5 things to watch in Eagles vs Commanders

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts yells on the sidelines ahead of an NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Eagles play host to the Washington Commanders on Monday night. While the return of Carson Wentz is no longer on the cards, that doesn’t mean the matchup isn’t filled with things to look out for.

Taylor Heinicke vs the Eagles

Tylor Heinicke is a backup quarterback by every definition, but he’s 2-1 so far and although he was 15/28 against the Vikings, he was aggressive and at least willed his team down the field to stay competitive, which is about as much as any coach could ask for.

There are two things that don’t bode well for him, however.

  • The Eagles sacked Carson Wentz NINE times when the teams last clashed
  • The Eagles are allowing a 67.6 passer rating on the year

If Heinicke has to throw from behind, this Eagles secondary is vicious and is going to force him to stay in the pocket a smidge longer than he usually would as routes fail to develop. This opens the doors for guys like Haason Reddick and Javon Hargrave to run rampant.

The return of Chase Young

Chase Young could well be in action on Monday Night after returning to practice this week. His return is expected to be a big one, but Young had a much slower 2021 campaign before his season-ending injury. A 1.5 sack season compared to a 7.5 sack effort in 2020 speaks volumes.

But it is worth noting that Jordan Mailata looked uncharacteristically wobbly against the Texans. He allowed 2 sacks against Houston, but had only allowed 2 all season up to that point. If Young is anywhere near the player he was in 2020, this is going to be a very interesting matchup.

Mailata is still only 24 years old and has been nothing short of brilliant during his meteoric rise with the Eagles. He should be back to his dominant ways soon enough.

Run, Forest, Run!

The Washington run defense has been pretty stout this season. It’s only allowing 113 yards per game, but that number has sunk to 78 over the last 3 games. Dalvin Cook was held to a measly 47 yards last time out and as we all know, the Eagles love to run the ball.

Even if Washington did clog the trenches, we’ve already learned that this offense is versatile and explosive enough to make teams pay through the air, but it’s still something worth watching. Miles Sanders has been enjoying a resurgence like no other and this would be a perfect game to really assert his newly-found physical running style.

On the other end of the field, the Eagles run defense has been…suspect at times. Dameon Pierce gashed them under the Thursday Night lights and missed tackles have plagued the Birds all year. They’ve missed 82 this season and a shocking 14 against the Texans alone. With players like Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson marauding the open field, the Eagles can’t afford to be letting players slip through their fingers.

Jalen Hurts MVP

The Eagles are on the cusp of a 9-0 start and Jalen Hurts is 2nd in the NFL with a 107 passer rating. He’s been excellent this year, there’s no other way to describe him. Hurts is now the leading MVP candidate and deservedly so. It’s always exciting to watch the dual-threat QB wreak havoc, but in front of his home crowd and in a primetime game, a passing clinic here would not only be welcomed, but adored by those in attendance.

Keep the pressure up

The Eagles have burst out of the gates in most of their games this season, but have struggled to score in the second half. They’re averaging 8 total second-half points on the season and although that number has jumped to 11.7 over their last 3 games, it’s still a far cry from the 14.8 they averaged last year.

It’s been one of the few consistent disappointments to this 8-0 start. The Eagles simply have to keep their foot on the gas going into the second half, especially when the playoffs come around. Now would be a good time to start rehearsing.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum