Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Eagles CB Bradley Roby remained a ‘DNP’ on both Wednesday and Thursday, while S Reed Blankenship returned to full practices on both days.
- The Commanders have been one of the healthier teams in the league through the first seven weeks – only LG Saahdiq Charles and LB Cody Barton appear in danger of missing Week 8.
- The Commanders continued to defy logic by pushing the Eagles to overtime in their first meeting after handing them their first loss in the 2022 season – nothing on paper points to a likely repeat of those performances other than “these two teams are divisional rivals and are familiar with one another.”
How philadelphia Will Try To Win ::
The Eagles continue to play with a slow pace (28th-ranked 29.7 seconds per play) and a balanced offense despite top-level indications of a more pass-heavy attack (seventh-highest pass rate over expectation). Digging deeper, Philadelphia ranks second in plays per game at 70.9 due to a highly disruptive defense and still averages “only” 34.9 pass attempts per game, which ranks 14th in the league. For comparison, the Browns rank first in plays per game at 71.2 and average 34.8 pass attempts per game but have a bottom ten pass rate over expectation. The difference is in the definition of “over expectation,” which takes game environment into account. The Browns have been in closer games throughout the season, while the Eagles have largely controlled their game environments. Therefore, the “expectation” for passing is much lower for a team like the Eagles as compared to the Browns. All of that to say, the Eagles have largely been in control of their games this season but can win really any way they choose from week to week due to the combination of talent, play-calling abilities, and defensive prowess. Against a Commanders team that is around league-average in blitz rate, pressure rate, and man-zone utilization, it is likely we will see a run-balanced approach from the Eagles.
The first thing we must understand when talking about the Philadelphia run game is that quarterback Jalen Hurts has averaged 10.6 carries per game in 2023 (leads the league) after leading the league with 11.0 carries per game in 2022. He scored 13 times on the ground a season ago and is on pace for another 14 this year. So, while D’Andre Swift has a 63.6 percent backfield opportunity share on a team that leads the league in rush attempts per game, he is averaging “only” 14.4 carries per game this season and has “only” two goal line carries through seven games (although the 4.3 targets per game help offset that modest per-game rushing volume). Kenneth Gainwell remains involved, seeing 8.2 carries and 2.0 targets per game, as well as 16 total red zone opportunities. Boiled down, the robust pass game involvement for Swift brings his effective workload to around 20 carries per game if a target is equivalent to about 1.5 carries, and he is averaging a solid 5.1 yards per touch. The matchup on the ground is tops on the slate against a Commanders defense, allowing the fourth largest yards before contact value and 4.4 yards per carry this season. It remains unlikely that Swift breaks the 100-yard threshold; he has more than four targets in just two of seven games this season, and he has scored only three touchdowns on the season behind Hurts’ robust red zone rushing role, but every now and then those stars will align for a fantasy eruption in this offense.
Above, we spoke about the Eagles’ ability to win in any way they choose. It just so happens that they’ve been choosing A.J. Brown as that path at a greater frequency than at any point last season. Brown made history last week as only the third wide receiver in the history of the league to surpass 125 yards receiving in five consecutive games, which was last accomplished by Calvin Johnson in Detroit. Brown is pacing for 115.6 yards per game, has the third highest air yards share amongst wide receivers, has the most raw air yards in the league at 141.3 per game, has an elite 32.9 percent target market share, and has seen the second most deep targets this season. Elite, friends. The most interesting aspect of this matchup is the league-average man-zone rates from the Commanders, who have been absolutely shredded when in man coverage but performed about league-average when in zone. That’s interesting because A.J. Brown holds a disgusting 37.9 percent targets per route run rate against man and a 21.1 percent targets per route run rate against zone this season. In these two teams’ first meeting this year, Brown burned rookie first-round cornerback Emmanuel Forbes for the majority of his 175 yards and both touchdowns while in man coverage. I highly doubt Riverboat Ron and Jack Del Rio will try that again (and Forbes has since been benched, playing only 24 defensive snaps in Week 5, none in Week 6, and five in Week 7). The Commanders understandably went with heavy rates of their nickel package in the first meeting (heavy as in they were in nickel at a 92 percent clip), which is typically how defenses handle mobile quarterbacks like Hurts. I think it’s likelier we see them back in base at a higher rate, which for them has been nickel at about a 60 percent rate this season. Base would mean higher zone rates and a more natural spread of expected pass volume amongst Brown, DeVonta Smith, and tight end Dallas Goedert, the latter of whom has destroyed zone this season. But again, that’s how I would handle the defense in this spot, and the Eagles can basically win any way they choose.