Five Eagles to watch in this week’s clash with the Niners

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JULY 30: Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell (14) during Philadelphia Eagles training camp on July 30, 2021 at Novacare Complex in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles are just a couple of days away from their home opener and are entering the matchup against San Francisco on the back of an impressive 1-0 win. If they are to advance to 2-0, they’ll need big games from the following five players.

Jalen Hurts

After a strong season opener, Hurts will play in front of the Philadelphia faithful for the first time under Nick Sirianni. The Eagles Head Coach did a great job of keeping things simple last week, allowing Jalen Hurts to get the ball out quick and protect the rock.

Against a banged up Niners secondary, Hurts should have just as much, if not more success, provided that the offensive line can do their bit and buy him enough time against a strong front four.

The Niners defense will provide a much bigger test with names like Fred Warner waiting to pounce on a mistake, but if Hurts can replicate his performance from last week, he’ll not only get the job done but really double-down on the notion that he is the franchise QB that the Eagles are looking for.

DeVonta Smith

With his first reception in the NFL going for a touchdown, it was a dream debut for the first-round pick. Smith will be licking his lips knowing that he’s going up against a depleted CB position this Sunday that could see someone like fifth-round rookie Deommodore Lenoir trying to stop a breakout.

Smith’s route-running was nothing short of salivating last week and this is a matchup that has the word “glaring” written all over it. We saw Smitty targeted a few times in a row and then he was largely evaded for the rest of the game. I’d expect Hurts to look his way early and often against the Niners.

Eric Wilson

Eric Wilson is a fantastic coverage linebacker but isn’t exactly great against the run. Alex Singleton has the inverse skillset and you’d like to think this is a perfect pairing who negate each other’s weakness. However, Wilson struggled across the board on week one and the Niners use a lot of misdirection and pre-snap movement to throw linebackers off the scent. This is bad news for a player who could be circled in red by DeMeco Ryans (Niners defensive coordinator) ahead of this weekend.

Wilson will need to show patience and awareness when playing the run, and not fall victim to the bait being laid out by the San Fran offense.

Fletcher Cox

We might finally be seeing Cox back to his best. Now fully healthy and with a strong DT rotation behind him, he’s playing less snaps and making more of them, at least he did in week one. He’ll face a really tough matchup in week two, with veteran Alex Mack at center who won’t fall for the shenanigans of he or Javon Hargrave. But if there’s ever a time for Fletch to live up to that big-time contract, this would be the game to assert his dominance and disrupt the passer like we’re oh so used to seeing.

Kenny Gainwell

Anything you can do, I can do better – Nick Sirianni to Kyle Shanahan…probably.

The Niners offense has the potential to wreak havoc with the mind of any defensive coordinator, but the Eagles were able to flash some unpredictability of their own when using Kenny Gainwell. The rookie running back wasn’t only a threat through the air as we expected, but on the ground as well, giving the Eagles a real dual-threat weapon to accompany Miles Sanders and open things up.

While Sanders undoubtedly headlines the backfield and will handle the ball the most, it’s the addition of Gainwell that will open things up for the offense and likely enable both backs to be in a position to deal the most damage possible.

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire