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Jets-Eagles Preview: Key Matchups to Watch

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles-Training Camp Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles defensive front vs. Jets offensive line

Featuring the Jets offensive line first has been a recurring theme in this series, and it will continue to be until the offensive line shows any semblance of competency.

The Jets have allowed 13 sacks (12.1% sack rate, third-worst in NFL) and averaged 3.0 yards per rush attempt (fourth-worst) through three games this season.

It is the first time since 1996 that the Jets have allowed at least 13 sacks and run for fewer than 4.0 yards per rush attempt over their first three games of the season. We’re actually being a little generous here, since the 1996 team gave up a lower sack rate (10.9% vs. 12.1%) and ran for more yards per rush attempt (3.9 vs. 3.0) through three games than the 2019 team has.

For the second consecutive game, the Jets and their terrible offensive line will be meeting up with an excellent run defense. The Eagles are ranked fifth in rush defense DVOA, currently allowing the third-fewest yards per rush attempt (3.2) and fourth-fewest rush yards per game (62.0). Philly has stopped 33% of opponent runs for no gain or a loss, the highest rate in the league.

On the downside, Philadelphia has struggled mightily to generate sacks. They only have three sacks, fewest in the league. Their 1.7% sack rate would be the worst in NFL history over a full season.

The awful sack numbers may be a result of shaky play in the Eagles secondary, a unit that enters Week 5 extremely banged up. Philadelphia has done a decent job creating pressure, as they are tied for 17th in quarterback hits with 20 of those. However, their 15.0% ratio of sacks to hits is by far the lowest in the league and well below the NFL average of 44.7%.

That terribly low ratio suggests the Eagles front is not getting the time to turn their pressure into sacks due to poor coverage.

The Eagles are way overdue to get some sacks. A unit as talented as theirs cannot carry those sack numbers forever. And even if they are not producing those sacks, the pressure will always be there. Brandon Graham ranks third in the league with 26 pressures. Fletcher Cox ranks 12th with 20 (second-most among interior defenders).

Do not let the sack numbers fool you — the Eagles pass rush remains a problem. Once the coverage starts holding up, the sacks will be there. But they have never stopped bringing the pressure.

Eagles WR Nelson Agholor vs. Jets CB Brian Poole

Poole has been one of the few positives for the Jets this season. He has been credited with allowing only 0.36 yards per coverage snap this season, ranking third-best among the 82 cornerbacks with at least 90 coverage snaps.

The former Falcon has been tagged with allowing 8/16 passes in his direction to be completed for only 36 yards (2.3 per target, 4.5 per reception). Just one of those completions resulted in a first down — though it needs to be noted Poole did benefit from a couple of drops by his matchups.

The Jets would benefit greatly if Poole could win his matchup in the slot against Nelson Agholor, who lines up in the slot as much as anybody in the league. Agholor‘s total of 125 routes run out of the slot ranks as the fifth-most. His 17 receptions from the slot is tied for the seventh-most, while he and Phillip Dorsett are tied for the NFL lead with three touchdown receptions out of the slot.

It would be a big boost for the Jets defense if Poole can win his matchup without any help. A corner who can win one-on-one provides his defensive coordinator with a lot of flexibility. With the confidence that one player will remove one weapon on his own, there are more chess pieces to be deployed elsewhere. That would be huge for a Jets defense that has to find a way to generate a pass rush (against a good offensive line) and stop Zach Ertz without any of their projected starters at outside or inside linebacker (assuming C.J. Mosley and Jordan Jenkins miss the game).

The Eagles also have question marks at wide receiver. They will again be without DeSean Jackson. Alshon Jeffery is back, but he did not look to be at full strength in his return against Green Bay. We will have to see if 10 days off was enough for him to get back to peak physical form.

With Jackson out, Agholor could be the primary target for Wentz at wide receiver if Jeffery is still ailing. When both Jackson and Jeffery were out in Week 3, Agholor tied his career high with 12 targets. However, with Jeffery back against Green Bay, Agholor saw only one target and caught zero passes.

