There are only a few more sleeps until the Eagles take on the Buccaneers for the first playoff game of the Nick Sirianni era. The Eagles will take on a veteran Bucs team with a squad full of young guns. For the Eagles rookies, there are a few things to keep an eye on.
Can DeVonta Smith bring his postseason dominance to the NFL?
One of the most amazing things about DeVonta Smith in college was that he shined under the brightest lights. Across nine postseason games in college, DeVonta Smith caught 54 passes that went for 825 yards and 11 touchdowns. In the last three postseason games at Alabama, DeVonta Smith caught 34 passes for 529 yards and eight touchdowns. Needless to say, he is used to performing well in high pressure situations.
But the NFL is undoubtedly a different level. The Buccaneers feature a stingy secondary that held DeVonta Smith to two catches in the teams’ first meeting back in October. On one end, DeVonta Smith will need to make the most of his targets in this game, but on the other… the Eagles need to trust in their young receiver to deliver in a big game and Get. Him. The. Ball.
How will Landon DIckerson do in Round 2 with the Buccaneers defensive line?
Landon Dickerson had a rough go in his first game against Tampa Bay. Vita Vea and company gave him hell, stunting the ability of the whole Eagles offense to move the ball. Of course, it was Dickerson’s fifth career start and he was dealing with a ton of extenuating factors that impacted his play.
Now, Dickerson has settled in at guard and is playing like one of the better interior linemen in the league. Unlike back in October, the Eagles have a clear-cut on offense which benefits the whole squad. Dickerson will need to be his normal, mauling self even against one of the best run defenses in the league. His play will be crucial in the Eagles chances to pull off an upset.
How big an impact can Milton Williams make in limited opportunities?
Milton Williams went from being a ghost in the first half of the season to consistently making highlight plays despite being a rotational player. A major key to beating Tom Brady has always been interior pressure, so Williams will need to continue impressing as a pass rusher to make sure his snaps factor into an Eagles win.
Will Kenneth Gainwell be a part of the game plan?
Kenneth Gainwell got a chance to start in Week 18 and looked really solid on the Eagles second team offense against the Dallas starters. It is clear Gainwell is a talented back, but it is still unclear how he factors into a fully healthy Eagles backfield.
Miles Sanders could be back in the lineup for this game, but he is still dealing with a hand injury. Jordan Howard isn’t on the injury report, but his health is always going to be a concern. The only thing that is clear is that the Eagles are going to run the ball early and often against the Bucs, so the question is how much do they want the rookie runner to be a part of that effort.