Eagles-Cardinals: 3 matchups to watch on Sunday
The Eagles (4-8-1) travel to Glendale, Ariz., to take on the Cardinals (7-6) Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
The Cardinals, who sport a prolific aerial attack under second-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury, enter Week 15 with much to play for. With three games remaining, the team remains in the hunt for a coveted playoff spot.
Standing in the Cardinals' way, of course, is a recently resurgent Eagles team who appear to have new life with rookie signal-caller Jalen Hurts at the controls.
Without further ado, let's take a look at three matchups to watch this afternoon.
WR Jalen Reagor vs. CB Dre Kirkpatrick
Two weeks ago, Jalen Hurts connected with Reagor on a perfectly-placed 34-yard bomb down the sideline at Lambeau Field. Many assumed the downfield connection between the two rookies would be a sign of things to come last week, but the deep shot never came.
Well, technically it did -- it was just ended up being a blatant misfire from the first-year signal-caller.
Reagor, who will presumably draw Dre Kirkpatrick in coverage, should be able to separate downfield with regularity on Sunday afternoon. Kirkpatrick plays an extremely physical game, relying on his length and technique to win his matchups. The veteran tends to be handsy when defending quicker pass-defenders and often endures bouts of mental lapses. While Kirkpatrick has a wealth of experience on his side, he lacks the requisite quickness and long speed to contend with Reagor downfield.
DT Javon Hargrave vs. Cardinals' interior OL
Hargrave has come on over the past five weeks, racking up 9 tackles (4.0 for loss), 3.5 sacks, and 11 combined QB pressures and hits. After overcoming an early-season injury and adjusting to Jim Schwartz's attack-based scheme, Hargrave is living up to his billing.
While teams focus their attention on limiting Fletcher Cox's production, Hargrave has reaped the benefits. His potent blend of power, lateral quickness and leverage make him a tough assignment for interior linemen.
This week, Hargrave should feast on an underwhelming Cardinals' interior, that features left guard Justin Pugh, center Mason Cole, and right guard Justin Murray. Cole is vastly undersized and tips the scale at just over 290 pounds. He should struggle to initiate movement at the point of attack.
With the speedy Kyler Murray a home-run threat outside the pocket, generating interior pressure will be paramount to the defense's success.
CB Jalen Mills vs. WR DeAndre Hopkins
Injuries have decimated a razor-thin Eagles' secondary, leaving the team with a bare cupboard going into a game against an explosive passing attack. On Sunday, Mills will be the only healthy starter in the defensive backfield.
The 26-year-old's transition from cornerback to safety has been a mixed bag this season, but with few options to turn to, the team must entrust the polarizing defender to fulfill a more substantial role. More specifically, look for Mills to move from safety back to cornerback -- where he's likely to draw Cardinals' all-world wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in coverage.
What Mills lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in grit and savvy football intellect. Speed deficient and often victimized by double moves, Mills must play a physical brand of football and remain technically sound. The veteran isn't short on bravado, which helps. However, in a matchup against what many believe to be the NFL's top receiver, that only goes so far.
Mills will allow his catches and will undoubtedly be tested deep at some point, but he must challenge the catch point and force Hopkins into contested-catch situations.
The team will need a repeat performance from the front-four to alleviate pressure from an undermanned back end.