Eagles-Titans player matchups to watch in Week 13

The Eagles (10-1) will host the Tennessee Titans (7-4) on Sunday afternoon at the Linc.

Here are some key matches to watch:

Derrick Henry vs. Eagles run defense

Last week, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon stepped up to the microphone outside NovaCare Auditorium and was already talking about Aaron Rodgers. Derrick Henry got similar treatment this week.

As Gannon walked away from his press conference, he let out a “King Henry!”

So, yes, we know who the defensive coordinator is thinking about this week.

“I’ve played against this guy a few times, being in this division for three years with him, and he’s a tough task,” Gannon said. “He is one of the best players in the world in his position, so we have our challenge ahead of us.”

Henry, 28, is having another incredible season. He leads the NFL in rushing attempts again with 247 and already has 1,048 yards. He is averaging 95.3 per game after averaging over 100.0 per game in each of his last three seasons. And at 6-3, 247 pounds, everyone knows how hard it is to take him down. Sure, Henry’s average is down to 4.2 yards per carry this season, but he’s getting a lot of carries.

Henry has broken up 25 tackles this season to lead the NFL. To put that into perspective, Miles Sanders, who is running harder than he’s ever run in his career, has nine.

Maybe the Eagles see Henry and the Titans at the right time? Over the past three weeks, against the Broncos, Packers and Bengals, Henry has averaged just 2.78 yards per carry and hasn’t topped 100 yards after five straight 100+ yard games.

But we all know the Eagles have had their struggles to fill a streak this season. They are 18th in rushing yards allowed but 23rd in yards per attempt at 4.7.

Getting big Jordan Davis back for this game would be a big boost because the Eagles seem to be able to stop a run pretty much only when they are in their 5-man front. Having Davis and Linval Joseph take turns as the nose tackle would go a long way. Davis is eligible to return from IR this week after missing four games with a high ankle sprain and has been practicing.

Another note about the titan game: As you’d expect, Ryan Tannehill is very good at the game. His passer rating ranks fourth in the NFL.

Eagles run game vs. Titans run protection

As good as the Titans are at running the football with Henry, they are even better at stopping the run. They are third in the league in yards allowed (930) and are second in yards per attempt at 3.9.

This is a really fun matchup between the strengths of these two teams. The Eagles had 363 rushing yards last week against the Packers, and the Titans haven’t given up more than 108 since Week 1.

In fact, the Eagles had more yards against the Packers (363) than the Titans have given up in their last five games combined (349).

The Titans are known for their toughness under head coach Mike Vrabel, and it really shows with their run defense.

“They’re really good coaches and you always knew — when we play them twice a year, we always knew the team was going to be really well-coached, really disciplined, really physical, right?” Eagles head coach Nick Siriani said.

“It was three familiar things that you knew going into each one. So you had to be physical and you had to be disciplined and you had to be — the details of your job had to be very clear and we had to do a good job of putting guys in position and making sure the details were right.”

Eagles iOL vs. Jeffery Simmons

The Titans have some really good players on their defensive line. You can’t forget about Bud Dupree or Denico Autry or Teair Tart, but the star of the show is Simmons.

The 25-year-old former first-round pick out of Mississippi State is currently in the prime of his career and playing at an All-Pro level for the Titans. Coming off an 8 1/2 sack season in 2021, Simmons now has 6 1/2 in 10 games this season and is on track for another Pro Bowl nod.

Simmons is ranked as the fifth best inside linebacker in the NFL by ProFootballFocus. The only guys ahead of him are Chris Jones, Dexter Lawrence, Aaron Donald and Quininen Williams. By comparison, Eagles DT Javon Hargrave is ranked No. 12.

It’s important to note that Simmons plays both sides of center, so the entire Eagles iOL should be ready for him on Sunday. Keep that in mind with Landon Dickerson, who has been dealing with some injuries this season and was forced to leave the Packers game for four snaps.

Simmons (ankle) and Autry (knee) missed two days of practice to start the week, and that’s worth watching. Autry injured his knee a few weeks ago and missed last week’s game against the Bengals. Simmons has been dealing with this ankle injury for a while, so even if he does play, he may be limited. This is a big deal.

Dennis Daly vs Josh Swat

Earlier this season, the Titans lost three-time Pro Bowler Taylor Lewan to a season-ending injury, so the left tackle spot is one the Eagles should be able to use. Daley took over as the starter in Week 3 and played every snap protecting Ryan Tannehill’s blindside, but with shaky results.

According to PFF, Daley ranks as the No. 72 prospect in the NFL out of 76 qualified players. Daley has given up 32 total pressures and 6 sacks this season. And Daley was just as shaky in the run game.

Sweet is usually the starter at right end for the Eagles’ defense, meaning he sees snaps from the left every week. This can be hard work. But over the past few weeks, Sweat has been making some plays. In the last three games, Sweat has 2 sacks, 3 QB hits, 2 TFL and 9 tackles.

Important note for the Titans: Center Ben Jones is expected to return for this game, which is a boost for Tennessee.

Jalen Hurts vs. Titans pass defense

Jalen Hurts had a masterful game against the Packers in Week 12, but it was his 157 yards on the ground that mattered most. This week, he faces a Titans pass defense that ranks 31st in the NFL in passing. They have given up nearly 3,000 already this season.

The Titans have some good players in their secondary, but are young at the cornerback spots:

CB Christian Fulton: Age 24, 3rd NFL season, 24 starts

CB Roger McCreary: Age 22, 1st NFL season, 11 starts

NCB: Elijah Molden: Age 23, 2nd NFL season, 8 starts

The Eagles feel like they have an advantage with their wideouts almost every week, but this one feels legit. If Hurts has enough time in the pocket, he might be able to throw some to his experienced receivers against the Titans. McCreary (5-11, 190) isn’t very big, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try to target him when he faces AJ Brown, who will be playing with his former team for the first time.

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