The Eagles are 1-2, coming off an embarrassing loss on national television. With the Chiefs coming to town, the whole team needs to turn it around to avoid a third straight loss. The Eagles rookies aren’t precluded from this urgency. They have wilted with the rest of the team, which is no good considering how big a role they play on both sides of the ball. There are a few specific challenges the young guys will face on Sunday.
Can DeVonta Smith get hot?
DeVonta Smith has not been the star the Eagles need him to be over the last two weeks. Chalk it up to general offensive dysfunction, but Smith has not maximized his targets and often looked overmatched against physical coverage.
The Chiefs defense has given up at least 29 points in each of their first three games and generally been quite friendly to passing offenses. This could be a cupcake match up for DeVonta Smith to get his mojo back, and the Eagles will need his best in what should be a high scoring affair.
Landon Dickerson settling into the guard position.
Landon Dickerson’s NFL career is off to a rocky start as he shakes off some injury rust and adjusts to playing the guard position. Things are not about to get easier for the second round pick, because Kansas City has some seriously talented interior defensive lineman. Chris Jones, Jarran Reed, and Derrick Nnadi are all disruptive defenders that Dickerson will likely have to deal with. Factor in more injury shakeups on the Eagles offensive line, and everyone will be adjusting to new chemistry.
Hopefully Nick Sirianni will alleviate some pressure on the offensive line by getting the run game going and helping them out with a good quick game. However, Landon Dickerson needs to rise to the occasion of the Chiefs defensive line if the team wants a chance against Kansas City.
Can Milton Williams take a step beyond being “solid.”
Milton Williams has been fine through three games. Which is not a bad thing at all. Against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense, though, the Eagles will need a lot more than “solid” from their defensive linemen. Milton Williams has largely been relied on to two-gap, but given the amount of times the Chiefs will be dropping back to pass, the Eagles might need to reach deep into their defensive line rotation to keep everyone fresh.
Williams was a decent pass rusher in college and certainly has the athleticism to be disruptive. If he is relied on to provide some juice for the pass rush, it will be crucial he steps up to help the Eagles keep Patrick Mahomes off balance.
Kenneth Gainwell should have a big game
Last Sunday, Austin Ekeler went for 52 receiving yards against Kansas City. The Chiefs linebackers couldn’t keep up with him and he was constantly a productive safety outlet for the offense.
Kenneth Gainwell is already the Eagles primary pass catcher out of the backfield. This is a favorable match-up for him as a runner and a pass catcher. Assuming running back usage improves from the dismal personnel choices the Eagles made last week, Kenneth Gainwell will have his most productive game as a rookie.
Please Jonathan Gannon, Nick Sirianni, god, or whomever… Just keep Patrick Johnson on the field.
The Eagles linebacker situation stinks. Eric Wilson, TJ Edwards, Alex Singleton, and Genard Avery have all been disappointing wherever and whenever they line up. It is a noticeable weakness on an Eagles defense that is not exactly stacked with talent overall.
Patrick Johnson has been fine when he is on the field, which is a lot more you can say for his peers at the linebacker position. When he is on the edge as an outside linebacker, he plays with far more urgency or physicality than Genard Avery. When he payed off-ball in preseason, he looked a lot faster and more aware than Wilson, Edwards or Singleton.
If his snaps increased significantly, sure he would have some hiccups. After all he is transitioning to more of a hybrid role after being a strict edge player in college. However, the Eagles need a jolt at linebacker and Johnson has too much upside to keep off the field for any of the other guys the Eagles are throwing out there.