The Eagles’ rookie class is coming off a mostly impressive game against Kansas City despite the team’s loss. Now, with eyes on the Panthers, here are some thoughts on what is next for the first-year players.
Can DeVonta Smith string together impressive performances?
DeVonta Smith’s 122 yard performance against Kansas City marked the first 100 yard game by an Eagles rookie since 2014 and the third most receiving yards in a game by an Eagles rookie since 2009. Not bad!
The next step for DeVonta Smith is consistently showing up for the Eagles on a week-to-week basis. This doesn’t mean 100+ yards every week (though that would be nice), but it does mean showing up when the team targets him. Much like he did last Sunday. After an impressive showing against Atlanta, Smith went quiet for two games before exploding against Kansas City. The hope is that pattern does not continue.
The Panthers defense has been mostly impressive through four games, but the injury of Jaycee Horn has made a noticeable difference on the secondary. After a few weeks of stingy play, the Panthers gave up four scores through the air and 36 points total to the Cowboys. Needless to say, this could be a great opportunity for Smith to put up another Number One Receiver type of game for the Eagles and keep building confidence going forward.
Can Landon Dickerson build on his impressive start at left guard?
Landon Dickerson slid over to left guard against the Chiefs and the results were positive. The Alabama product was excellent as a run blocker and looked comfortable in the passing game.
Carolina’s defensive line is far more talented than the Kansas City group. Between Derrick Brown and DaQuan Jones, Landon Dickerson will have his hands full blocking a few of the more disruptive interior linemen in the NFL.
Dickerson had a great game against Kansas City and now he has a chance to show he is a building block for the offensive line with another great game against Carolina.
Will Milton Williams finally have a breakout game?
Milton Williams has seen the field quite a bit to start his NFL career, but he hasn’t quite made a big impact.
With his role primarily as a two-gapping space eater, a lot of the onus to make plays are on the Eagles linebacking corps. With their play being underwhelming, one should wonder if Jonathan Gannon goes back to the drawing board and deploys more four man, single-gapping fronts that let the defensive linemen and linebackers be more aggressive. Williams has the talent to shine with such opportunities, so it is a wonder when the Eagles turn him loose and let him rush upfield.
The Eagles need more production from their defensive line to compensate for weaknesses across the rest of the defense and they also need Williams to prove he has what it takes to be their next difference maker on defense.
The legend of Kenneth Gainwell grows
Kenneth Gainwell is basically the Eagles RB1-B at this point with how much time he gets to be on the field. The fifth-round pick has proven himself a versatile and dynamic weapon in the passing game while also showing he can make plays as a runner.
Gainwell has touched the ball 32 times through four games and has already scored twice. Against Carolina, he is facing a defense that was gashed on the ground last week to the tune of 245 yards. While it is unclear what the running back split will look like against Carolina, it will be fun to see if Kenny G can keep making big plays.
Pounding the Patrick Johnson drum some more.
I will wave this flag until it happens. Let Patrick Johnson get on the field and leave him there. The Eagles linebackers have been brutal this year. From Eric Wilson to Alex Singleton to TJ Edwards to Genard Avery. These guys are too slow, too unaware or lack the physicality to be competent on defense, let alone difference makers.
I am not saying Patrick Johnson is Patrick Willis, but his upside far outweighs any of the other starting linebackers. If you’re going to have rocky play from the position, it might as well be contributing to the growth of a young player instead of journeymen doing the same things they’ve always done.