The Philadelphia Eagles will face something of an unknown opponent on Sunday in the Las Vegas Raiders, a talented team but one that deals with major distractions off the field. Here are our five matchups to watch.
1) The Raiders ‘big game pass attack against the Eagles’ buck-not-break pass defense
The Raiders have an underrated group of skill position players in the passing game, all with varying skill sets.
• Darren Waller is a top 3 NFL tight end. He is an impressive athlete and a big goal at 6’6, 256 pounds, with 33 1/4 “arms.
• Henry Ruggs ran a 4.27 on the NFL Combine in 2020 and he has something of a breakout season with 20 catches for 445 yards and 2 TDs. His 22.3 average yards per. Catch leads the NFL.
• Bryan Edwards is the Raiders’ second second-year WR. Like Ruggs, he is a downfield goal, but bigger and not so fast. Edwards has 15 catches for 303 yards (20.2 YPC).
• Hunter Renfrow is their high-efficiency, chain-moving slot receiver that runs excellent routes. He has 31 catches for 331 yards and 2 TDs.
That group is led by Derek Carr, which averages 8.4 yards per carry. passing attempt, and who is number two in the NFL after only Tom Brady with 1,946 passing yards.
The Raiders as a team lead the NFL with 32 passing games over 20+ yards. They are explosive. The Eagles, meanwhile, have allowed the second-few passing passes at 20+ yards in the NFL, with just 11. Something has to give.
Against the Cowboys, Chiefs and Buccaneers, quarterbacks like Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady simply took what the Eagles gave them in the short to intermediate areas of the field. It will be interesting to see if the Raiders can change their big play approach and settle for what the Eagles seem willing to admit down below.
2) Raiders’ overwhelming rushing attack vs. Eagles’ run defense
The Raiders’ three best rushers are all on average under 4 yards per game. Transport in 2021:
Opposing offenses have run the ball 198 times against the Eagles, most in the NFL. They have won 812 yards against the Eagles’ defense, fifth in the NFL. The Eagles, however, allow a perfectly respectable 4.1 yards per game. Wear, which is good for the 12th best in the NFL.
The Eagles should be happy whenever the Raiders run the ball.
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3) Where could the Eagles ‘defensive line go and feastin’?
If you’re a regular reader, you already know that we point out the gaps on the opposing team’s offensive line every week. After facing a Buccaneers line without significant weaknesses, the Eagles will face a Raiders offensive line with plenty of awkward spots.
In Week 6, the Raiders’ starting offensive line looked like this:
|Kolton Miller||John Simpson||Andre James||Alex Leatherwood||Brandon Parker|
The Raiders made wholesale changes along their offensive line this offseason and traded C Rodney Hudson to the Cardinals, RG Gabe Jackson to the Seahawks and RT Trent Brown to the Patriots. Their starting LG, Richie Incognito, played a game after recovering from a surgically repaired Achilles tendon that suffered last season before injuring his calf and landing right back on IR. The only starter who transferred from last year is LT Kolton Miller.
I usually do not like to use ProFootballFocus’ characters, but since I still have a lot of things to write this week and do not have time to watch six games Raiders O-line, we go the lazy way and let them do the heavy lifting here :
As you can see, James is the worst rated center in the NFL, while Parker is the worst rated OT. Leatherwood started the season on RT, but has since slipped inside. He is the second highest rated OT in the NFL.
The Raiders ’poor offensive line play probably explains that their running rumors are rushing for just 3.4 yards per carry so far this season, and their bottom quarter of the league’s 17 sacks are allowed.
So to answer the question of which Eagles defensive linemen will celebrate on Sunday, that ought to be them all as the Raiders offensive line is the clear and obvious biggest weakness on their team roster.
4) Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue vs. Eagles’ OTs
For the third week in a row, the Eagles face a quality pair of edge rushers. This week it’s Crosby and Ngakoue.
Crosby is straight to 11th in the NFL with 5 sacks, 3 of which came last Sunday against the Broncos. You can see his disruption from that game here:
Meanwhile, Ngakoue is also pretty good, and a name that was once associated with the Eagles. He is on his fourth team for four years and his production has suffered as a result of this instability, but he is still a very talented cantrusher.
Along the Eagles’ offensive line, Lane Johnson returned to the team this week, but his status for Sunday is still uncertain. He was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. If Johnson is not ready to return to the lineup, then it’s Andre Dillard at LT and Jordan Mailata at RT again, which is a combination that should still be a concern.
If Johnson returns, which I think is likely, then Mailata would move back to LT and Dillard will return to the bench. But Johnson will have his hands full in his return with the disruptive Crosby.
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5) Nick Sirianni against his hatred for running the ball
The Raiders allow 4.6 yards per carry. Transportation (25th in the NFL). Only one team has allowed multiple runs at 20+ yards, and only four teams have allowed multiple urgent touchdowns.
No one asks Sirianni to beat Miles Sanders and Kenny Gainwell into the ranks all day, as if they were Derrick Henry, but maybe for a week he can remember that they exist and that occasionally running it can help his struggling quarterback.
The Raiders have one of the lightest defensive fronts in the NFL:
|ARE THEY||Yannick Ngakoue||246|
That would be an average weight of 268 pounds. Assuming Johnson returns to the lineup, the average weight of the Eagles’ offensive line is 326 pounds, and they are all athletic enough individually to perform any kind of running block.
If we hear that “RPOs are also running” foolish nonsense after this game, it would have been a failure in game planning, in my opinion. Sometimes football doesn’t have to be complicated. Just line up and move this lightweight Raiders defensive front from the line scrimmage against their will with your much bigger and stronger linemen. It’s not sexy, but many teams around the league are successful when they are physically on the line.
Again, no one says Sanders and Gainwell need to get 30 transports between them. But maybe 15 genuine running against a defense ill-equipped to stop the race? Does it require too much?
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