What We Saw: Commanders at Eagles

We're calling this one the Joey Slye/Terry McLaurin joint game...

Commanders @ Eagles

Final Score: Commanders 32, Eagles 21

Writer: Adam Sloate (@MrAdster99 on Twitter)

 

The first half was a tale of two quarters, with the Eagles dominating to start off, jumping out to a 14-7 lead. Washington struck back with 13 unanswered in the second quarter, thanks to some impressive poise from Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke. Further aiding the Commanders’ success was the Eagles’ soft zone coverage on receivers, which allowed for consistent, measured gains, and Washington’s success in the ground game, which complemented their gains through the air.

That didn’t really continue into the second half, as Philadelphia was able to make some adjustments and hold them to just 6 non-garbage time points. The Eagles developed butterfingers in the second half, fully unable to handle the ball once it was placed in skill players’ hands. Multiple fumbles, drops, and other miscues stalled the Eagles on virtually every drive, making it very difficult to even the score. The Commanders smartly drew some penalties and avoided making mistakes at the same rate as the Eagles, which helped Washington hold on for a huge upset win.

 

Washington Commanders

 

Quarterback

 

Taylor Heinicke: 17/29, 211 yards, 1 INT | 3 sacks

 

Heinicke was…fine? He avoided mistakes for the most part and completed enough passes to keep drives going. In the first half, the Eagles focused on stopping the run and tried to force Heinicke to beat them through the air. He was able to find open receivers in soft zone coverage, and in the second half, the Eagles moved to more man-to-man coverage looks. It slowed Heinicke down a bit, but he was able to make plays like this to burn the Philadelphia secondary:

 

 

The Eagles also struggled to get pressure on Heinicke in the first half; he was able to sit in the pocket and pick apart the soft defense as he pleased. Heinicke may not be the best passer out there, but anyone worth their salt can stand in the pocket with no pressure and find open receivers like Heinicke did. All the sacks they picked up were later in the game.

Perhaps the most impressive Heinicke play was on what should have been the final play of the Commanders’ drive at the end of the fourth quarter. With the Eagles forcing Heinicke out of the pocket and nowhere to go, Heinicke slid to the ground to declare himself down and avoid further punishment. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Brandon Graham and Haason Reddick were already hard charging and couldn’t really move out of the way of the hits on Heinicke. They hit him after he had declared himself down, and the referees were able to spot the easy — albeit a little cheap, but correct — unnecessary roughness call. It was the NFL version of taking a charge and props should go out to Heinicke for making the smart play and declaring himself “down” before the contact.

 

 

Don’t start Heinicke in fantasy unless you’re really desperate. He’s a fine game manager but not anything else.

 

Running Back

 

Brian Robinson Jr.: 26 carries, 86 yards, 1 TD

Antonio Gibson: 14 carries, 44 yards, 1 TD | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 14 yards

 

Winner: Volume

Loser: Efficiency

The Commanders were able to move the ball quite effectively in the first half, as Robinson ripped off 6, 7, and 8-yard gains with relative ease. The Eagles’ front, which hasn’t been especially stout against the run, couldn’t really contain Robinson and Gibson, even when they knew a run was in the works. Plus, when Brian Robinson is running like this, it’s hard to stop:

The second half was a totally different story, as Robinson and Gibson weren’t able to find a whole lot of running room. Their yards per carry dropped dramatically, as the Eagles were able to key in on their runs and, despite a lot of fancy footwork from Robinson, he just couldn’t rip off the big runs like he did in the first.

I’m not surprised by the carry distribution here, as the Commanders had the game script in their favor for much of the second half. The Eagles couldn’t complete a pass if their lives depended on it, so Washington kept running the ball, taking the fantastic field placement that their defense set them up with, and took the points when they could. When Washington’s trailing in future games, Gibson is likely to be the guy they look to, especially through the air. As much as we in the fantasy community loved Brian Robinson to start the season, the failure to really move the ball through the air is going to hinder his production, even when he’s getting 26 carries in a game.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Terry McLaurin: 11 targets, 8 receptions, 128 yards

Curtis Samuel: 4 targets, 2 catches, 28 yards

Logan Thomas: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 12 yards

Dyami Brown: 1 target, 1 reception, 15 yards

Jahan Dotson: 1 target, 1 reception, 14 yards

 

Terry McLaurin investors may rejoice, as McLaurin had his best game of the season today, in terms of yardage accumulated, targets, and receptions. He was matched up with Darius Slay often, but Slay, who has shut down guys like Justin Jefferson and has profiled as one of the best corners in the league this year, was getting burned constantly. He looked absolutely lost against McLaurin, so the Eagles had C.J. Gardner-Johnson helping cover McLaurin later in the game.

