The Eagles’ rookies had quite the debuts for themselves last week against the Falcons. Heading into Week 2, they and the rest of the team have a much more formidable challenge in the San Francisco 49ers. Here are rookie storylines to follow.
Can DeVonta Smith build on his debut?
DeVonta Smith’s first NFL catch was a touchdown and is hard to get better than that. All in all, Smith finished with six catches for 71 yards and saw the ball a few times on third down.
The 49ers are no doubt going to be a tougher test for the first round pick. Not only do they have better, more physical cornerbacks than Atlanta, they also have linebackers and safeties who will make it hard to find soft spots in the middle of the field.
DeVonta Smith has a chance to prove himself against tighter coverage and he will need to perform to help the Eagles stay undefeated.
Will Landon Dickerson see the field?
Landon Dickerson is getting eased into full practices as he returns from injury and it sounds like the second-round offensive lineman is closer and closer to being ready to get on the playing field.
Of course, Dickerson would not automatically take someone else’s spot on the offensive line, especially with how well the unit played last week. However, there will likely be situations in the future where Dickerson might be asked to come in for a few snaps at center or guard to relieve a starter for some reason. Or potentially as a sixth offensive lineman in certain packages. While it might not be this week, we are all officially on Dickerson Watch.
How does Milton Williams respond to the San Francisco running game?
Milton Williams saw the field quite a bit against Atlanta. As the team deployed various looks on the defensive line, Milton Williams lined up all over the place. The Eagles defensive line comfortably demolished Atlanta last week, but the 49ers offensive line and their running game are a different beast all together.
The Niners running game will be much more physical, much less predictable and generally more dynamic than Atlanta’s rushing offense. This will be a huge test for Milton Williams.
Can Kenneth gain well (sorry) against the 49ers defense?
DeVonta Smith was not the only Eagles rookie to show out on offense last week. Kenneth Gainwell is securely in the second running back spot and looked good rushing the football. It won’t be surprising if he keeps his role against San Francisco, but with even more targets in the running game.
The challenge for Gainwell will be the Niners talented front seven. Not only will they be harder to run against, but I imagine it will be tough to make an impact catching the football against their linebackers.
Gainwell surely has the talent to thrive in his role as the receiving back, and the Niners will make him prove it.
Patrick Johnson should see some snaps on defense.
The defense ultimately had an outstanding opening day in Atlanta, but if you had to pick a questionable spot on the unit, it would surely be the linebackers. Eric Wilson looked lost on key plays and Genard Avery was a weak spot in the front seven when he saw the field.
Enter Patrick Johnson. The rookie linebacker has looked good playing off-ball and on the edge. This means he could sneak in a few snaps playing stand up edge rusher in five man fronts or as an off-ball linebacker in base defense.
While it’s hardly a sure thing, Johnson has the talent to make a different on those snaps and the Eagles should stop wasting everyone’s time with mid-level veterans.