4 key matchups to watch when the Eagles battle the Commanders

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) makes a catch against Washington Commanders cornerback Kendall Fuller (29) and safety Bobby McCain (20) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Philadelphia Eagles will be looking to remain perfect on the young season when they host the Washington Commanders on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.

When these two teams met last season in Week 10, history came to a crashing halt after a 32-21 victory ended the Eagles’ bid for an undefeated season. That tape has been buried. New year. Two different rosters.

The Eagles have struggled to turn long drives into touchdowns, stalling in the red zone and settling for field goals. And Jalen Hurts has been a bit inconsistent in the passing game: 63-of-93 for 640 yards, with three touchdowns against three interceptions. It’s nothing to worry about, according to head coach Nick Sirianni.

“We’re 3-0 and he’s the leader of the ship, so he’s done a good job,” Sirianni told reporters. “Again, some of the stats might not look pretty just because of how much we’ve run the football based off how the games have gone, but completing 78% of his passes against Minnesota was impressive. Thought he played a solid game last game. I see him continuing to improve.”

Eagles vs. Commanders: 4 Key Matchups to Watch

Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 18: Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Tackle Jordan Mailata (68) looks on in the second half during the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles on October 18, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

1. Commanders D-Line vs. Eagles O-Line: Washington has a fearsome front four, highlighted by defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, along with defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat. All four players were first-round picks and lived up to the hype. That group has accounted for 6.5 of the Commanders’ 10 sacks this year, including three from Sweat himself. It’s going to be a grind all afternoon for the best offensive line in football, something Jordan Mailata acknowledged earlier this week.

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) catches the ball and runs for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

2. CB Emmanuel Forbes vs. WR DeVonta Smith: Forbes was the 16th overall pick in April’s draft and looks to be the future of the franchise at the cornerback position. He has seen 57% of Washington’s defensive snaps, operating behind starters Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste but seeing meaningful matchups. His familiarity with DeVonta Smith (from their SEC battles in college) will be something to watch out for in this game. Forbes might be looking for redemption. Remember, Smith torched him for 203 yards and four touchdowns in 2020. To be fair, it wasn’t all racked up on Forbes.

Commanders vs Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles’ D’Andre Swift (0) tries to get past Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) and Dee Delaney (30) during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 25, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

3. RB D’Andre Swift vs. Commanders’ Linebackers: Swift has been unstoppable in back to back weeks, accounting for 305 yards on the ground on 44 carries with one touchdown. He’s looked incredibly explosive when turning on the afterburners at the second level and eluding linebackers. The Eagles will want to exploit a weakness as Washington has really struggled to stop the run. They have surrendered 386 rushing yards at a clip of 4.8 yards per tote. Their linebackers — Khaleke Hudson, Cody Barton, Jasmin Davis — have looked slow and overmatched at times.

Eagles Thursday night football
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) looks for an opening while under pressure from New England Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (9) in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

4. Jalen Hurts vs. Red Zone: Are we having a little fun here? Sure. But it stands to reason that Hurts has to improve in the passing game when the Eagles get into the red zone. The starting quarterback has gone 3-of-10 for 10 yards and one touchdown down there. He does have three scores thanks to “Brotherly Shove.” Nick Sirianni blamed himself for the red-zone problems: “That’s 100% me. I came out of that dragging myself through the mud there and some of the things that we tried to do.”

AP Photo/Alex Brandon