Coming off an impressive Week 1 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, the Philadelphia Eagles are set to hold their home opener this week against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Niners were one of only four teams the Eagles were able to defeat last season. Nevertheless, these are two completely different teams entering this Week 2 contest.
Here are five matchups to watch during the Eagles-49ers game this Sunday.
Jordan Mailata vs. Nick Bosa
I could’ve simply put the Eagles offensive line vs. the Niners defensive line as the heading here, but the individual matchup between Jordan Mailata and Nick Bosa is the most intriguing.
Mailata is a budding star at left tackle and is coming off a great performance in Week 1.
He was the highest graded Eagles lineman according to PFF, finishing opening weekend with a 71.3 overall grade and a 81.1 pass-blocking grade. Bosa, fresh off an injury-shortened 2020 campaign, looked true to form in his 2021 debut. In 51 defensive snaps, Bosa tallied four combined tackles, one quarterback knockdown, one quarterback hurry, and one sack. He finished Week 1 with the highest PFF grade along San Fran’s defensive line, posting a 87.6 mark.
This will be Mailata’s toughest test to date. He has all the tools to stymie a guy like Bosa, but if he’s unable to contain the third-year pass rusher, the Eagles offensive game plan could fall apart rather quickly.
Eagles wide receivers vs. 49ers cornerbacks
The 49ers secondary will be limping into this matchup, losing their best corner in Jason Verrett to a torn ACL and Emmanuel Moseley’s status for Week 2 still up in the air. The Eagles young group of wideouts proved last week that they’re capable of getting open against a weak secondary, so there’s no reason to expect anything different heading into Week 2.
Obviously, the Niners defense as a whole is much more competent than Atlanta’s; their pass rush could help their backend in a big way if they win up front. Sirianni’s ability to scheme up quick hitting routes, along with Jalen Hurts quickly diagnosing what the defense is giving him is the key entering this matchup.
DeVonta Smith had a very solid debut against Atlanta and he should be in for another productive game in this one. If Moseley is unable to go, the 49ers will likely task fifth-round rookie Deommodore Lenoir with covering Smith. Lenoir had a good debut of his own in Week 1, playing 98 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and only allowing one reception on three targets.
A little rookie on rookie action is always fun. While Lenoir is turning heads in San Francisco, facing Smith could bring him back down to Earth.
The biggest X-factor on the outside for the Eagles could end up being Jalen Reagor, who’s coming off his best game as a pro. He’ll have an easier matchup than Smith most likely.
Given how much production the Eagles wideouts had against a weak Falcons secondary, they should be able to find success facing a banged up Niners secondary.
Eagles defensive line vs. 49ers offensive line
The Eagles defensive front controlled the game against Atlanta, but they faced one of the weaker offensive lines they’ll see all season. San Francisco, on the other hand, has one of the better offensive fronts in all of football.
Left tackle Trent Williams graded out as the best LT in the NFL after Week 1, according to PFF. From top to bottom, they don’t have a true weakness along their offensive line. They were especially effective in the run game. Kyle Shanahan is known for his outside zone concepts and they were as lethal as they’ve ever been in Week 1. San Fran averaged 6.2 yards per carry on outside zone runs against the Lions.
Fletcher Cox and Co. are more than capable of disrupting even the best offensive lines in the NFL. In Week 1, five different Eagles lineman finished with a win rate over 15 percent. Javon Hargrave in particular was a menace on Sunday, finishing with a 92.9 overall grade on PFF, second-highest among all interior defensive lineman in Week 1.
Both the Niners and the Eagles are likely looking at this matchup as a test for both units. Winning in the trenches is a key for any team, and whichever unit out performs the other in this game will more than likely come out victorious.
George Kittle vs. Eagles secondary
Whenever you face the 49ers, circling George Kittle on the game plan is a no-brainer. By his standards, Kittle had a relatively quiet outing against Detroit. He hauled in four receptions on five targets for 78 yards.
Jonathan Gannon’s defense managed to shut down tight end Kyle Pitts in Week 1, holding him to just four receptions for 38 yards. Gannon mixed up his coverages on Pitts all game. Avonte Maddox, Eric Wilson, and K’Von Wallace all got cracks at stopping the Florida product. Look for a similar approach this week against Kittle.
Despite Pitts being a complete matchup nightmare athletically, he’s still a rookie and is a developing player. Just because Gannon’s defense was able to stymie him doesn’t mean they’ll find similar success against a perennial Pro Bowl player like Kittle.
Kittle is a focal point of Shanahan’s passing attack and we should expect a heavy dose of the tight end early and often in this one.
Deebo Samuel vs. Eagles cornerbacks
Deebo Samuel is the 49ers No. 1 threat at wideout and Shanahan loves to utilize him in a number of different ways. He spent the majority of his snaps on the outside and in the slot, but he also lined up in the backfield and as an inline blocker. Samuel is their most versatile weapon and could cause some matchup problems for the Eagles.
The Eagles cornerback group did a nice job containing Atlanta’s pass attack in Week 1. Steven Nelson and Darius Slay saw 12 targets manning the outside, allowing eight receptions for 59 yards, but only one of those catches went for a first down. The duo also had three passing stops and one forced incompletion on the day. Maddox also had a good outing as the nickel corner, allowing a pedestrian 76.4 passer rating when targeted.
Aside from Sammuel, the Niners don’t have another proven outside threat. Brandon Aiyuk was a potential breakout star heading into the year, but he didn’t see a single target in Week 1. That may change this time around since he’s not nursing an ankle injury anymore, but Samuel’s status as San Fran’s No. 1 receiving option outside of Kittle remains.
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