Here’s Heinicke’s interception. You can see McLaurin torching Slay to start off the play, and Gardner-Johnson having to come over to help out:

Unfortunately for McLaurin, Heinicke’s pass is underthrown, and Gardner-Johnson grabs it out of the air. If that ball is thrown further downfield, with a little more oomph on it, McLaurin might have had a TD.

The other members of the receiving corps had a quiet night. When McLaurin is cooking, the running game is working, and the Commanders have the lead, like last night, they don’t really need to include the other guys in the passing game. Heinicke isn’t good enough as a passer to facilitate big workloads for everyone, so the Commanders aren’t going to make investing in any of those other guys worth your while as a fantasy manager.

 

Philadelphia Eagles

 

Quarterback

 

Jalen Hurts: 17/26, 175 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack | 6 carries, 28 yards, 1 TD

 

Hurts’ stat line doesn’t look great, but it really shouldn’t be a cause for concern moving forward. He still tacked on the rushing TD with his standard tough running:

Plus, Hurts was able to use the threat of his legs to trick the defense into overcompensating against the run, opening up an easy TD for Dallas Goedert early:

He had a couple of well-designed runs, and mixed in some downfield throws to keep the defense honest. Not a bad performance by any means, since he picked up 21.8 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues, but not the brilliant stat accumulation we’ve come to expect.

The thing that really bugged the Eagles’ receiving corps all night and hampered Hurts’ stat line were some awful drops and general tomfoolery. A prime example of that “general tomfoolery”  came early in the second quarter, on Hurts’ interception. Make no mistake, this is a pretty solid throw from Hurts, albeit into double coverage:

The ball hits A.J. Brown in the hands:

It’s Hurts’ fault the ball was thrown into double coverage for Brown, but just two weeks ago, Brown was feasting on double coverage from Steelers’ defenders and making them look absolutely silly. So, we can’t totally discount Hurts for trying it again. Plus, the ball hits Brown in the hands! If he holds on, we’re extolling Hurts for a brilliant throw to the Eagles’ best weapon, but the defender, Darrick Forest, made an excellent play on the ball, and Hurts has an interception on his stat line.

To be clear, I’m not worried about Hurts moving forward, but it isn’t great to see Hurts’ main flaw — failing to look downfield for more than a few seconds and not letting the play develop or letting his receivers get open — manifest in a key point in the game:

This flaw has manifested itself occasionally throughout the season, and it’s been one of the things holding Hurts back from some truly monster performances. He’s not letting the play develop long enough for the receivers to get open, which then turns into him trying to force the ball up the field on the ground, with his legs. He doesn’t do it all the time, especially because the Eagles’ offensive line mostly keeps the pocket clean, but tonight it manifested itself when he needed a big play.

 

Running Back

 

Miles Sanders: 12 carries, 54 yards | 1 target

Boston Scott: 1 carry, 5 yards

Kenneth Gainwell: 1 carry, 7 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards

 

The game script was a little negative for Sanders, with the Eagles trailing for the entire second half. But, it was still puzzling to see him and the entire running game underutilized against the Washington front. The Eagles never trailed by more than 9 points, so it’s not like they needed to desperately conserve clock and completely discard Sanders.

Philadelphia has been able to run on just about everyone successfully, and Sanders was still averaging over 4 yards per carry tonight. However, the Eagles seemed to want Hurts throwing the ball more often, and Sanders was used pretty sparingly. It was tough to see him sit idly by, especially when the Philadelphia receivers couldn’t handle the ball very well. I would still start him with confidence next week.

It was also very difficult to watch Gainwell drop an easy completion on Philadelphia’s final drive of the first half. It was an ugly incompletion, and emblematic of the whole offense’s failure to deliver even when given golden opportunities to produce.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Devonta Smith: 8 Targets, 6 Receptions, 39 Yards, 1 TD

A.J. Brown: 4 Targets, 1 Reception, 7 Yards

Dallas Goedert: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 23 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble lost

Quez Watkins: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 80 yards, 1 fumble lost

 

I don’t expect anything to change fantasy-wise after this week. The Eagles’ receivers made countless mistakes tonight, which is a huge part of what ultimately lost them the game and may have lost investors a fantasy matchup. Don’t give up on Brown or Dallas Goedert. This will probably be the type of dud the Eagles should quickly move on from.

 

A list of the Eagles’ glaring receiving mistakes:

First, there was the Brown interception, which was mentioned previously.

Next, there was Dallas Goedert’s fumble on the second drive of the second half:

The referees missed this one, clear as day:

Fumbles are reviewable and facemask calls are not, so Goedert got credit for the fumble and the Commanders turned it into 3 points.

Then, there was this mind-boggling play from Quez Watkins:

Watkins may have hit a season-high in yardage tonight, but given his track record this season, with no more than 4 targets in any game this year, there’s no reason to make him a speculative add.

 

Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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