What We Saw: Week 8

The What We Saw Team recaps all of the Sunday action from Week 8 of the 2023 NFL season

Eagles @ Commanders

Final Score: Eagles 38, Commanders 31

Writer: Adam Sloate (@MrAdster99 on X/Twitter)


Just like their meeting a few weeks ago in Philadelphia, the Commanders took it to the Eagles in the first half, as Sam Howell threw all of three incompletions through the first two quarters. Washington shredded Philadelphia’s defense, which was coming off a huge performance against the Dolphins, using almost exclusively the middle of the field to do so. Howell sat back, got rid of the football quickly, and took bruising hit after bruising hit in the pocket to keep the offense humming. It was a masterful offensive gameplan from OC Eric Bienemy, who has certainly figured something out about this Eagles defense that few others have. The Eagles, meanwhile, couldn’t get out of their own way in the first quarter and a half, with Kenneth Gainwell fumbling the ball around the 5-yard line on one drive and settling for a disappointing field goal on another. It took a heroic grab from A.J. Brown (because who else?) late in the second quarter to get the Eagles on the board in a meaningful sense in the first half.

The second half started out ugly for Philadelphia as well; Jalen Hurts fumbled the ball on a “Brotherly Shove” on the goal line on what was likely to have been the game-tying score. But the Eagles made some adjustments, held Washington to just 7 points in non-garbage time, and answered with several touchdowns of their own. Leading the charge for Philadelphia’s offense was, unsurprisingly, Brown, who again roasted Washington’s coverage units to move the chains whenever necessary. After the Eagles had tied the game, Washington retook the lead on an excellent touchdown catch from Logan Thomas, pushing the Commanders up 24-17.  But that was the last time they would lead, as Philadelphia evened the game at 24 thanks to a DeVonta Smith touchdown, then forced their first and only turnover of the game on a Sam Howell interception — one of the few mistakes he’d make throughout the day. Then, Julio Jones grabbed his first touchdown as an Eagle to give Philadelphia their first lead of the day. D’Andre Swift woke up for an unexpected touchdown of his own from the Brotherly Shove formation to essentially ice the game late, as the Eagles were able to shake off a terrific effort from Washington to improve to 7-1.

Three Up:

  • Jalen Hurts: Produced a monster performance, even with a leg injury that is hampering his ability to escape opposing rushers and tack on rushing yardage downfield. Hurts tacked on 4 passing TDs and 300 passing yards.
  • Sam Howell: Howell looked invincible behind this Commanders offensive line. He picked apart the Eagles’ secondary, getting the ball out of his hands absurdly quickly; he tallied nearly 400 passing yards and 4 TDs as a result.
  • Terry McLaurin: “Scary Terry” finally found the end zone this week, while also replicating his strong performances from weeks prior. He had a target share worthy of a WR1 and converted enough of his looks to make his fantasy managers very happy.

Three Down: 

  • Dallas Goedert: A slow day at the office for Goedert, who saw teammates A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith tally strong fantasy performances. With only so much food to feed the many mouths of this Eagles offense, Goedert was the one getting left behind this week.
  • Brian Robinson Jr.: Let me explain. Robinson looked terrific as a runner; it’s not often a player earns over 5 yards per carry against this Eagles’ defensive front. However, Robinson didn’t see enough carries nor enough passing work to make that electric performance fantasy-relevant. In full PPR leagues, Robinson amassed a mere 9.9 points but could’ve gotten a lot more with additional attention from Offensive Coordinator Eric Bienemy. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see BRJ cook in full when the gamescript allowed for such.
  • Kenneth Gainwell: While both Eagles running backs struggled to get much going on the ground in the first half, Gainwell really struggled to get anything going and didn’t see much work through the air. He’s fallen a long way from the RB split that Philadelphia was promoting in the early weeks of the season, and fumbling at the goal line won’t help his cause.


Philadelphia Eagles




Jalen Hurts: 29/38, 319 yards, 4 TDs | 4 carries, 6 yards, 1 fumble lost

Hurts was masterful today, both from statistical and eye test standpoints, although I’d still like to see him take better care of the ball to allow him to reach his fantasy ceiling. He’s been a little careless with the ball this season, and that continued this week in the form of an ugly fumble.

Ball security notwithstanding, Hurts diced up Washington’s defense from the pocket despite nursing a leg injury that he picked up at some point against the Jets. Hurts played through it last week against the Dolphins, and it hindered his rushing total. It looked like the injury affected him again this week while moving around in the pocket. The key for Hurts this week was connecting with defenders just beyond the sticks; he found his check-downs just fine, but he also killed the Commanders’ defense on routes that were 10-20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, which is key to fantasy value as a non-mobile QB.


  • Hurts was bailed out a bit on this 4th-and-short play, as it was unlikely that DeVonta Smith ultimately completed this catch. The Eagles, as well-coached as they are, pushed the pace on the next play and were able to snap the ball before Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera challenged the ruling of a completed pass.

  • Hurts throws a DOT to get this ball to Julio Jones, who is sandwiched between two defenders in the end zone. If the ball comes out slower, there’s a chance this pass turns into an interception or Jones gets his head taken off by a defender:

Missed Opportunities:

  • Fantasy investors will not be pleased to see that Hurts couldn’t handle the football on a “Brotherly Shove” early in the third quarter, which would have added 6 more points to his already-lofty fantasy total:

Running Back


D’Andre Swift: 16 carries, 57 yards, 1 TD | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 7 yards

Swift was a bit of an afterthought in the first half today, tallying just one carry in the first 30 minutes. The Eagles in total had just nine rushing yards at the half, inclusive of carries by Swift, Gainwell, and Hurts. With the Commanders’ defensive line getting the better of the Eagles’ offensive line for much of the half, it’s not much of a surprise that they couldn’t get much going. Washington’s front seven looked like it got the better of Lane Johnson on a few plays in the half, and backup guard Sua Opeta also briefly left the game for a bit, forcing the Eagles to call on third-stringer Tyler Steen for a spell.

Philadelphia made a couple of adjustments in the second half to open up the run game, literally just running away from Washingon’s top interior linemen and towards the outside, and the outside offensive linemen tightened up their play just a tad. This allowed Swift enough space to make a few things happen. The cherry on top was his score on a beauty of a fake to ice the game for the Eagles; it parlayed their success on the “Brotherly Shove” into a derivative play call that let Swift waltz into the end zone:

I should also mention this play, which you will likely not see Kenneth Gainwell ever do in a game:


Kenneth Gainwell: 2 Carries, -4 yards, 1 fumble lost | 5 targets, 5 receptions, 30 yards

I covered the Eagles game last week in this column, and I think some of what I wrote there remains true this week:

Gainwell, who stands at an imposing 5 feet and 9 inches and weighs a whopping 201 pounds, is the Eagles’ short-yardage and red zone Guy, and I simply cannot figure out why, given that Philadelphia still has Rashaad Penny on the roster and, at one point, had Trey Sermon waiting on the practice squad, both of whom are, according to the consensus, tougher runners. Gainwell is an extremely solid blocker and excels in pass protection — and thus earns his spot on the field — but that doesn’t necessarily mean he needs to be receiving goal-line carries.

Gainwell’s most important carry of the game was a 1st and goal at the Washington 3-yard-line with 6:48 to go in the second quarter, and he lost the football.

Giving Gainwell a smidge of credit, he did have a nice catch-and-run on a check-down from Hurts. He added 17 yards on the play, which set up the Eagles in Washington territory early in the third quarter.

From a fantasy standpoint, Gainwell’s not worth starting most weeks despite the coaching staff’s confusing desire to give him meaningful, high-value touches. Those forced to start him have to hope that he gets into the end zone, a distinct possibility given that he inexplicably continues to see red zone looks. Nevertheless, he’s still a dart throw at best, as illustrated by the data from this still-relevant, weeks-old Tweet by Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Lee Gowton:


Wide Receiver/Tight End


A.J. Brown: 8 targets, 8 receptions, 130 yards, 2 TDs

Yet another game with at least 125 receiving yards for Arthur Juan Brown. If you’re playing against him in any fantasy league, my condolences. If he’s on your team, I hope you’re enjoying this historic stretch.

