While Sunday’s contest against the Los Angeles Chargers may not qualify as a ‘must win’ for Philadelphia, it’s certainly a game that will tell us a lot about this Eagles squad.
The Eagles have had their struggles throughout the season, but they’re coming off their most dominating victory of the season and may have finally found their identity. LA, on the other hand, is coming off two straight losses after starting the season 4-1. They looked like one of the best teams in the AFC through the first five weeks, but they’ve come back down to Earth.
Here are four matchups to watch out for when the Eagles face the Chargers this weekend.
Eagles rushing attack vs. Chargers rush defense
Here’s how the Chargers rush defense has faired this season:
- Total rushing yards allowed: 1,117 (31st)
- Rushing touchdowns allowed: 9 (T-29th)
- Yards per carry allowed: 5.1 (32nd)
- Rushing first downs allowed: 64 (T-31st)
As you can see, LA is pretty terrible against the run this year. Their linebacking corps is well below average, and outside of Joey Bosa, their defensive line leaves a lot to be desired.
The only team they’ve held under 100 yards rushing was Las Vegas in Week 4.
The Eagles have neglected their running game through most of the year thus far, but they finally committed to the ground game last week against Detroit. Nick Sirianni’s offense ran the ball 46 times for a total of 236 yards and four touchdowns. Even without Miles Sanders, this running back group has proven to capable of racking up yardage on the ground. And their offense line has always been capable of opening up holes for their runners.
Sirianni’s game plan in this one should be simple, run the ball until they stop you. Dominate the line of scrimmage and time of possession, and force LA’s defense to commit more bodies to the run. When they do that, allow Hurts to hit them over the top or run some RPO action to keep them off guard.
If the Eagles win on Sunday, it’ll more than likely be because they ran the ball down LA’s throat.
Dallas Goedert vs. Chargers linebackers/safeties
Los Angeles has had some trouble slowing down opposing tight ends this season. On the year, they’ve allowed tight ends to accumulate 37 receptions for 515 yards and four touchdowns.
They’ve done fine against teams with average tight end play, like Washington or New England. But they’ve struggled against some of the better tight ends in the league — Kansas City with Travis Kelce, Cleveland with David Njoku, Baltimore with Mark Andrews.
Fortunately for the Eagles, they have one of the best tight ends in football in Dallas Goedert. Last week against Detroit, Goedert was the only Eagles pass catcher to haul in more than two receptions. He finished the game with six catches for 72 yards. He’s clearly the best receiving threat on Philly’s offense, and ever since he’s become the unquestioned TE1 after the departure of Zach Ertz, he’s gotten more involved in the passing attack.
On the year, Jalen Hurts has a passer rating of 141.1 when targeting Goedert. His overall PFF grade of 84.5 ranks second among all qualifying tight ends and his 87.3 receiving grade ranks third.
Continuing to target Goedert should be a focal point of Sirianni’s offense for the rest of the season, and it’ll more than likely pay dividends if he feeds the tight end this week against LA.
Eagles wideouts vs. Chargers banged up secondary
Both of the Chargers starting corners, Asante Samuel Jr. and Michael Davis, will be out for this week’s contest. While throwing the ball all over the yard shouldn’t be the game plan in this one, the Eagles should be able to move the ball through the air if they have to against LA.
Not having Samuel out there is a huge loss for LA:
Chris Harris Jr. and Tevaughn Campbell will likely start on the outside for LA. Harris has had a great NFL career, but at 32 years old he’s clearly lost a step. And he’s primarily played in the slot this season. That’s where he’s played for the majority of his career. Campbell has been LA’ swiss army knife this year, playing outside, in the nickel, and at safety.
The Eagles wide receiving corps hasn’t exactly been game changers this season. DeVonta Smith is the only receiver to post more receptions than Goedert this year, but he hasn’t found the end zone since Week 1. I wouldn’t expect this to change this week, especially since running the ball should be the priority.
But, they should have more success this week than they have recently. As long as Hurts can find them when they’re open and move the chains through the air when necessary, the Eagles should be in good shape.
Josh Sweat vs. Storm Norton
The Chargers don’t have many glaring weaknesses on the offensive side of the ball. But their starting right tackle, Storm Norton, has been awful this season.
His overall PFF grade of 47.1 ranks him 76th out of 79 qualifying tackles, and his 36.5 pass-blocking grade ranks him 77th. Facing Matt Judon last week, Norton was abused and surrendered seven total pressures, while the rest of the offensive line only allowed five.
Josh Sweat, Norton’s primary assignment this week, is coming off his best game of the year. He posted three pressures, two sacks, and one hurry. Jonathan Gannon should look to exploit this weakness as much as possible on Sunday.
Whether it’s letting Sweat go to work, or unleashing some stunts or blitzes targeted at Norton, the most efficient avenue to getting pressure on Justin Herbert is at that right tackle position.
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