It’s week 3 of the NFL season and the 1-1 Washington Commanders will be facing a 2-0 Eagles team in Raljon.
After having narrowly escaped the Lions in Week 1, the Eagles thumped the Vikings on Monday Night Football in Week 2, and come into this matchup with the Commanders one of eight remaining undefeated teams in the league through the first two games.
Jalen Hurts appears to be very comfortable in the Eagles’ offense this year, already having put up 576 yards through the air and 147 yards on the ground, including 3 rushing TDs. New wide receiver addition A.J. Brown has already collected 224 yards through the air, and running back Miles Sanders continues to be a dual threat out of the backfield.
To learn more about these and other issues, I asked Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation five questions about the state of the Eagles and what to look for in this game.
1) The Commanders and Eagles already have a common opponent - the Lions - who both teams had trouble containing on offense. Against the Vikings, the Eagles tightened up considerably. Do you think there were any particular changes that they made from Week 1 to Week 2 that accounted for that?
Dating back to last season, Jonathan Gannon has been criticized for being too passive. Too often has the Eagles defensive coordinator been content to sit back and dare quarterbacks to sustain long drives. His strategy surely worked against lesser passers who couldn’t drive down the field all game long without making mistakes. The strategy was much less effective against quality quarterbacks. Gannon’s unit got absolutely shredded by the good signal callers.
And so it was concerning to see the Eagles’ defense struggle against the Lions in Week 1. Fortunately, Gannon got more aggressive in Week 2. That was the impression anecdotally and the numbers back it up:
Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon blitzed Kirk Cousins 10 times, up from 6 last week.— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) September 20, 2022
Cousins faced pressure on 22 percent of his dropbacks, 8th highest in Week 2.
This outing felt like a step in the right direction for Gannon. He still has much to prove going forward.
As for this week, it’ll be interesting to see how Gannon decides to attack Wentz. Because it might actually be better to employ the style where he challenges the Commanders’ quarterback to go and long drives with the idea that he’ll turn the ball over at some point.
2) So far, Jalen Hurts looks like everything the Eagles could have possibly hoped he would be. How are Eagles fans feeling about Hurts as the future of the franchise at this point?
I was lower on Hurts’ Week 1 performance than most were. It’s not that I thought he played poorly against the Lions. On the contrary, I can admit he was a big reason why they were able to beat Detroit. But I couldn’t help but wonder if the way he was succeeding was sustainable. Hurts was able to bail the Eagles out on a lot of third downs with his legs. He took a lot of hits while running so often.
And so I wanted to see more from him in Week 2, especially as a passer. To Hurts’ credit, he absolutely delivered. I’ve never seen him look so … elite! He threw the ball with great touch and accuracy, completing passes into tight windows. He played with great poise, never looking rattled or confused with where to go with the ball. He picked his spots when using his legs and even powered through contact to score a 26-yard rushing touchdown. Simply put, he was awesome.
That was a ceiling-raising performance. The Eagles are legitimate Super Bowl contenders with that kind of QB play. He’s currently on the right path to establishing himself as the Eagles’ long-term franchise quarterback.
3) The Eagles offense looked incredibly balanced against the Vikings this week, with Sanders rushing for 80 yards, and 4 players receiving for at least 69 yards. Have the Eagles finally gotten their wide receiver room in order? What went right offensively against Minnesota?
I joked during the game that it looked like Gannon was coaching the Vikings because Minnesota was content to sit back in zone and allow Hurts to pick them apart. This strategy was a contrast to how the Detroit Lions chose to play man and really come after Hurts with additional pressure. So, I think the change was in part because of how the Eagles were being played.
I also think it was easy to expect A.J. Brown to be a little less effective in Week 2. After watching him go off against the Lions, the Vikings had every reason to put extra attention on him and dare others to beat them. The problem is that DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert are quite capable of succeeding as volume targets if Brown is being taken away. Quez Watkins is also a big play threat while Zach Pascal is someone who can’t be forgotten about when it comes to third down or the red zone.
The Eagles have a talented group of pass catchers with varied skillsets. In an ideal world, I’m sure they’d like to spread the ball around. But there are probably going to be weeks where Brown monopolizes the target share like he did in Week 1. Brown’s really good, after all, and Hurts loves throwing to him. Why go away from what works?
4) How do you think most Eagles’ fans feel about facing off against Carson Wentz this week? He was obviously part of the Eagles’ best season ever, but he clearly didn’t leave Philadelphia on the best terms.
Good framing by you. As I often like to say, more than one thing can be true.
The Eagles don’t win Super Bowl LII without Carson Wentz. Full stop. Yes, he didn’t play in the big game itself. Or in the playoffs. But one would be remiss to discount his impact when it came to putting the Eagles in fantastic position to secure the No. 1 seed in his absence. Having home games against the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings primed the Birds for their Super Bowl appearance, where they ultimately defeated the New England Patriots.
Wentz was sensational in 2017. He would’ve been the MVP if he didn’t get hurt.
Of course, things were never the same after that injury. He was no longer the same player. Or person.
Many factors went into Wentz’s demise in Philly. He is not solely to blame for all the bad things that happened.
But he is also no victim. Wentz was stubborn and unwilling to accept hard coaching. As a result, he failed to improve in key areas. He also could’ve been a much better teammate, by his own admission.
Ultimately, it was Wentz who wanted out of Philly. It wasn’t like the Eagles wanted to dump him at all costs.
Wentz didn’t really seem to understand that he was part of the problem. He seems to think that reuniting with Frank Reich on the Indianapolis Colts would fix everything. Clearly, it did not.
Eagles fans were happy to see how Wentz stumbled at the end of last year. They were incentivized to feel that way by the nature of Philly owning the Colts’ first-round pick. But Wentz’s struggles also confirmed that the Eagles were right to move on from him.
Currently, Wentz is the starting quarterback of a rival team. Eagles fans should obviously also be rooting against that player. And I’m sure Wentz is going to be booed by the many Eagles fans who show up to FedEx Field.
At some point in the future when he’s retired, Eagles fans should be able to appreciate Wentz as a key Super Bowl contributor. He should be applauded when the Eagles bring back members of the 2017 team at The Linc.
For now, though, he’s the enemy.
5) What are you expecting the final score of the game to be this week? How many points do you expect to be scored overall?
At the risk of tempting fate, I feel confident about the Eagles winning this game.
Jalen Hurts is playing at a high level. The offense is quite capable of doing damage.
I have a little less confidence in the defense. But they’re coming off a good game; perhaps they’ve turned a corner.
I also feel confident that Wentz is going to make a mistake or two. I mean, you can almost set your watch to him losing control of the ball. He has 67 fumbles in 87 career games played. He’s probably going to fumble at some point … it’s just a matter of if it comes at a critical moment and if the ball bounces favorably or not.
I don’t feel like it’s going to be a blowout by any means. I like the Commanders to cover the spread (+6.5 points according to DraftKings Sportsbook) but the Eagles to win.
I’ll say it’s Philly 28, Washington 24.
Thanks again to Brandon Lee Gowton for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Eagles.
As of right now, Vegas has Philadelphia as 6.5 point favorites over Washington. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Philly wins by 7 points or more.
Philly wins by 6 points or less, or it’s a tie.
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 49.5 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
50 or more total points are scored.
Fewer than 50 total points are scored.