Wounded secondaries mean battle in the trenches will hold keys to victory for Eagles & Chiefs

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By this point we all know the narrative. Apprentice meets master at Arrowhead Stadium this weekend when Doug Pederson and the Eagles travel to Kansas City for a week two clash with the Chiefs. It’s a matchup that will test Pederson to the core, but with both teams suffering notable setbacks, winning the battle up front may hold the keys.

Let’s start with the Chiefs. The Elephant in the room here is the injury suffered by Eric Berry that leaves a gaping hole in the Chiefs Secondary, potentially opening up a window of opportunity for a revamped Eagles Offense. The Chiefs also lost another cornerback however in Steven Nelson.

In his place against the Pats, it was Terrance Mitchell who filled in, a former seventh round pick of the Dallas Cowboys. His first showing of the new season was anything but smooth, being penalized four times and giving up an additional 48 yards. A notorious stiff-arm by James White saw Mitchell’s game go from bad to worse and although he put the dagger in the heart of a Pats comeback, he also gave up 96 yards.

We saw what Torrey Smith is capable of doing to Josh Norman, with two burns down deep that should have been incinerations if the pass was been on target. Make no mistake, the attention of Marcus Peters HAS to be on Alshon Jeffery without Eric Berry next to him…giving the Eagles flashy new deep threat a chance to reel in that evasive home run hit. To put things simply, the Chiefs will be relying on their pass-rush to get the job done…something which doesn’t bode well for the Eagles.

When the Chiefs last met the Eagles, Justin Houston was a severe problem. In the 26-16 loss, Houston bought down Michael Vick 4.5 times along with 7 tackles. Since that day, he’s done nothing but grow into one of the most dominant in his position. One year later, he amassed 22 sacks. Injuries saw his two most recent campaigns limited to just sixteen total games, but he still ruptured offensive lines and amassed 11.5 sacks. Houston will now lineup opposite Jason Peters, who exited the season opener early in the second quarter with a groin strain.

Even if Peters is fully healthy, Houston has already shown the world how deadly he can be, sacking Brady twice just over one week ago. Should Peters go down or the Eagles feel the need to fall on Halapoulivaati Vaitai, well, we’ve already seen that the step forward he was expected to take in year two simply hasn’t arrived yet.

On the opposite side of the field is Dee Ford. He lines up against Lane Johnson which should be a thrilling matchup in its own right, but after a ten sack season last year, Ford started the year off hot just as his fellow pass-rushing teammate did….and hey, he even managed to C O V E R Rex Burkhead, so there’s that.

In the middle of it all is a foe the Eagles know all too well, Bennie Logan. Against Jason Kelce who didn’t exactly have a great outing in week one, Logan will surely have a chip on his shoulder as he plays his former team. What Logan does best is stop the run…and what the Eagles failed to do at all in the season opener was run the ball. This matchup is going to be key.

What about the other side of things? Well, we already know that the Ronald Darby injury has sent severe repercussions throughout the Eagles secondary, with Malcolm Jenkins, Jaylen Watkins and Patrick Robinson all likely seeing some adjusted playing time. Could Rasul Douglas be called up? Potentially. Regardless of whether or not the Eagles decide to drop Douglas into the deep end, the Eagles Secondary, like the Chiefs, is in trouble.

Opposing wideout, the explosive Tyreek Hill , set the NFL ablaze in his rookie season with his blistering 4.24 40-yard dash, helping him be a force on special teams and as a receiver, notching up 593 yards and 6 scores. Who will the Eagles be lining up on him? It will more than likely be Jalen Mills, who despite keeping everything in front of him in week one, was targeted fifteen times in the season opener, giving up 108 yards in man coverage situations. Without even mentioning the likes of Kareem Hunt, De’Anthony Thomas, Travis Kelce or a surging Alex Smith, the emphasis on getting to the quarterback is a priority for the Eagles.

To make life that extra bit difficult, DT Destiny Vaeao missed practice today, which could likely result in rookie Elijah Qualls being made active on Sunday. Vaeao isn’t Fletcher Cox or Timmy Jernigan, but he played in 19% of snaps during the season opener, so his absence is worth noting.

The other key component here goes without saying. Defense won the day in Washington. Jim Schwartz dialed up the blitz more than we’re accustomed to seeing due to a newly-found trust in his secondary. Schwartz threw everything at the Redskins, including the Kitchen Sink, forcing that crucial Jalen Mills interception and keeping Cousins under duress throughout the matchup. The Eagles have a formidable pass-rush and with such an array of rapid receivers facing them this weekend, their ability to disrupt the pass and marginalize the Chiefs Offense will be crucial if they are to walk out of Arrowhead with a win.

Both teams have wounded secondaries and a pass-rush with the ability to change the course of a game. The stars on the outside may very well steal the show, but the real stars will be those in the thick of it all, each and every snap.

 

Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

 

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