The Eagles got out of Detroit with a win by the skin of their teeth on Sunday. In what developed into an offensive fireworks show in the second half, Philadelphia walked out of Ford Field with a 38-35 win over the Detroit Lions.
A lot was learned on both sides of the ball during the week one win. Here are my takeaways:
5) Miles Sanders looks revitalized
Miles Sanders returned to form on Sunday. The fourth-year back finished the matchup with 13 carries for 96 yards and scored his first touchdown in 13 games.
Sanders showed the Eagles could depend on him when needed. In the fourth quarter on third-and-two with a little over two minutes left in the game, the Eagles needed someone to step up and help them salt the game away.
Sanders receieved the hand-off on an inside zone run and immediately faced a wall of Lions defensive linemen and Eagles blockers. He kept his legs churning, skirted left, and found a huge hole which he turned into a 24-yard gain.
It was the cherry on top of a very productive day for Sanders.
If Sanders can consistently stack game days like this one, he’ll potentially create some leverage for himself in potential contract negotiations in the coming months.
4) The secondary additions fit right in
James Bradberry and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson both made their precense known in week one. Bradberry flashed with a pick six in his first game in an Eagles uniform and Gardner-Johnson had a few high IQ plays, such as a pass break up on 3rd and 10 in the second quarter on a pass intended for Amon Ra St. Brown.
Marcus Epps generally excelled in run support and finished the game leading the Eagles in tackles with 10 total tackles. He was a bit shaky in pass coverage, giving up three catches including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Amon Ra St. Brown.
3) A.J. Brown is as advertised
The Eagles have a game changer in A.J. Brown. He simply could not be stopped. In the short passing game, screen game, intermediate levels of the field, and deep down the field, no matter where he went or how he was deployed, Brown was effective.
Brown finished with 10 catches for for 155 yards.
In many ways, he raised the ceiling for Jalen Hurts as a passer. This was especially evident on a 54-yard completion down the right sideline. Brown was pressed at the line, got off it, wasn’t squeezed or out muscled, and hauled in a perfectly placed pass from Hurts.
I re-iterate, the Eagles have a game changer.
2)The development with Jalen Hurts is evident
As stated above, a big part of what A.J. Brown does will be raising the ceiling of Jalen Hurts and it was clearly evident on multiple occasions. But what was the most encouraging thing was the entire picture for Hurts.
He was effective as a thrower. He didn’t bail from clean pockets at the rate with which he did last season, and when the Lions brought pressure (they did, A LOT)), Hurts didn’t panic. He used his legs and got the Eagles out of some potentially detrimental spots. Hurts was under pressure all day, but his legs were a difference maker. He finished the day with 17 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown.
As a passer, Hurts completed 18 of 32 passes for 243 yards. It wasn’t a flashy statline, but on film Hurts made several key throws.
He wasn’t erratic in the pocket. He didn’t put the ball in harms way (finished the game with zero turnover worthy plays) and he was poised as a passer. He also was on time and in sync as far as his mechanics and footwork are concerned.
The Eagles won this game because of Jalen Hurts.
All off-season a lot has been made about Hurts’ continued development throughout his career and if game one is any indication, that trend can be expected to continue.
1) There are some questions about the defense (cough, Jonathan Gannon)
This is where things took a turn.
Early on the Eagles struggled a ton in run defense. On the second play of the game, Philadelphia native D’Andre Swfit scampred through a gaping hole in the Eagles fronr for a 50 yard gain. On the next two plays the Eagles gave up 11 yards on the ground. A few plays later, Swift gained 11 yards on the ground. The Lions would go on to score.
Following this, Detroit would punt on three straight drives. Everything was fine…until they weren’t.
After the aforementioned James Bradberry pick, the Lions scored touchdowns on their next three drives (outside of the final play of the first half: kneel down).
Swift had a career day on the ground, rushing 15 times for 144 yards. As a team, the Lions accumulated 6.5 yards per carry on 28 total rushing attempts.
The Eagles also struggled with getting pressure on Jared Goff, who (Per PFF) had a clean pocket on 28 of his 39 dropbacks. The Eagles sacked Goff just once, on a play where Goff mishandled a snap.
The picture becomes especially concerning for Jonathan Gannon when you consider the roster additions the Eagles made during the offseason. From Haason Reddick to Jordan Davis, every piece seemed like it was in place for Gannon and his unit to excel.
But in week one, outside of three drives in the first half, they did anything but.
Make no mistake about it, the Eagles escaped with a win.
At one point in the game, the Eagles led 31-14. The game ended with a 38-35 score. While the execution certainly lacked in some areas (tackling chief among them), Jonathan Gannon went away from what was working (5 man fronts to neutralize the Detroit rushing attack and pressure on passing downs) and shifted to soft zones which the Lions feasted on both in the run and pass game.
There are major questions facing Jonathan Gannon and this Eagles defense and they’ll have to get them answered with Justin Jefferson and the Vikings vaunted offense coming into town next Monday night.
- Second Year Defensive Tackle, Marlon Tuipulotu outsnapped First round pick, Jordan Davis – 29 to 22 snaps
- Derek Barnett left the game with a knee injury (Barnett is reportedly out for the season with a torn ACL)
- DeVonta Smith finished week one without a catch on 4 targets
Cover Image Credit: Junfu Han DFP / USA TODAY NETWORK