The Eagles are only a few days away from their Monday Night Football matchup against a new-look Minnesota Vikings team. The Birds are 1-0 after a close win over the Detroit Lions and questions swirl about the defense’s readiness for an explosive offense. A big part of that question is the involvement of the rookie defenders.
Jordan Davis only got a handful of snaps against Detroit, but his impact was clear when he saw the field. Davis is already a disruptive run defender, which the Eagles needed against a Lions team that was gashing them on the ground. Davis’ usage was extremely head scratching, as was the underperformance of the defense as a whole.
After the Lions ran at will against Philly, Dalvin Cook and the Vikings look and feel a bit scarier. Cook is as good a back as there is in the league and the Vikings are happy to ride him when he is hot. Disrupting the line of scrimmage and making it hard to run will be crucial, so Jonathan Gannon will have to consider using Jordan Davis more.
The Eagles drafted Davis with their first pick for a reason. He is a rare athlete at a premium position and he is clearly ready to help an NFL defense. It’s unclear what he has to do to get more snaps in the defensive line rotation, but hopefully Sunday was a wake up call for the people who make those decisions.
Similarly, it feels like only a matter of time before Nakobe Dean makes his way into the starting defense. Haason Reddick felt miscast against the Vikings when he was dropping into coverage but thrived when he got to play on the line. It makes sense that Gannon wants Reddick to be an unpredictable X-Factor in pre-snap, but it might not have the intended impact if he can get picked on in the passing game. If the team wants an off-ball linebacker who can threaten as a blitzer on every snap but still play well in coverage, Dean is an obvious fit into that role.
Reddick is a very good edge defender and he should be on the line in nickel/dime packages as much as possible. Now that Derek Barnett is out for the year, it makes even more sense to let Reddick be on the line of scrimmage more and consider letting Dean take more snaps as a nickel linebacker.
The Vikings offense looks deadly after one week. Kevin O’Connell, Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins made mincemeat of a very talented Packers defense last Sunday. If the Eagles want to avoid that same fate, they will need to be a bit brave and let their rookies play more. It has a clear short term benefit to the defense and will hope two future defensive cornerstones get their bearings.