5 key matchups to watch when the Eagles battle the Jets

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Philadelphia Eagles have never lost to the New York Jets in franchise history. That’s not a misprint. They are a perfect 12-0 against the often doormats from the AFC East, including a 33-18 thumping in 2021.

Head coach Nick Sirianni won’t take anything for granted despite what has happened in previous seasons. The Eagles got a somewhat lucky break — no pun intended — when Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 1. No offense but the Jets aren’t nearly as dangerous with Zach Wilson under center instead of the future Hall of Famer. Sirianni knows his team dodged a bullet, although he was quick to heap praise on Wilson.

“I think he’s done a good job managing the game. I think he’s got a lot of weapons around him that he is utilizing,” Sirianni told reporters. “I thought he had a really good game last game. Again, sometimes you watch the games in sequence and sometimes in cutups. I see a guy that’s getting better. Again, the weapons around him, they play good complementary football with their defense on the other side of the ball as well.”

Key matchups to watch

James Bradberry vs. Garrett Wilson

Eagles
GLENDALE, AZ – FEBRUARY 12: Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry (24) warms up during Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles on February 12, 2023 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Eagles cornerbacks attack the Jets receivers. Darius Slay missed back-to-back practices this week and the assumption is he’ll be out on Sunday. That means James Bradberry should get the tough assignment of shadowing Garrett Wilson who is far and away the team’s biggest playmaker. Wilson has 43 targets — 20 more than the next closest guy on the stat sheet — with quarterback Zach Wilson looking his way 14 times in Week 4. He has 24 receptions for 279 yards and two touchdowns this season.

D’Andre Swift vs. Jets Run Defense

D’andre swift
Philadelphia Eagles running back D’Andre Swift (0) is stopped by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Eagles’ leading rusher gained only 70 yards last week so he’s due for a breakout game, right? We’re half-joking. Swift has been unstoppable on the ground this season: 76 carries for 434 yards for a whopping 5.7 yards per touch. Now he gets a Jets’ run defense that ranks 29th in the NFL while giving up 731 yards. Swift should be salivating as he looks to build on last year’s success when he averaged 6.5 yards per carry versus New York.

Jalen Hurts vs. Sauce Gardner

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts warms up before an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

It’s unclear whether the Jets will put their shutdown corner on A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith on the outside. It’ll be a battle no matter what. But, it’ll be up to Jalen Hurts to exploit whatever matchup is presented and thread the needle. Hurts knows he has his work cut out for him after opposing quarterbacks posted a 53.9 passer rating throwing Gardner’s way in 2022. “He’s a great player and you just want to go out there and control what you can, just execute the fundamentals of whatever play is called,” said Hurts.

Sua Opeta vs. Quinnen Williams

Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 22: Philadelphia Eagles offensive guard Sua Opeta (78) warms up during the game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on October 22, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

We’re listing Sua Opeta here because he’s the new guy in the mix as he replaces Cam Jurgens as the starting right guard for a second straight week. He fared well against Aaron Donald in Week 5 — holding the Rams standout without a sack — with help from more accomplished linemates like Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. Next up is another nightmare matchup against Williams who has 28 sacks in 63 career games.

Dallas Goedert vs. Jets Safeties/Linebackers

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 20: Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) warms up during the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 20, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (c) (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

It remains to be seen how Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich decides to defend Goedert. Will he isolate him on a linebacker, maybe third-year player Jamien Sherwood? He excels in man coverage. Or perhaps they trust a faster, more athletic defensive back to handle the assignment. Safety Jordan Whitehead or slot corner Michael Carter II would make sense assuming safety Tony Adams comes up to spy Jalen Hurts. Either way, it won’t be easy. The Jets have surrendered 289 yards on 27 receptions to tight ends this season along with five touchdowns.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke