This game probably could be the season for the Washington Commanders.
They are in freefall right now, losers of four of their last five games, which includes coming off a 14-7 loss to the New York Giants last week. Washington has been held to a field goal in one game (37-3 loss to Buffalo) and last week’s anemic output produced a season-low one offensive touchdown.
About the only player who could cause the Eagles any problems in Week 8 of their NFC East matchup against the Washington Commanders at FedExField at 1 p.m. is receiver Terry McLaurin, who caught a team-high eight pass for 86 yards—53 yards coming in the air, 33 coming after the catch—on 10 targets, averaging 10.8 yards a catch, the last time these teams.
He’ll be the Commanders’ highest priority once again, and is especially dangerous in the slot, where he can be dangerous.
In the second quarter of the Eagles’ 34-31 overtime victory over Washington on October 1, there were times when the Eagles’ defense failed to even pick up McLaurin. On a third-and-four at the Washington 41, McLaurin was completely wide open down the field for a 24-yard gain—and there was no one within five yards of him before the catch. Was cornerback Darius Slay supposed to pick him up or pass him off to safeties Reed Blankenship or former Eagle safety Terrell Edmunds?
Maybe newly acquired Eagles’ safety Kevin Byard helps clean some of that up.
McLaurin’s 432 receiving yards (61.7 yards per game) leads the Commanders. His 37 catches on 51 targets are also team highs. Against the Eagles, he’s done particularly well, catching a career 53 passes on 69 targets and three touchdowns for 784 yards, averaging 14.79 yards a catch.
The Commanders, though they have a dubious offensive line, are throwing the ball 36.6 times a game, which is ranked sixth overall in the NFL, though Washington has given up an NFL-high 40 sacks. The Eagles’ defense is coming off its best performance this year against a quality team, allowing one offensive touchdown in their 31-17 victory over Miami.
Overall, the Eagles’ defense is sixth in the NFL, surrendering 290.3 yards a game, but if they have a weakness, it is on pass defense, where they rank No. 21 in the league giving up an average of 227.4 yards allowed per game and allowing 9.2 yard a catch.
One way to remedy McLaurin is put Darius Slay on him wherever he goes on the field.
The 31 points Washington scored is a season-high against the Eagles this season.
Will familiarity aid or detract from the Eagles’ defense this time around? The Eagles faced the Commanders four weeks ago.
“I think you just try to approach it like any other game.” Eagles’ defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “Obviously, you saw them against you. There’s a little bit of history — of recent history with them, but we’ve got to go in and take the mindset of we’ve got to put our best foot forward, prepare the way we need to prepare, and get a plan together that we think puts our players in the best position to counteract what they do. They have a lot of skill. They have a lot of good pieces on that offense that can move the ball, and you’ve seen it throughout this year.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a hall of fame, award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.