5 players to watch when the Eagles clash with the Cardinals on New Year’s Eve

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts looks on from the bench during the first half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

For the second time in as many weeks, the Eagles will be playing on a holiday. Yes, I know New Year’s Eve technically isn’t the holiday, but we all know it pretty much should be and fans are hoping the Eagles give them something to celebrate during the day prior to ringing in the new year at midnight.

It wasn’t as dominant as some would have liked, but the Eagles picked up a much-needed win against the Giants on Christmas Day, snapping their three-game skid. The offense looked slightly better, and the defense played well in the first half before having to thwart off a last-second heave from Tyrod Taylor where Kelee Ringo picked it off to put a bow on the win. Most notably from that game was this outburst between Nick Sirianni and a member of his coaching staff:

I’m sure there will be plenty of eyes on the sidelines this week to see if something similar happens again. However, here are five players who you should keep your eyes on as the Eagles look to pick up a win against the 3-12 Arizona Cardinals.

Kelee Ringo, Cornerback

Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III runs with the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

I have pointed out over the last two weeks how impressive the rookie has been with his increased playing time and the former Georgia Bulldog has answered the bell. According to PFF, the 4th-round pick has allowed just two catches for nine yards on five targets in his two starts. He also was the highest-graded defensive back in the win over the Giants.

It’s still early for Ringo, but the early signs are indicating he can hold his own on the outside. The Cardinals ruled out their best wide receiver Marquise Brown who will miss the rest of the season due to a heel injury. Ringo will most likely go against Rondale Moore if the Eagles continue to utilize him at outside corner.

Avonte Maddox, Slot Cornerback

Avonte maddox
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 20:Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox (29) warms up during the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 20, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

What a huge return it would be for this Eagles secondary if Maddox can suit up on Sunday. The fourth-round pick in 2018 has been out since Week 2 due to a torn pectoral muscle and some thought the injury would be season-ending. He has been cleared off the IR and was a full participant at practice yesterday.

Maddox would immediately provide the experience and depth the secondary has been longing for. The 27-year-old was off to a strong start this season, racking up 8 tackles, a forced fumble and two passes defended before suffering the injury. Adding him into the mix with Ringo, Eli Ricks, who has also looked very good filling in for the injured Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Reed Blankenship and Kevin Byard could certainly help this pass defense that ranks 31st in opponent interception percentage at 1.19%, only ahead of Tennessee.

A.J. Brown, Wide Receiver

Cowboys vs Eagles nfl betting
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) scoring a touchdown against Washington Commanders safety Jartavius Martin (20) and cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

I know a lot has been made about Brown’s silence with the media since the win against the Giants. I don’t know exactly what the deal is and don’t want to speculate. However, Brown is having quite the encore after his debut season in South Philly.

Brown and DeVonta Smith became the first wide receiving duo in franchise history to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

Brown also set the single-season franchise record for most catches, becoming the first Eagle to surpass 100 catches (101), which is also a new-career high for the 26-year-old. In addition, the star wideout is just 16 yards shy of passing Mike Quick for a second straight season for second-most receiving yards in a single season. He already holds the top mark with his 1,496 yards last year. One thing to note however, is that Brown hasn’t scored a touchdown since the thrilling overtime win over the Bills in Week 12.

He has seven touchdowns on the year, four fewer than he had last year in his first full season with the Eagles. Expect Brown to have a big game against the Cardinals defense that’s allowing 163.6 yards per game to wideouts.

Britain Covey, Punt Returner

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 02: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Britain Covey (41) participates in a drill during training camp on August 2, 2022 at the Novacare Complex in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

It’s been quite some time since the Eagles have had a formidable punt returner. Dare I say since DeSean Jackson? Well, the Eagles have just that in Covey and he is an added weapon in a department that was rather lackluster over the last few seasons.

In line to be named a Pro Bowler and All-Pro return man, Covey has been impressive. Prior to the game last week, here is where he ranked in the NFL amongst punt returners:

Covey of course had this fantastic return to ignite the team and set up their first touchdown drive of the game. He has been a great addition and story this season. Expect him to make a splash in the return game once again this week.

Jalen Hurts, QB

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts pushes off New York Giants linebacker Micah McFadden during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Hurts put together one of his better games of the season in the win over the Giants on Christmas Day. He threw for 300+ yards for just the second time this season and first since Week 8 in a 38-31 win over the Commanders. Now he might not be lighting it up through the air, but he’s still finding ways to score touchdowns.

His 15 rushing touchdowns this season are the most by a QB in NFL history, breaking Cam Newton’s record of 14 he set in his rookie season in 2011. The former Panther QB had no ill will towards Hurts when he broke his record:

Hurts also has a chance to break the franchise record for most touchdowns in a single season. Hurts currently sits at 35, the number he finished at last year, tying Randall Cunningham. Hurts is all but guaranteed to break that record this week whether is with a “Brotherly Shove” or a touchdown pass to one of his many weapons.

The Eagles have a rare 1 p.m. kickoff this Sunday against the Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field. They need to continue to win and hope the Niners slip up once more to regain full control of the top-seed in the NFC.

Follow Cory on X at @Cory_Nidoh.

AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson