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October 19, 2023

Eagles vs. Dolphins: Five matchups to watch

Ahead of the Eagles' Sunday Night Football game against the Dolphins, here are five positional matchups that could define the evening.

Eagles NFL
101823TyreekHill David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

These guys are fast.

The Philadelphia Eagles will host the Miami Dolphins in a battle of explosive 5-1 teams on Sunday Night Football. Here are our five matchups to watch.

1) The Eagles' cornerbacks vs. the Dolphins' insane speed at WR

The Vikings' Justin Jefferson is widely regarded as the best wide receiver in the NFL, but Tyreek Hill should be part of that conversation as well. He is probably the fastest player in the NFL, and he leads the league in receiving.

Player Rec Yards YPC TD 
 Tyreek Hill, MIA 42814 19.4 6 
 A.J. Brown, PHI  42 672 16.0 
 Stefon Diggs, BUF  49 620 12.7 
 Puka Nacua, LAR  50 598 12.0 
 DJ Moore, CHI 32582 18.2 

Hill is on pace for 119 catches for 2306 yards and 17 TDs. Here he is dusting the Panthers' Donte Jackson for a TD Week 6. Jackson runs a 4.32.

But Hill isn't just fast on straightaways. He is also incredibly shifty, and can accelerate in a flash.

And then there's Jaylen Waddle, who the Dolphins selected with the 6th overall pick in the 2021 draft. He too is blazing fast. 

In 2022, Waddle had 75 catches for 1356 yards, a league-leading 18.1 yards per catch, and 8 TDs.

The Eagles have not yet faced a challenge this difficult this season, on either side of the ball. Their starting secondary:

• CB1 Darius Slay: Limited participant in practice on Wednesday with a knee injury.
• CB2 James Bradberry: Healthy.
• Slot CB Avonte Maddox: IR.
• S Reed Blankenship: DNP on Wednesday with a ribs injury.
• S Justin Evans: IR.

Recently signed slot CB Bradley Roby will also likely be out with a shoulder injury.

You do not want to be shorthanded in the secondary against the Dolphins. Slay will be the most important player to monitor as the week progresses.

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

The Dolphins have the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL in several statistical categories:

 Dolphins rushing attackStat NFL Rank 
 Yards per game181.8 
 Yards per attempt6.5 
Rushing TDs 15 
 Rushes of 20+ yards12 
 Rushes of 40+ yards
 Rushing fumbles

The Dolphins' two leading rushers are De'Von Achane and Raheem Mostert. Achane is a speed freak who ran a 4.32 at the NFL Combine. He only has 38 carries this season, but he has 460 yards (an insane 12.1 YPC), and 5 TDs on the ground, with 9 catches for 67 yards and 2 TDs through the air. He is on injured reserve, so the Eagles are fortunate to not have to gameplan for him. Mostert is another fast back. He has 75 carries for 425 yards and 9 (!) TDs, with 18 catches for 145 yards and 2 TDs.

The Eagles, meanwhile, have the No. 2 run defense, as they have allowed just 65.8 rushing yards per game. 

Sean Desai was asked about how his defense can compensate for a mismatch in speed.

"I wouldn't say it's a mismatch but one thing that we always want to pride ourselves on defense is playing physical," he said. "And in my experience, even going back to my days at Temple and coaching special teams, speed can hurt you, but physicality can hurt speed. We want to be able to counteract that and we want to be able to swarm the ball carriers and run and make sure we are around the ball as much as we can be, and bring in a lot of bodies around the ball and try to get back to create some turnovers and getting the ball out as well."

It's worth noting that Mostert has three fumbles this season.

3) Where might the Eagles go feastin'? 🍗

When healthy, the Dolphins' offensive line would normally look like this:

Terron Armstead Isaiah Wynn Connor Williams Robert Hunt Austin Jackson 

Armstead is one of the NFL's best left tackles, and an athletic specimen.

Armstead's 4.71 40 in 2013 is the best ever by an offensive tackle at the NFL Combine. Lane Johnson is second with a 4.72 40, which he ran the same year. Armstead is on injured reserve, and won't play on Sunday. Huge loss. Journeyman Kendall Lamm, who has played for four teams since 2020, has filled in at LT for Armstead this season. 

You may also remember Connor Williams from his days as the Cowboys' starting LG. He is now the Dolphins' starting center, and has been dealing with a groin injury. He missed Miami's Week 4 loss in Buffalo, he played Week 5 against the Giants, and then missed Week 6 against the Panthers. In the two games he missed, Liam Eichenberg filled in at center. Against Buffalo, Eichenberg had a brutal performance, allowing 2 sacks, a QB hit, 5 pressures, and he had a penalty. It was the first time Eichenberg had ever played center in an NFL game. He did play better Week 6 against the Panthers.

This is not a great offensive line as currently constructed. The Eagles should have significant matchup advantages with Josh Sweat against Lamm, Haason Reddick against Austin Jackson, and take your pick of the Eagles' interior defensive linemen against LG Isaiah Wynn and whoever plays at center, whether that's Eichenberg or an injury-hampered Williams.

Of course, the Dolphins' mediocre O-line is protected by Tua Tagovailoa, who gets the ball out faster than any other quarterback in the NFL, at an average of 2.37 seconds. By comparison, Jalen Hurts is getting it out at an average of 3.06 seconds.

#FeastinMeter: 4/10 turkey legs 🍗🍗🍗🍗

4) The Eagles' receivers vs. the Dolphins' corners

While Miami's offense is explosive, their defense has not been very good so far this season, and there's a chance they will be without both starting corners on Sunday night. 

Jalen Ramsey suffered a meniscus injury in training camp, and had surgery to repair it. He was originally expected to return to the field sometime in December, however, he is way ahead of schedule, as the Dolphins' opened up his 21-day practice window and he practiced on Wednesday. Head coach Mike McDaniel said this week that Ramsey would not play on Sunday against the Eagles.

Xavien Howard is the other starting corner. He has 29 career INTs in 93 games. He was a non-participant in practice on Wednesday. If Howard can't go, the Dolphins' corners would likely be Eli Apple, Kader Kohou, and Parry Nickerson.

The Eagles had the fortune of playing a Jets team Week 6 that was without Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed. A.J. Brown took advantage of his matchups, but the rest of the Eagles' offense did not.

Vic Fangio's defense is of course predicated on not allowing explosive plays. His defense is allowing passes to be completed at a 69.4 percent clip, but only 6.6 yards per attempt. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles receivers may have to be patient and take what is there. 

5) The Eagles' offensive line vs. the memory of Week 6

The Eagles don't often get bullied in the trenches, but they did Week 6 against the Jets on the offensive side of the ball. Eagles running backs had 14 carries for 33 yards (2.4 YPC) against the Jets, and the offensive line failed to give Jalen Hurts adequate protection. The Eagles' O-line is a prideful group and they will be looking to bounce back from their worst performance in a long time. 

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