Week 9 of the NFL season is here, and there are a few interesting matchups to watch. NFL fans can enjoy the very first “Tank Bowl” of the 2021 season when the 1-7 Miami Dolphins host the 1-7 Houston Texans. Meanwhile, AFC North rivals face off in Cincinnati, where the 5-3 Bengals will host the 4-4 Cleveland Browns. For Los Angeles Chargers fans, the team’s Week 9 matchup is the 3-5 Philadelphia Eagles. The game takes place in Philadelphia, and kickoff is at 4:05 pm EST (or 1:05 PST for West Coast fans). Are there any interesting matchups or storylines? Find out here in the Chargers-Eagles preview!
Herbert vs. Hurts: Battle of the Once-Doubted Stars
Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts were both drafted by their respective organizations to be their franchise quarterbacks. Herbert was drafted with the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to be the Chargers’ quarterback of the future. Former Chargers quarterback (and future Hall of Famer) Philip Rivers had just left for the Indianapolis Colts to play out his final season, and the Chargers needed their new guy.
When Herbert was drafted, there were plenty of doubters that questioned his leadership skills and passing ability. Admittedly, his college tape was not highly impressive, but he showed out at the College Senior Bowl and at the NFL Combine. During the Draft, it was a topic of debate whether the Miami Dolphins, who picked fifth, would draft Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa. In the end, the Dolphins picked Tua, so the Chargers defaulted to Herbert. And what a turn of events that ended up being! Tua has played decently for the Dolphins but is injury-plagued, while Herbert had arguably the best rookie quarterback season ever.
Meanwhile, in Philly, Jalen Hurts has been playing sneakily well. Sure, his passing stats are decent at best, but his running ability makes him a pretty lethal dual threat. Drafted with the 53rd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Hurts was a big name at the collegiate level. He was the star quarterback for the University of Alabama under Nick Saban, until Tua’s surge in value caused him to lose his starting job and transfer to the University of Oklahoma. At Bama, Hurts put up a very impressive career, winning SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2016 and a national championship in 2017. At Oklahoma, Hurts continued his storied collegiate career with a First Team All-Big 12 in 2019.
And yet, Hurts wasn’t considered a top prospect for the NFL. He had a wide array of strengths, namely his fantastic leadership skills, durability, and athleticism. However, his aggressiveness in his reads caused him to often miss checkdowns and make impatient throws. Also, he tended to abandon his pocket too quickly, showing little trust in his linemen. In the end, his NFL career has gone pretty similarly to how scouting reports described him. He is a bona fide leader, he is tremendously athletic, and he does not miss games due to injury. However, he does tend to opt to run very often, which is odd considering his offensive line has been decent, all injuries considered.
Herbert and Hurts
In the end, these two quarterbacks faced a large amount of doubt around their skill. Herbert was being labelled a bust almost immediately, being dubbed “The Next Mitchell Trubisky” by one prominent football YouTuber. Meanwhile, Hurts, even with his unbelievably long list of collegiate accolades and skills, barely even slipped into the second round of that draft. These two have come a long way since then, though, crushing any doubters along the way. There may be more of a link between these two careers than once thought.
Other Interesting Matchups
The most interesting matchup was already heavily discussed above, but here are some more to keep an eye on.
Corey Linsley vs. Fletcher Cox
Talk about a Battle of the Vets. Corey Linsley was arguably the best center in the NFL during his reign in Green Bay, and he did not slow down at all when joining the Charger. Through 7 games, Linsley has played 484 snaps. In that time, Linsley was penalized only 4 times, tied for 4th-lowest in the NFL. More impressively, Linsley has not allowed a single sack all season. The decision to sign Linsley is proving to be one of Chargers general manager Tom Telesco’s best free agency signings.
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has been doing a solid job for the Eagles. He admittedly does not look like his old, dominant self, but he is still a starting-caliber defensive tackle. Unfortunately, his age has started showing. Cox is in his 10th year in the NFL, meaning his is part of the old guard. Even with fairly unimpressive stats, Cox is the type of player that opposing coaches can’t ignore.
In the end, with Linsley’s impressive play this season, he should be able to shut down Cox. However, Cox could very well pull a surprise game and channel his old self to beat out Linsley.
Eagles’ Run Offense vs. Chargers’ Run Defense
The Chargers’ run defense has been a source of immense frustration for Chargers fans everywhere. Sitting at last in the NFL in average rushing yards per game allowed, the Chargers’ run defense has been appalling, to put it lightly. Sure, the Chargers played against the three best rushing offenses in the league, but even when playing against decent run offenses, the Chargers struggle. This struggle has brought on some doubts about Brandon Staley as a coach, as he was touted as a supposed “defensive genius.” It’s not like the Chargers do not have defensive talent, as they have plenty. It’s more so that the most important position in run defense, middle linebacker, is a position where the Chargers have a lot of young players. Some things never change for the Chargers.
As if the Chargers’ run defense woes weren’t enough, they now face the Eagles’ run offense, currently ranked 7th in the league in rushing yards per game. At 131.6 rushing yards per game, the Eagles are a matchup nightmare of the Chargers. This running success is spearheaded by Jalen Hurts, who averages 54 yards per game on the ground. Still haunted by Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, facing yet another agile quarterback is concerning, to put it lightly. Expect the Chargers to struggle in holding the Eagles on teh ground, but the Chargers likely won’t struggle to hold them under their embarrasing 159.6 rushing yards allowed per game.
Justin Herbert and the Chargers struggled against the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots. However, the Eagles are no Patriots or Ravens. The Eagles are currently 3-5, with their only wins being over the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers (without Christian McCaffrey), and the Atlanta Falcons. Expect a solid win for the Chargers, who tend to overperform on the road compared to at home. This has been the Chargers-Eagles preview.