The Eagles look to keep rolling this week on Monday night against the Washington Commanders. Philly came out on top in a dominating 24-8 victory when the teams last clashed. The defensive line was the story of that game, as they came alive with 9 sacks on Carson Wentz that day.
The Commanders look a little different this time around, however. Wentz has since been injured and there are some new faces that weren’t around the first time the teams played. Before the game, here are 5 key players to watch going into this divisional tilt.
The second-year player has not been getting a whole lot of action recently. With A.J Brown taking away all the targets and headlines, Smitty has kind of been an afterthought. Last year he was the unquestioned first option in the passing game. This season, he seems to be the third priority.
That’s not anyone’s fault really. Smith is playing with other good players who also demand attention on offense. I think this is a good bounce-back week for him as well. In 3 career games versus Washington, Smith averages about 88 yards on 5 catches. That also includes the best game of his career earlier this year in week 3, where he torched their secondary for 169 yards and a touchdown. DeVonta Smith is too talented to stay quiet for much longer.
Darius Slay has been playing at an elite level from the first snap of the season. He has been one of their best players, at a position that the Eagles are not historically very good at.
The veteran corner has a tough matchup this week, with star receiver Terry McClaurin standing across from him. McClaurin has become a bit of an Eagles killer over the years. In 7 career games against Philly, he averages 81 yards a game and has 3 total touchdowns. Not all of those numbers are against Slay, but Scary Terry tends to play very well against this team.
It feels like nobody has talked about Slay over these past few weeks, but he’s been so good for this Eagles defense. In the first 6 games of the season, Slay at 3 interceptions and 7 passes defended. In the 2 games post-bye-week, Slay only has 1 pass defended and a few tackles. Teams have just stopped throwing the ball in his direction altogether because they know it’s not going to be completed. This week Slay will see targets shadowing McClaurin but he still has the capability of erasing him from the game.
After Wentz got hurt and possibly ended his Commanders career before it really got started, Taylor Heinicke came in to take over the offense. Heinicke has a bit of a Nick Foles element to his game, and that’s not even referring to the quarterback whose job he took. He isn’t very good in long doses, but if you want a burst of energy for your team and a guy that has, as Sirianni says, the “dawg” mentality, he fits the bill.
Statistically, he is fine, nothing that immediately jumps off the page. This season, in 3 starts, he has 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions with 629 passing yards. The most important thing is, the Commanders are usually competitive and in games late when he starts. The Eagles have to crush Heinicke early to avoid any possible hope of a late comeback.
Brian Robinson Jr.
Most fans know of Robinson but if you don’t, he has had quite the challenge over the last few months just to get on the field. Back in August, the rookie running back was shot in a carjacking when leaving a restaurant after dinner. Despite the injuries sustained, Robinson was able to rehab quickly and make his NFL debut after only missing 4 games. Again he doesn’t have very good numbers on the season like Heinicke, averaging only 3.3 yards per carry with 1 touchdown and 219 rushing yards in 5 games.
Every game is a possible breakout game for Robinson though. He was selected in the 3rd round, which for a running back usually means they can produce immediately at the next level. When Robinson finds his footing in the NFL I think he’ll be a good player, and that could happen at any time.
The Eagles struggled to contain Dameon Pierce last week and will have to keep their wits about them on Monday.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire