Eagles-Bengals: 3 matchups to watch
The Eagles (0-2) will look to recover from another gut-wrenching loss this afternoon in a tilt with the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2).
On paper, today's game appears like an ideal spot to right the ship for the Eagles, who are desperately striving for cohesiveness on both sides of the football. However, the Bengals feature rookie wunderkind Joe Burrow under center, along with a host of offensive weapons at his disposal.
Both teams will have obstacles to overcome in pursuit of their first win, so let's take a look at three less apparent matchups to watch.
DE Brandon Graham vs. RT Bobby Hart
The Eagles' defensive line should feast against a porous Cincinnati offensive line that many believe to be the worst in football. While the Bengals' protection leaves much to be desired, the Eagles will have a chance to pounce on a faulty right side anchored by right tackle Bobby Hart.
Hart, who allowed six sacks and committed seven penalties last season, struggled mightily against the Browns on Thursday Night Football. Originally a seventh-round pick of the New York Giants in 2015, Hart has appeared in 67 games (55 starts). He joined the Bengals ahead of the 2018 season -- where he started all 16 games at right tackle.
Hart is a largely flawed player that lacks refinement in his technique and is susceptible to frequent mental lapses as well as choppy footwork.
Graham, who struggled against the Rams last Sunday, should bounce back nicely against the Bengals. The squatty defensive end wins with leverage, power, and get-off. I anticipate him putting Hart on skates and getting to Burrow early.
NCB Nickell Robey-Coleman VS. WR Tyler Boyd
In two games, Robey-Coleman has surrendered nine receptions on nine targets for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Boyd, the Bengals' most diverse pass-catcher, has reeled in a team-leading 11 receptions for 105 yards a touchdown on 13 targets.
Something has to give.
Robey-Coleman has struggled with click-and-close technique and often arrives late when breaking on the football. When receivers enter his zone with a full head of steam, they evade his tackle attempts and churn out additional yardage.
The 5-foot-7 Robey-Coleman will face his stiffest test yet in Boyd. The 6-foot-2 pass-catcher can play inside or outside but has thrived working out of the slot and taking advantage of the extra room to maneuver. Boyd is a quarterback-friendly target, a deceptive route runner, and regularly creates separation at the top of his patterns.
The front four will need to generate early pressure and not allow Burrow to get into an early rhythm with Boyd -- or it will be a long game of pitch-and-catch.
Eagles' special teams vs. KR Brandon Wilson and PR Alex Erickson
Dave Fipp's special teams unit has been hit hard by injuries in the first two weeks.
Safety Rudy Ford and cornerback Craig James -- the team's gunners -- have been placed on injured reserve. With their top coverage specialists on the mend, the unit could have its work cut out for them containing the formidable Brandon Wilson and Alex Erickson.
Wilson, a reserve safety, finished sixth in the NFL in kick return yardage in 2019 (625), returning one for a 92-yard touchdown. Through two games, Wilson ranks first in return yard average (43.7). The Shreveport, Louisiana native is more of an explosive north-south runner than an elusive, make-you-miss returner. Still, if the Eagles don't maintain lane discipline and flow to the football with urgency, Wilson will make them pay.
Erickson, a backup receiver, is more of a slippery, elusive returner with quick-witted decision-making. Erickson doesn't create his yards with explosiveness and speed, but rather decisiveness and vision. He's yielded 29 yards on two punt returns, but not having coverage kamikazes like James and Ford sealing the edges puts the spotlight on a player like Marcus Epps.
Epps, who has been an asset on special teams, has played a team-high 49 third phase snaps -- accounting for nearly 84 percent of the total.
A special teams gaffe could prove to be detrimental In a game where the margin for error is small for two winless teams.