Who are the Eagles major X-factors heading into week 1?

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 19: Philadelphia Eagles WR Quez Watkins (16) carries the ball in the first half during the game between the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles on September 19, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Football is almost back as the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Lions in Detroit this Sunday afternoon! There is a buzz around this Eagles team that has not been felt for some time and if they’re going to prove themselves this season and become a top team, it has to start in week 1.

As with every game in the NFL, it will not be easy, especially with Lions head coach Dan Campbell attempting to change the culture in the Motor City. He leads a young team hungry to make a name for themselves so the Eagles have to come to play on Sunday.In order to win, you need big players to make big plays and I think there are a few Eagles that are absolutely key this weekend.

Brandon Graham

While it may be unconventional to put a 14 year veteran coming off a major injury as an X-factor, BG’s presence on the team goes beyond what he does just on the field. As Eagles fans have come to learn, he is the heart and soul of the defense and one of the most respected people on the team. I think having him back on the sideline is enough to make the team better and give them a boost due to his competitive attitude.

By all accounts he has also looked great in training camp so if Graham is able to dip into the fountain of youth, it will be a huge boost for a line that only had 29 sacks last year, both mentally and physically. One of the strengths of Detroit is their offensive line, so the Eagles will already have to do extra work to get to Jared Goff. If Graham can break across the line a few times and get pressure in the quarterback’s face, it will go a long way in securing a victory.

Quez Watkins

As a 6th round draft pick in 2020, Quez Watkins did not have a lot of expectations on him as we came into the NFL. It was expected that maybe he could make the roster as a fast, bottom of the roster player and possibly get some special teams time. However, over the course of 2 seasons, Watkins has improved to become a legitimate starting receiver.
He comes into the 2022 season as the number three wide receiver on the depth chart and while attention has been shifted away from him this summer due to other team moves, he still needs to perform if this Eagles team is going to meet their potential.

DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown will be getting a lot of attention so it is up to Watkins to take advantage of his opportunities because he will have them this year. Last year he caught 3 catches early in the first quarter of the opener against the Falcons and I expect him to get in on the action early this year as well.

Marcus Epps

Marcus Epps has quietly ascended to being the top safety on the Eagles as off the first week of the season. Epps was originally a draft pick of the Vikings but was picked up by Philadelphia halfway through the 2019 season and has proven to be a steal. While the newly acquired Chauncey Gardner-Johnson may be the more talented player of the two, Epps has the familiarity with the defense and will have more responsibility to deal with while Gardner-Johnson tries to quickly catch up on the defensive assignments.

Epps may end the season with the most defensive snaps played so there really is a lot riding on him. If he messes up, it will be noticed and will probably be an impactful mistake, so it’s important for Marcus Epps to keep the back end of the defense organized.

Jalen Hurts

To end things off I had to touch on the obvious answer that I’m sure everyone was waiting for. This is kind of a dead horse because everyone knows the deal with Hurts this year. If he struggles, he’s most likely not the starter next year but if he improves from last significantly, he will most likely be looking at an extension and the Eagles will be looking at a deep playoff run.

If the Eagles are to win, Jalen Hurts has to play well. At least for this week he doesn’t have to be a gunslinger and throw for 400 yards, but he does need to command the offense and show that the Eagles are clearly the superior team to the Lions. If he has a game similar to how he ended the season in Tampa, the questions will begin immediately but if he plays well, the Eagles will win.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire