5 players to watch when the Eagles battle the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football

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Eagles devonta smith
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith celebrates after scoring with quarterback Jalen Hurts during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The Eagles are now on a collision course to redeem themselves for what has been a very tough season. After their late-season collapse, Philadelphia will be heading to Tampa to take on the Buccaneers in the Wild Card round.

The Bucs won the NFC South and the right to host a game on their turf but that doesn’t mean their opponent will roll over in the Florida weather. The Eagles are who they are right now but with minor tweaks and adjustments, they can turn their year around with a big win in the first round.

With all of America’s eyes on the Eagles and the drama surrounding them, here are five players who can help weather the storm for the Birds and lead them to a win. 

Jalen Hurts

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) throws a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Who else do the Eagles need to answer the call more than their franchise QB? The former MVP runner-up struggled with turnovers this season while trying to manufacture wins out of a very bland offensive scheme. He’ll be without his right hand as A.J. Brown has been ruled out due to a knee sprain

That doesn’t mean that he’ll be without any weapons. Hurts will still have a well-rested DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and D’Andre Swift. It’ll be on the face of the franchise to overcompensate for the abysmal playcalling by the coaching staff. If Hurts can take over this game, and counter the heavy blitzes that he will be seeing, then the Eagles will have a leave Tampa on top.

DeVonta Smith

Philadelphia Eagles’ DeVonta Smith catches a touchdown pass with Dallas Cowboys’ DaRon Bland defending during the second half of an NFL football game Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

It’s no secret that the Eagles pass attack will heavily rely on their former first-round pick. Smitty is more than able to shoulder the load but it will take a hell of a performance to help lift these batters Eagles over the Bucs. At the end of his second 1,000+ yard season, Smith was ruled out due to an ankle sprain on a screen call that raised plenty of eyebrows within Philadelphia.

This will be the first game in two years that Smith plays without his other half in A.J. Brown. In his last matchup against the Bucs, Smitty only tallied 4 receptions for 28 yards with his longest catch going for 15 yards. But if Brian Johnson can rely on the run game to establish the offense then it should open up some lanes for DeVonta Smith to make some noise.

Haason Reddick

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick reacts following an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the New York Giants, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 38-7. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Reddick missed the first matchup against the Bucs due to an injury. Once he returned to the Eagles lineup, he caused heavy damage against opposing teams for several weeks. With the pass rush faltering and collapsing down the stretch, the Eagles will need competent play-calling to put Reddick in a position to succeed.

If they can unleash the Haason Reddick that Eagles fans were accustomed to last season then it’ll be a long day for Baker Mayfield. Mayfield is already dealing with some injuries of his own which could play a factor if the defense can get to him.

Darius Slay

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown, right, celebrates a catch with cornerback Darius Slay, center, and head coach Nick Sirianni, left, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve last seen Darius Slay. Since having surgery, the Eagles’ secondary has been terrible, to say the least. They have not been able to force the opposing offense to panic. Instead, we’ve seen teams like the Cardinals and the Giants abuse them at times which has left so many people baffled.

We also witnessed the Seattle Seahawks march down the field with their backup QB and take a win away from the Eagles. It’s been tough for fans and media members to see a defense fall from grace like this one has. They’ll need their captain back with the hope that he can instill confidence in a very shaky defense. 

D’Andre Swift

Philadelphia Eagles running back D’Andre Swift celebrates after scoring against the New York Giants during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

It’s no secret that the coaching staff has to discipline themselves and commit to the run. But Swift has to do his part as well. The Eagles will need the shifty back to open up the offense and to control time of possession. That’s the way that the Eagles can win.

Lately, the Birds have failed to stay on the field for long offensive drives. They’ll need to find that groove once again and be efficient on every play that is called. It’ll also be a wise move for them to use Swift all over the field. From the running back screens, placing him in the slot as a WR, and even trusting him to do wonders with the ball in his hands out of the backfield.

AP Photo/Chris Szagola