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October 01, 2021

Eagles vs. Chiefs: Five matchups to watch

On Sunday, the 1-2 Philadelphia Eagles will host the 1-2 Kansas City Chiefs. After dropping their Week 2 and Week 3 games against the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers, the Chiefs are currently in the basement of the AFC West, and will be desperate to get back in the win column. 

The Chiefs' talent is obvious, but they also have some weaknesses to overcome. Here are our five matchups to watch.

1) The Eagles' back seven vs. "every blade of grass"

You've all seen Chiefs games over the last few years. You know the names. They have speed on the outside with Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, a five-time All-Pro tight end in Travis Kelce, and the most talented quarterback in the NFL in Patrick Mahomes.

Jonathan Gannon gave his perspective on what makes Mahomes so dangerous.

"He's extremely accurate," Gannon said. "What I really think is when you look at their offense, they make you cover horizontally and vertically, and they use space extremely well to me. And he can make all those throws, and then he can make certain throws that you're going to say, ‘Man, he shouldn't be able to throw the ball like that to that spot accurately,’ and he can.

"I mean, he's really — to me, I don't know what a generational quarterback is, but whatever that is, he probably is that.

"What I think they do a really good job of is they make you defend — everyone has heard, ‘every blade of grass.’ They really do. We have to understand that, and we have to do a good job of minimizing some of those explosive plays when he gets off schedule.

"When he starts moving around, their guys do a good job of knowing how to get open, what spots to find, and he can be running this way on the numbers and throw it back over here where typically you'd be like, ‘He's never going to throw it over there.’ So, it's going to be a big challenge for us."

Below is a look at Mahomes' "spray chart," so to speak. There isn't one area of the field that he favors over another, and as Gannon said, the Chiefs make you defend "every blade of grass."


The two star skill players are Kelce and Hill.

Gannon on Kelce:

"He knows how to get open. He has a big catch radius. He's really good run after the catch, and he's smart. And he's got a quarterback that he's on the same page with. When you're defending a guy like that, you see a lot of times when we're looking at the tape and it's named a certain route concept, and you look at it and you're like, ‘No, that's not that concept.’ Well, it actually is, but then he's adjusting his route off the coverage.

"So it makes it difficult to say, ‘Well, he's supposed to do this, but because he saw this guy sitting over here, he sat it down and didn't run across the field. He sat it down right over the ball at 15 yards; like how are we going to play that?’

"It's a challenge playing this crew this week because he's on this -- when you do that, the quarterback is expecting you to be over here, but now all of a sudden, you're not over there. He's on the same page. Mahomes is on the same page with him.

Gannon on Hill:

"When he first came into the league, Emmitt Thomas was the DB coach in Kansas City, and DB coaches you always ask, ‘Who's the hardest guy to defend? Who's the top 5 guys,’ or this or that. I remember Emmitt telling me, and he's seen everybody under the sun, and he called him Little Man. He said, ‘Little Man is special, man. He really is.’

"What you see on tape is kind of like Kelce, he's just in different ways. He wins one-on-one. He can get open at a high level through zones or versus man coverage. He's really good with the ball in his hands. He makes some catches that you're like, ‘Man, that ball was a little underthrown or a little overthrown or behind him.’ He adjusts to the ball in the air. He's got elite ball skills to me. Elite ball skills with elite speed, it's a tough cover. Our guys are ready for the challenge, and we'll have a good plan for them."

2) Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave vs. the Chiefs' rookie offensive linemen

If you read these matchup posts each week, you know that we try to point out areas of each opposing offensive line that could be vulnerable. This week, it's right up the middle, where the Chiefs have a pair of rookie interior offensive linemen in second-round pick C Creed Humphrey and sixth-round pick RG Trey Smith.

Through the first three games of the 2021 season, Hargrave has 18 tackles (5 for loss), 4 sacks, a forced fumble, and 6 QB hits. He has been a one-man wrecking crew in the middle of the Eagles' defense.

Cox has seen some double teams, but he has not yet had any tangible impact, especially in the stat sheet, as he 4 tackles (none for loss), and no sacks. He did have a fumble that was forced by Hargrave pop into the air and into his arms against the Cowboys for TD last Monday night.

If the Eagles are going to have a chance of slowing this Chiefs offense down, they are going to need someone other than just Hargrave to make plays. This would be an opportune time for Cox to step up.

3) Andre Dillard vs. Frank Clark

As we showed in a look at his play Week 3 against the Cowboys, Dillard played well, though he was a beneficiary of a severely depleted Dallas D-line that did not attempt to challenge his inability to anchor against power rushes.

Dillard might get another break Week 4 if Chiefs RDE Frank Clark can't play. Clark has been battling a hamstring injury that has caused him to miss KC's Week 1 game against the Browns, and their Week 3 game against the Chargers. 

Remember when Andy Reid used to talk about "motor" back in the day? When healthy, Clark is a relentless effort rusher with speed and some nasty. A look:  

He is not the type of power rusher that would be a nightmare matchup for Dillard, but he would pose a much stiffer challenge than finesse guys like Micah Parsons and Randy Gregory a week ago.

4) Landon Dickerson and (fill in the blank of the other starting OG, whoever that may be) vs. Chris Jones

The Eagles also have to worry about how the interior of their offensive line will hold up, as they will be without both starting guards, LG Isaac Seuamlo and RG Brandon Brooks. Landon Dickerson started for Brooks Week 3 against Dallas, and when Seumalo went down with a broken foot, Nate Herbig filled in at LG.

To be determined what the Eagles' offensive line configuration will look like on Sunday, but my bet is that they will activate Jack Driscoll off of IR between now and Sunday, and he will start at RG, with Dickerson sliding over to LG. That arrangement would make some sense, as Brooks could fill back in at RG whenever he is ready to return, and Dickerson can simply stay at LG.

Whatever the configuration, they will be tasked with blocking All-Pro defensive lineman Chris Jones, who has 34 sacks since 2018 (47 games).

Jones was a limited participant in practice this week in practice for the Chiefs, but he is more likely to play than Clark.

5) The Eagles' rushing attack vs. the Chiefs' run defense

The Eagles should consider trying to run the ball against the Chiefs, for a lot of reasons, but most notably the following five:

  1. It would be wise to attempt to control the ball, and keep Mahomes on the sideline.
  2. An effective run game could maybe help take some pressure off of Jalen Hurts.
  3. The run game might help neutralize some of the pass rush mismatches the Chiefs own, as noted above.
  4. The Eagles' personnel is not equipped to be successful dropping back and throwing 40 times. 
  5. The Chiefs are bad at stopping the run.

On that last point, here's what the Chiefs have done against the run this season:

Chiefs run D Stat Rank 
Rushing yards allowed 481 31st 
Yards per carry allowed 5.4 30th 
Rushing TDs allowed 32nd 
Rushes of 20+ yards allowed T-31st 
Rushing first downs allowed 30 32nd 
Percentage of rushes resulting in a first down 33.7% 32nd 

In conclusion, at the risk of sounding like a slack-jawed, drooling troglodyte, I believe the Eagles should try to run it with their backs more than three times on Sunday against the Chiefs.

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