More Sports:

February 07, 2023

Eagles vs. Chiefs: Five matchups to watch, when the Eagles have the ball

The Eagles offense vs. the Chiefs defense creates these five matchups.

Eagles NFL
020723JalenHurts Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Jalen Hurts

Super Bowl LVII is now only five days away, so let's start looking at the most noteworthy matchups, starting with when the Eagles have the ball.

1) The Eagles' interior offensive line vs. Chiefs star DT Chris Jones

Chris Jones is a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year honors along with the 49ers' Nick Bosa and the Cowboys' Micah Parsons. Jones should win, but the award will likely go to Bosa. He is by far the Chiefs' best player on defense, capable of dominating either at DT or DE, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo tries to get him matched up against the opposing offensive line's weakest link.

In Week 4 against the Eagles last season, the Eagles' offensive line looked like this:

 Andre DillardLandon Dickerson Jason Kelce Nate Herbig Jack Driscoll 

If you'll recall, Driscoll had an emergency start after Lane Johnson unexpectedly showed up on the inactive list with a "personal matter" later revealed to be Johnson's battle with anxiety. In that game, the Chiefs often lined up Jones on the edges.

The entire Eagles offensive line will have to prepare for Jones, who was a nightmare for the Bengals' offense last Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. Here he is beating their right tackle in a wide-9 look:

Here he is wrecking the left guard with power, and drawing a holding call against the center:

He beats the left guard again: 

Here he gets the RG to whiff on a run play and the back is swallowed up immediately.

Here he puts the right guard on roller skates: 

And a little cross chop against the right guard: 

Anyway, you get it. Dude is a beast. All five linemen are forced to prepare for Jones, but my guess is that the Chiefs won't waste him against Johnson, the best offensive lineman in the NFL, or Jordan Mailata, who can occasionally struggle with speed but is well equipped to handle a big, powerful rusher like Jones. 

Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, and Isaac Seumalo need to be on their "A game" in this matchup.

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

The Eagles' starting five along the offensive line are all "home-grown," in that they were all drafted by the Eagles.

• LT Jordan Mailata, 7th round, 2018
• LG Landon Dickerson, 2nd round, 2021
• C Jason Kelce, 6th round, 2011
• RG Isaac Seumalo, 3rd round, 2017
• RT Lane Johnson, 1st round, 2013

All of the Eagles' offensive line starters are very talented, but they also have a lot of experience playing together. The last time the Eagles were in the Super Bowl, their offensive line was performing at an extremely high level. Jeff Stoutland likened their continuity to "synchronized swimming." 

Go read THIS. It's good. It's a detailed example of a small thing the Eagles' line did that broke a big LeGarrette Blount run against the Patriots. Did you read it? Cool. Well, the Eagles' offensive line was operating on a similar level against the 49ers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.

I enjoy "The QB School" videos by former backup NFL quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, who broke down the Eagles' NFC Championship Game win over the 49ers. He typically focuses on quarterback play, but in the below video, he shows some examples of the Eagles' offensive line executing assignments at a high level. Check out the 10:50, 13:04, 14:33 marks below:

That was against the best defense in the NFL. While the Eagles had meager yards per rush numbers last Sunday, it's still pretty easy to see that the offensive line is in sync. It is a major luxury to be able to count on that in any game, and the Chiefs will have to find answers for the wide assortment of ways the Eagles put opposing defenses in conflict in the run game.

3) A.J Brown and DeVonta Smith vs. the Chiefs' inexperienced cornerbacks

The Chiefs' top three cornerbacks are L'Jarius Sneed (26), Trent McDuffie (22), and Jaylen Watson (24). McDuffie and Watson are both rookies. McDuffie was a first-round pick; Watson was a seventh-round pick. Sneed and McDuffie start, with McDuffie moving inside to the slot and Watson playing on the outside in nickel.

Sneed is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. He's an outstanding tackler (108 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles), and he also had 3 INTs in 2022. The Chiefs occasionally had Sneed travel with the opposing offense's best receiver. 

Here are the Chiefs' corners' defensive stats when targeted in 2022, per ProFootballReference: 

 Chiefs CBsTargets Completions TD-INT QB rating 
 L'Jarius Sneed104 69 4-3 84.2 
 Trent McDuffie51 27 3-0 86.5 
 Jaylen Watson71 46 5-1 103.9 

Expect the Eagles to play their share of 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE), getting Watson onto the field and trying to take advantage of that matchup with their pair of No. 1 receivers in Brown and Smith. Watson is a physical corner, but he can struggle with quicker receivers. The slick route-running Smith could be a particularly challenging matchup for Watson, and Brown is essentially unjammable at the line. Is unjammable a word? Well, it is now.

The Chiefs have to be careful if they choose to pack the box to slow down the run game, leaving these young corners exposed on the back end.

4) Dallas Goedert vs. the Chiefs' red zone defense

The Chiefs allowed nine touchdowns to opposing tight ends in 2022. Only four teams allowed more. I found a bunch of them and tried to identify a common flaw in the Chiefs' red zone defense. I failed to find any specific scheme snafus, but the one commonality was that the scoring tight ends were often wide open.

Above we noted the Eagles' advantages in the run game and on the outside with their receivers. Goedert could be in for a big day if the Chiefs' attention is focused elsewhere.

5) Jalen Hurts vs. Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo

Since returning to the field from his sprained shoulder injury, Hurts has not had the same accuracy on his throws to the intermediate and deeper parts of the field. Notably, he had a couple of overthrows to A.J. Brown against the 49ers that could have gone for big plays.

Spagnuolo has a reputation as a heavy blitzer, but he dialed it back quite a bit in 2022. I would expect Spags to try to contain Hurts within the pocket and make him prove he can place his throws with the same accuracy that he showed the first three months of the season. 

Follow Jimmy & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @JimmyKempski | thePhillyVoice

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports

Add Jimmy's RSS feed to your feed reader