Eagles keys to victory: Can Philly ramp up the pressure against the Vikings in week 2?

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, right, hands off to running back Kenneth Gainwell, left, in the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Can the Philadelphia Eagles move to 2-0 on the season for the second straight year? That’s the question they will need to answer when they take on the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night in their home opener.

The defending NFC Champions came out winners in Sunday’s contest against the New England Patriots, but that doesn’t mean they played well. The offense struggled consistently throughout the day, and the defense was picked apart in key moments.

They’ll need to be better if they want to win on Thursday night.

Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.

Philadelphia’s gameplan on offense and defense is all predicated on pressure. If the Eagles’ pass rush consistently gets to Kirk Cousins on Thursday, the defense could be in for a long day. They certainly have an edge there. Minnesota’s center Garrett Bradbury isn’t expected to play Thursday and Christian Darrisaw is dealing with an injury. The Eagles should be able to get plenty of pressure on the defensive side.

Of course, the offensive side of the ball has an important key when it comes to pressure as well. Philadelphia’s offensive line struggled against New England’s pressure. The way Minnesota plays on the defensive line is similar to how the Patriots play. It’s important for the offensive line to be better in Week 2 against a similar scheme.

Like any game with the Eagles, getting pressure, and protecting from pressure will always be a major key.

Middle of the Field Prowess

Here’s another key that works for both sides of the ball. First, on the offensive side, Philadelphia was unable to move the ball effectively over the middle of the field. Dallas Goedert had just one target on offense and was seen as a ghost for most of the game. In 2022’s matchup, Goedert had a game-high in yards and was third in targets. Philadelphia needs to be better in attacking the middle of the field.

Dallas goedert eagles
Dallas Goedert has been a staple of the Eagles offense since he was drafted back in 2018 Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

Defensively it’s an entirely different animal. Philadelphia was atrocious over the middle of the field defensively against Mac Jones. With injuries to Nakobe Dean and James Bradberry, the weakness over the middle of the field will be even more pronounced.

In Week 1, Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki combined for 92 yards receiving on eight catches. Both are good tight ends, but neither is as dominant as TJ Hockenson. Hockenson had eight catches against Tampa Bay and they have a good combination of linebackers and safeties. He could have a massive game if Philly isn’t better over the middle of the field on Thursday.

Improved Running Game

Against a dynamic defense like the Patriots, the Eagles’ offensive line struggled to get anything going. The running game averaged a measly 3.9 yards per carry and gave up three sacks. Jalen Hurts was pressured, and the group failed to adapt to the changing looks that Belichick threw at them.

While the Patriots are a unique matchup, the Vikings have a lot of similarities to them. New defensive coordinator Brian Flores is one of the top defensive minds from Belichick’s tree and he has already shown a penchant for stopping a solid rushing team. Tampa Bay averaged less than three yards per carry in their win in Week 1 – something that could force the Eagles into a difficult situation Thursday night.

If Philadelphia can get the running game going, it will make life so much easier for the team to win.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JANUARY 21: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) hands off to Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell (14) during the NFC Divisional playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants on January 21, 2023 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

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AP Photo/Michael Dwyer