#1 Nick Sirianni vs The Suicide Squad
What an impressive debut by this Eagles offense led by Nick Sirianni. A healthy offensive line and masterful performance by Jalen Hurts resulted in a balanced attack featuring quick passes and wide open running lanes. The trio of Jalen Hurts, Kenny Gainwell and Miles Sanders totaled 173 yards and 5.6 yards per carry. Jalen Hurts did not get sacked once while the Atlanta defensive front tallied only one quarterback hit. That’s about to change in a big way next Sunday.
The San Francisco 49ers possess arguably the best front seven in the NFL.
A healthy Nick Bosa will be a huge test for this Eagles offensive line. Dee Ford, who missed 15 games in 2020 due to a back injury, made an instant impact with a sack and two quarterback hits last Sunday. In three straight passing plays against the Lions, Ford caused a pick six, a sack and forced an offensive holding penalty.
Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, two of the best linebackers in the league, made their presence felt against the Lions with 17 combined totals. Azeez Al-Shaair was a major standout vs the Lions, tallying 7 tackles, two passes defended and two tackles for loss. While the Niners gave up 33 points to the Detroit Lions (23 in the second half), the Niners front seven will surely be a much more difficult task for Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense.
What to expect:
- Similar to what we saw on Sunday, I expect Nick Sirianni to utilize a similar game plan to the one we saw against the Atlanta Falcons.
- Get the ball out of Hurts’ hands quickly, get the ball in the hands of the Eagles burners in space and utilize the RPO to keep the Niners front seven off balance as much as possible.
- The Niners pressured Detroit 27 times last Sunday. I expect the Eagles quick fire offense to return on Sunday in order to stretch DeMeco Ryan’s defense and get Jalen Hurts in rhythm inside the pocket.
- If Sirianni can keep Jalen Hurts confident inside the pocket and avoid mistakes, the Eagles offense should take care of itself. Jalen Hurts was 5/8 for 50 yards and a touchdown when outside the pocket in week one.
#2 Make Life for George Kittle the Pitts
The Eagles struggled against the big plays all season in 2020, giving up 27 passing touchdowns against eight interceptions with many of them going to tight ends. They allowed 835 yards and 9 touchdowns on 80 receptions to opposing tight ends in 2020. What a difference a one game can make. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon made his debut for the Eagles and didn’t let up a single touchdown to the Atlanta Falcons.
More impressive was how they were able to limit Kyle Pitts to just 4 receptions on 8 targets for 31 yards and Hayden Hurst to 4 receptions for 28 yards.
Now I understand that it was just the Falcons. However, Eagles fans should be ecstatic that the defense was able to hold the Atlanta tight ends to just 59 yards and zero touchdowns on 12 targets. For a team that got bit by tight ends week in and week out in 2020, this is a serious development to keep an eye on heading into week two. 20 of Kyle Pitts’ 32 offensive came in the slot while he generated exactly 1.0 yard per route run with only one first down. Jonathan Gannon deserves a ton of credit, but that doesn’t mean a Sunday off in week two.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Eagles this week. Kittle is one of the most well rounded tight ends in the game. He’s among the best of the best when it comes to catching the ball and blocking.
Kyle Shanahan does an excellent job finding mismatches in coverage and unleashing George Kittle in the Niners passing attack. Kittle had 4 receptions on 5 targets for 78 yards against the Detroit Lions in week one. It’s important to note that while Kittle only had 2 targets in the first half, the Niners led 31-10 while Deebo Samuel was feasting for major yardage.
The second half is where George Kittle had his other three targets. However, it’s also important to note that nearly half of Kittle’s yard production came on the first play of the second half. Following that play, Kittle had 2 receptions for 20 yards and a false start. The Niners put a 3 quarter whooping on the Detroit Lions in week one. I’m not going to look too deeply into the fourth quarter when the Lions scored the final 23 of 26 points in the game. The Niners’ defense was mostly in prevent mode while the offense took their foot off the pedal.
What to expect:
- I expect the Eagles to throw a heavy dose of multiple bracket and nickel coverages at George Kittle while also being physical with him at the line of scrimmage to keep everything in front of them.
- The Eagles cannot afford to make any mistakes. George Kittle averaged 14.3 yards after the catch per reception vs Detroit and the Eagles cannot allow this guy to get into open space. 57 of Kittle’s 78 yards on Sunday came after the catch.
- The Eagles linebackers, a major weakness in 2020, performed very well in 3 out of 4 quarters last Sunday. 35 of Alex Singleton’s 43 snaps on defense came in coverage last Sunday and not one of them allowed a first down.
#3 (Mickey from Rocky voice) “Speed’s What We Need”
To piggyback off our first key matchup, the San Francisco secondary isn’t particularly deep. Jason Varrett’s torn ACL on Sunday is significant. The loss will surely have ramifications on and off the field as Varrett is a leader inside the Niners locker room. Without their top cornerback, the Niners could be in serious trouble against the Eagles young speedsters.
The screen game returning to the Philadelphia Eagles was a revelation.
The majority of the Eagles offense including quick strikes to the Eagles speedsters. That was emphasized from the jump when Nick Sirianni went back-to-back screens to Quez Watkins to start the season. That was even fleshed out further when Jalen Reagor took a screen pass for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Expect to hear K’Waun Williams’ name a lot on Sunday. K’Waun Williams operates mostly out of the slot. The other guy to know is Deommodore Lenoir, a 5th round rookie. According to Next Gen stats, Lenoir played 55 coverage snaps including 4 targets, 1 reception and 3 yards allowed and he’ll surely be getting a heavy dose of DeVonta Smith in week two. All signs point to the Eagles utilizing week one’s blueprint vs San Francisco in week two.
What to expect:
- I expect the Eagles to get the ball out of Jalen Hurts’ hands quickly via screens, RPOs, designed runs from Hurts and misdirection plays from Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor.
- Loo for the Eagles plan to throw heavily again in the first half and locate mismatches against a weak Niners secondary.
- There was a point in the second quarter against the Falcons when the chemistry between Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith shined with 4 straight completions.
- As you can probably guess, I expect a huge performance from DeVonta Smith in the home opener against the Niners. When targeting DeVonta Smith, Jalen Hurts had a passer rating of 148.5.
#4 “I came in like a Gannon-ball”
What a wild debut for Jonathan Gannon, who held the Falcons to just 6 points. Gannon’s defense was locked in during the second half, where they held Matt Ryan to just 106 yards passing and 14 total yards on the ground. The Eagles defensive line dominated the last 3 quarters, ending with 3 sacks and 9 quarterback hits.
Before we get to the playmakers, the Niners are loaded up front.
Trent Williams was excellent in the win over Detroit and one of the best tackles in the NFL. The Lions had 1 sack and only three quarterback hits. However, it’s important to note that the sack came off a blitz. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey had a 91.3 run-blocking grade (#2 in the NFL) last season according to Pro Football Focus. Left guard Laken Tomlinson, Alex Mack and Daniel Brunskill round out a very strong offensive line. Sadly for Eagles fans, Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox will not have Jalen Mayfield to expose in week two.
It’s hard to argue against Jimmy Garapolo, who has a 23-8 record in 31 starts with the San Francisco 49ers. This time however, the Niners will bring dual threats at quarterback to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. Keeping Gannon’s defense off balance via Trey Lance and Jimmy Garapolo will be a major focal point for the Niners offense. That also includes Deebo Samuel, one of the most versatile weapons in the NFL.
What to expect:
- Can the Eagles secondary keep up with the Niners playmakers? The good news: Versatile speedster Brandon Aiyuk was removed from the lineup in week one and his status for week two is currently unknown.
- After catching 60 passes for 748 yards in just 12 games as a rookie last year, this was a guy who was expected to form an explosive duo with Deebo Samuel in 2021. He played 15 snaps vs the Detroit Lions and received zero targets.
- Kyle Shanahan said recently Brandon Aiyuk isn’t in the dog house and this will be something we’ll surely be monitoring the rest of the week.
- Darius Slay and Steven Nelson were effective in week one, only allowing one first down on 12 targets.