The Minnesota Vikings head to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles in a Monday night affair. Forget about the wings of eagles — the Vikings are the ones flying high after their dominant defeat of the division-rival Green Bay Packers in the home opener.
The Packers game was impressive, but a stacked Eagles squad on their home turf will be a different challenge. Elusive quarterback Jalen Hurts and the tenacious Eagles look to improve their narrow win against one of the Vikings’ other division foes, the Detroit Lions, in Week 1.
Here are three things the Eagles do well that the Vikings need to watch out for.
Interior Pressure and Shutting Down the Run
When the Vikings traded down in the first round of this year’s draft, many people were upset that they passed on the opportunity to get the University of Georgia’s defensive tackle Jordan Davis. At 6’6″ 336 lbs., Davis is a mountain of a man who was a menace to opposing offensive lines and running backs in Athens. The frustration with the front office was only exacerbated when a video of Davis showed him dominating second-round pick Cam Jurgens in a one-on-one matchup.
Davis saw only 22 snaps during the game last week. However, when he was on the field, he was effective in stopping the run game that had hurt the Eagles early.
Davis alone is dangerous. But you start to have a problem when you put him next to veteran Fletcher Cox, who has been dominating interior offensive lines for a decade. Given just how much Ed Ingram and Garrett Bradbury struggled last week, giving up nine pressures, it is safe to say they will have their hands full this week.
Look for the Vikings to run outside early and make Philadelphia’s big defensive tackles move laterally in a hurry. That will allow the interior offensive line to get some rhythm by plowing these big defensive tackles back early. When they can tire out the Eagles’ interior defense, they can look to throw the ball more and get the playmakers on the outside involved.
Running the Ball
When head coach Nick Sirianni took charge of the Eagles last season, nobody knew how the offense would look compared to the group led by Doug Pederson and Frank Reich. Sirianni’s ability to get the rushing attack going was very evident last season. With Hurts struggling to develop his passing earlier in the season, Sirianni leaned on the run game to move the ball.
The Eagles have a deep ground game with running backs Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, and Boston Scott. When you add Hurts’ mobility to this mix, you have a rushing attack that can throw multiple fresh runners at the opposing defenses.
Last season, the Eagles finished with the second-most rushing attempts in the league with 550. They also averaged 4.9 yards per carry, one of the highest in the league. While this number is impressive, most of the yards come before contact (3.3). When it comes to yards after contact, they were near the bottom of the league (1.7).
Defend the Pass
This offseason, the Eagles made some key additions to the secondary by adding safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson from the New Orleans Saints and picking up corner James Bradberry in free agency. Bradberry joined a room that already had Pro Bowl cornerbacks Avante Maddox and Darius Slay. Maddox is one of the better slot cornerbacks in the NFL.
Last season, Slay had a bit of a resurgence with a passer rating of just 76.1. Slay lived up to his moniker “Big Play Slay” with two pick-sixes. He projected to benefit from defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s new defensive system that had less press-man and transitioned to an off-zone coverage.
To supplement Slay’s resurgence, the Eagles added Bradberry, who allowed the lowest passer rating (40.5) while in zone coverage. He proved more than capable of understanding his assignments in zone coverage and even made plays on the ball with 11 pass breakups while operating in zone.
While this might seem daunting, last week, the Vikings’ offense was able to scheme open Justin Jefferson while facing a Packers defense that threw a heavy amount of zone at them.