The Eagles got an exciting glimpse into their future last Sunday with impressive performances from their top two picks from the 2021 NFL Draft. Even thought it was a loss, there is some hope that the team drafted building blocks for the future. After a close game, confidence should be higher heading into the Eagles game against the Broncos. How will the rookies respond?
How will DeVonta Smith fare against a tough secondary?
DeVonta Smith is coming off his best game as a pro where he caught five passes, went over 100 yards for the second time this season, and chipped in a game-tying touchdown. It was a great performance against a talented secondary and exactly what the Eagles hoped for when they drafted Smith.
The Broncos defense is a tougher matchup than Los Angeles was for Smith. Denver has a stingy back-end to their defense, featuring rookie star Patrick Surtain II (although questionable to play), DeVonta Smith’s old teammate at Alabama. The former Crimson Tide stars could be facing off for most of the game. DeVonta Smith will have to rise to the challenge to stay hot and give the Eagles offense a chance.
Has Landon Dickerson turned the corner?
Landon Dickerson has been on a roll the last two weeks. The rookie guard has been mauling defensive linemen since the Detroit game and with the Eagles newfound commitment to running the ball, Dickerson has been a true tone setter on the Eagles line.
Denver’s front seven is far more physical than Detroit or Los Angeles and the Broncos defense is coming off a great performance against Dallas. Needless to say, this will be a big challenge for Dickerson and a great chance to show out against a much tougher opponent.
Which Milton Williams shows up this week?
Milton Williams had a breakout game against the Lions a few weeks ago. It took a few weeks, but the rookie defensive tackle looked like a disruptive three-down lineman. Against the Chargers, Williams looked OK, but did not nearly amount to the impact he had the week before.
The Denver offensive line has been hampered by poor depth and injuries this season, meaning Williams could capitalize on this favorable matchup with more big plays. A week after the whole defensive line basically disappeared, Williams could contribute to its resurgence.
Can Kenneth Gainwell work his way back in the rotation?
Despite the Eagles running the ball a lot more the last few weeks, Kenneth Gainwell has seen his snaps slip away to Boston Scott and Jordan Howard. Gainwell still looks fine when he’s on the field, but that is happening less and less.
If the Eagles are to keep on running the ball like they have, Kenneth Gainwell should eventually factor back into the game plan. After all, he is still their best receiving back.
Will Zech McPhearson see more time on defense?
Darius Slay is set to play in Week 10 but, if he reaggravates his hamstring injury, Zech McPhearson will be first in line for some playing time.
The Broncos have a really dangerous group of pass catchers between Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, Noah Fant and Melvin Gordon. Whoever McPhearson lines up against will be a challenge, and he will need to be solid at least to prevent Denver from airing it out.
If Josh Sweat doesn’t play, who steps up?
Josh Sweat is currently listed as questionable with a concussion, though there’s a decent chance he plays. His absence would be a big blow for a defensive front that needs all the help it can get. The Eagles might have to rely on their young players to fill in for Sweat, even if the Eagles pass rusher can suit up to play a few snaps.
Patrick Johnson and Tarron Jackson are the logical options for young guys to work into the rotation. Both have had bright moments in minimal playing time. Maybe a weak Denver offensive line is an opportunity for them to have a positive impact!