This game looked like a carbon copy of the one he played just a few weeks ago against this same Commanders team. Brown feasted on the weak coverage from Emmanuel Forbes and Benjamin St. Juste, and even when he was well-marked, still managed to outmuscle the coverage for touchdowns and big plays. For example, this catch:

He didn’t garner the target share he did last week since the Eagles got more wideouts involved in the passing game, but it didn’t matter for his fantasy production. Hurts trusts Brown and will feed him at any time. Exemplifying this is the fact that on a fourth down deep in Washington territory, needing only one yard, Hurts *still* looked to Brown in the end zone. Brown nearly came down with it, too, but the play was ultimately nullified by a questionable pass interference call assessed against St. Juste.


DeVonta Smith: 7 targets, 7 receptions, 99 yards, 1 TD

Welcome back to the column, Mr. Smith! It’s nice to see him finally getting some usage again, and it was thanks to a new game plan that saw Hurts find Smith a few times in the intermediate middle of the field. In prior weeks, Smith has been a deep downfield and catch specialist threat, with some looks on the outside of the numbers. Today, Hurts found Smith a couple of times in between the numbers 10-20 yards downfield, which really opened up the offense.

Speaking of opened-up, Smith finally scored a touchdown after a 6-week red zone absence on hilariously busted coverage. This turned a good fantasy day into a great one:

Is he back? I can’t say for sure. But this is a really nice performance after weeks of subpar fantasy production.


Dallas Goedert: 7 targets, 4 receptions, 36 yards

Unfortunately, Goedert’s fantasy production this week can be summed up by this classic Harry Potter line: “Neither can live while the other survives.” There are just so many mouths to feed in this offense that one is going to be left out in the cold if A.J. Brown is doing a really good Calvin Johnson impression. This week, it was Goedert, as Hurts looked elsewhere in the red zone and didn’t need to find Goedert in the short game very often since the intermediate stuff was open. On the bright side, he saw the same number of targets as Smith, and just 1 fewer than Brown; those looks simply didn’t translate to points.


Washington Commanders




Sam Howell: 39/52, 397 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT | 3 Carries, 11 yards

Howell and OC Eric Bienemy must have some incredible intel on this Eagles’ defense. In the last two games against Philadelphia, he’s completed 73 percent of his passes and thrown for just shy of 700 yards while notching five touchdown passes. Oh, and he turned the ball over just once in those two games. It was such a brilliant performance this week that commentator Mark Schlereth said late in the game that if Howell played against the Eagles every week, “he’d be in the Hall of Fame.” He made few mistakes, but unfortunately, one of them turned into a go-ahead touchdown that finally turned the tide in Philadelphia’s favor.

Howell and the Commanders’ receiving corps absolutely terrorized the middle of the field this week, feasting on soft zone coverage:

Howell has been sacked a ton this year. In fact, before today, his single-game low for sacks taken was four. Today, Philadelphia’s vaunted defensive line, even if star DT Jalen Carter was banged up at times, was relatively toothless against the Commanders, thanks to a concerted effort to get the ball out quickly.

It seemed like Howell never held the ball for more than 3 seconds at a time, which was necessary because had he held onto the ball for much longer, Howell would’ve taken far more than a single sack. The Eagles once again were above-average in terms of their ability to pressure the QB, but Howell was able to nullify that in large part.


  • Even until the very end, Howell was looking electric. Here’s my favorite, a beauty of a pass to Jamison Crowder for a late garbage time touchdown:


Missed Opportunities:

  • Believe it or not, the Commanders had plenty of opportunities to stack up even more points and yards. On an important drive late in the game Sam Howell hit Terry McLaurin with a couple of passes and McLaurin couldn’t handle them. This first one’s not a great pass by Howell but it hits McLaurin in the face and could’ve been hauled in:

  • This one’s all on McLaurin:

  • And here’s the interception by Reed Blankenship, which looks like it might’ve come off an overthrow by Howell:



Running Back


Brian Robinson Jr.: 10 carries, 59 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards

It’s not often you’ll see a running back rack up over five yards per carry against this Eagles front, but Robinson apparently had a lot in his tank for this matchup. Time and time again, he refused to be taken down on first contact and was able to do some serious downhill running in this game. A lot of his success came in the first half, including his 29-yard rush to set up a later touchdown, but he was still churning out a few impressive gains in the fourth quarter. I wish he’d been utilized in the passing game a bit more since he was clearly running with a lot of spring in his step, but the Commanders opted to go with Antonio Gibson for the majority of the receiving looks. This was truly a fantastic performance from Robinson, even if it wasn’t quite borne out in the fantasy numbers.


