Jordan Mailata. The former rugby player got off to a bit of a slow start this season with 3 penalties, but has only allowed 1 sack all season and has looked more and more dominant with each week. It will be a battle of the titans on the left edge of the line this Sunday, with Allen being 6’5” and Mailata a towering 6’8’’.
I have faith that Mailata will continue to play at a high level this game and hold Allen in check, who has the potential to take a game over.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson Vs. Christian Kirk
In a suprise late summer move, the Eagles traded for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to take over as the second starting safety alongside Marcus Epps. Due to an ankle injury sustained in practice on Thursday, starting slot corner Avonte Maddox has been ruled out of Sunday’s contest. Due to Gardner-Johnson playing mainly the slot during his time in New Orleans, he seems like the most logical player to fill in for the short term.
His opponent will be Jacksonville’s newest and shiniest weapon, wide receiver Christian Kirk. Kirk left the Arizona Cardinals in free agency, signing a 4 year, $72 million deal with the Jaguars in the offseason to help young quarterback Trevor Lawrence progress in his sophomore season.
So far the bid has paid off, with Kirk hauling in 18 catches, 267 yards and 3 touchdowns. If Gardner-Johnson can keep the play in front of him, be physical and not allow Kirk to explode off the line of scrimmage, things will become much easier for the rest of the defense.
Arryn Siposs Vs Jamal Agnew
This is admittedly a weird selection but I believe it to be a justified one. The Eagles special teams units have easily been the worst part of the team this year and when the Jaguars have a returnman as good as Agnew, one seemingly small play can completely flip the outlook of a game. Since 2017, he has 6 total return touchdowns, and has already cooked the Eagles for a 100 yard touchdown once when was with the Lions in 2019.
The best way to defend against someone like that is to not give them a chance to make any big plays. Siposs has been a mediocre at best punter and I don’t expect very many punts to be downed inside the 20, especially with Agnew waiting. The best case scenario may be to try and punt the ball out of the end zone and just take the touchback, because a returned kick is exactly the kind of break a young team needs to get an upset win.
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