It will be interesting to see how the targets are dispersed by Philadelphia. However they do it, a dominant victory by Poole over Agholor would be tremendously positive for the Jets defense.

Eagles LG Isaac Seumalo vs. Jets DT Leonard Williams

Philadelphia’s offensive line looks strong once again. They are near the top of the league in numerous metrics the line plays a huge part in — power rushing success rate (#2), stuff rate allowed (#8), adjusted sack rate allowed (#9), adjusted line yards per carry (#11), and rush offense DVOA (#11). PFF has the Eagles ranked as the best run blocking team and sixth-best pass blocking team.

The four Eagles mainstays have been having strong seasons — left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce, right guard Brandon Brooks, and right tackle Lane Johnson. That quartet has logged a combined 395 regular season and playoff starts for the Eagles, and is now in their fourth consecutive season together as primary starters (since Brooks joined the team in 2016).

The weak link up front has been left guard Isaac Seumalo, who is a primary starter for the first time after starting 17 games as a backup over his first three seasons in Philadelphia.

Seumalo has been tagged with allowing 14 pressures this season, tied for the second-most among guards.

It appears that the Jet who will be seeing the most of Seumalo may be the much-maligned Leonard Williams, who has lined up on the right side of the defense for 80 of his 84 pass rush snaps this season.

If the Jets turn are going to turn around their season, a return to form by Williams will likely need to be a part of it. Not only has Williams failed to have the breakout season many expected of him, but he has performed well below his usual high standards as well, putting forth below average production in all facets.

On the plus side, Quinnen Williams will be making his return this week. If the rookie can immediately win battles at a high level, perhaps that will help Leo break out of his funk.

Regardless of how his teammates perform, Leo just needs to execute his own assignments more often. Blow up a guard off the snap to force the ball-carrier to redirect and get stuffed by somebody else. Take advantage of a blown protection and finish a gift-wrapped sack. Push somebody into Carson Wentz’s lap to force him into a teammate’s waiting arms for a sack. There are plenty of ways to make an impact without somebody else’s help — and this is exactly what Leo has done so well for most of his career. He needs to get back to it.

It looks like Leo has a favorable matchup against Seumalo this week. Will he take advantage, or will his slump continue?


How did last week’s key matchups turn out?

Patriots run support vs. Le’Veon Bell - The elite tackling of the Patriots was Bell’s kryptonite, as he could not bail out the offensive line this time around. Across 18 carries, Bell was only able to avoid two tackles, in turn finishing with just 35 yards on the ground. Bell’s average of 1.94 yards per carry was the second-worst mark of his career. Winner: Patriots

Josh Gordon vs. Nate Hairston/secondary - Gordon had a solid game, grabbing 6/11 targets for 83 yards and three first downs. However, none of those catches were against Hairston, who did a nice job for the second consecutive week.

Although Hairston played well, Gordon still made a big impact, as he grabbed some important catches early on that put the game out of reach for the Jets. Winner: Patriots

Shaq Mason vs. Henry Anderson - Blowout victory for Mason here. After an iffy first couple of games, Mason had a bounceback performance against the Jets. He threw a key block on Blake Cashman to open the lane for Sony Michel’s touchdown run, and allowed only one hurry throughout the game. Henry Anderson had a silent game, producing zero pressures and making no tackles. Winner: Patriots

The Pats won all three matchups pretty easily, and got the blowout win. This is the third week in a row that the Jets’ opponent won the majority of the key matchups and came out on top in the game. Obviously, this series is prophetic!

Poll

Which of these three matchups do the Jets most need to win in order to defeat the Eagles?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Eagles defensive line vs. Jets offensive line
    (105 votes)
  • 0%
    Nelson Agholor vs. Brian Poole
    (1 vote)
  • 15%
    Isaac Seumalo vs. Leonard Williams
    (20 votes)
126 votes total Vote Now