Antonio Gibson: 2 carries, 14 yards | 5 targets, 5 receptions, 28 yards

Gibson was the main receiving target today, stripping BRJ of some crucial fantasy value. He didn’t add too much of note for me because he didn’t look particularly explosive or tough in the looks he received. He’s safe on your bench or on the waiver wire, where he’ll continue to annoy Robinson managers.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Jahan Dotson: 10 targets, 8 receptions, 108 yards, 1 TD


Dotson absolutely exposed rookie S Sydney Brown today, getting open time and again for Howell to make easy completions, exemplified by this play:

Brown gets burned by a nice little move by Dotson, and he coasts in for the easy TD. Brown didn’t get much help from his fellow secondary members there, and I think that’ll be sealed up in the future as the Eagles start to integrate Kevin Byard into the defense in place of Terrell Edmunds. But for Dotson: more of that, please! I can’t blame fantasy managers for giving up on him at this point, given that this performance essentially came out of the blue. Until Dotson starts to pick up this kind of target share more consistently, it’s tough to trust him to produce this much every week, though the talent to produce this kind of workload is absolutely there.

Missed Opportunities:

  • This play, which probably doesn’t fit the definition of a catch in that he never had control of the ball:


Jamison Crowder: 7 targets, 7 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD

Talk about coming out of nowhere: Crowder had two targets before today’s game, both of which came in the 20-point loss to Chicago at the beginning of October. Now, he’s suddenly good for seven receptions, nearly 100 yards, and a terrific end-zone grab? Holy cow!


Terry McLaurin: 12 targets, 5 receptions, 63 yards, 1 TD

Notwithstanding the two big incompletions, McLaurin still looked terrific and may be the only high-performing player from this wide receiver room who’s a good bet to post a similar performance next week because his workload was roughly in line with his usage in games against the Giants, Falcons, and Eagles earlier this month.

I really doubt that Dotson’s performance here means trouble for McLaurin’s fantasy output because Howell had what was likely his 99th-percentile performance today, and McLaurin maintained a similar workload to one he’s had in recent weeks. Howell isn’t going to have the kind of performance every week where he can sustain WR1 and TE1 production for multiple receivers. Trust the other data points.

There’s one particular play I wanted to highlight to show just how great McLaurin looked. On this play, he beats James Bradberry and gets open for a nice airborne TD:


Logan Thomas: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 44 yards, 1 TD

Thomas continues to put his abysmal performance against Atlanta behind him, as he burned the Eagles in the middle of the field (sound familiar?) several times. In his last two weeks, Thomas now has 14 targets, 10 receptions, 95 receiving yards, and a TD. That’s fantasy TE1-type stuff. And, if you want to ignore the game against Atlanta and go back to the Chicago game on October 1, Thomas had a monster workload there, too.

This week, he was often matched against Sydney Brown, who doesn’t quite measure up to him in size or weight. Brown is 5 feet, 10 inches, 210 pounds, while Thomas is 6 feet, 6 inches, and 250 pounds. With such a clear mismatch, it was understandable to see Thomas get the football pretty easily in between the 20s. On his touchdown reception, he wins another clear mismatch with Reed Blankenship, who stands at 6 feet and 1 inch:

Now that he’s built up some more rapport with Sam Howell (and assuming he doesn’t get traded before the deadline, Thomas should be a startable tight end option every week. Howell and Eric Bieniemy trust Thomas to poke around the middle of the field and create mismatches in opposing secondaries, which should continue to lead to solid performances in fantasy football’s thinnest position.

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