1:00 pm on Sunday, September 11 in Detroit, first game of a new season… EYE will worry a little about how slowly the Eagles offense seems to gel in these openers. It’s understandable with such limited preparation time as a unit in these shortened preseasons. You just don’t want to see your defense taxed with a lot of quick outs by your own offense, as the defense is a work in progress too. Jonathan Gannon’s defensive unit has a bunch of new faces, in effect playing together for the first time. Pass rusher Haason Reddick, DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson, linebacker Kyzir White, rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis, rookie linebacker Nakobe Dean, and veteran cornerback James Bradberry are among the new names you will hear called on Sunday.
Detroit, despite finishing the 2021 season with a record of 3-13-1, has an optimistic outlook in this one. On defense, the Lions have a nasty defensive end in Charles Harris who will be hunting sacks. Detroit will hope former first-round cornerback Jeff Okudah returns healthy from the Achilles tear he suffered in 2021. If he is able to return and show the form he had in college at Ohio State and rookie Aidan Hutchinson is able to provide a pass rush, the Detroit Lions are potentially on the verge of being a dangerous team in the NFC North. With rookies Penei Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown coming on strong to finish 2021, the offense looks to move forward. Adding a big play receiver like D.J. Chark in free agency should help. Jared Goff enters his second season as the starting quarterback in Detroit.
The Eagles approach Sunday’s season opener relatively healthy – two of the most glaring injury concerns during the preseason were center Jason Kelce’s elbow and running back Miles Sanders’ hamstring; they’re both expected to reclaim their starting roles in Detroit.
Tackle Andre Dillard was placed on Injured Reserve after suffering an injury during O-line vs. D-line drills during practice last Thursday. He had been listed as the backup left tackle behind Jordan Mailata on the team’s unofficial depth chart, but he’s since been moved to injured reserve, freeing up a roster spot.
“I feel like the last half of the year the Lions kind of came into their own with their identity and how they wanted to play offense, and (it’s going to be a) big-time challenge for us. They have a really good O-line, quarterback is a good player, and they have some skill guys,” Gannon said.
At least on offense the Eagles return intact along the offensive line and they’re bolstered by the encouraging return of the underrated Isaac Seumalo, a left guard last season who spent much of the season on IR. He’s come all the way back and is now projected to start at right guard, with second-year man Landon Dickerson at left guard. Jordan Mailata is the left tackle, Jason Kelce is the center, and, of course, Johnson is at right tackle. Both Kelce and Johnson were All-Pro players a season ago. Offensively, they added A.J. Brown, giving Jalen Hurts another stud pass-catcher to go along with second-year wideout DeVonta Smith.
The Eagles are a 3.5-point favorite in the game. Nearly all the game predictors EYE researched say this will end up a very close game. More than half of the betting services are saying this: “The Lions are the home team here and they are getting too many points to pass up, so expect them to cover here against the Eagles who are still figuring out who they are.”
EYE will go with this one:
NFL Spin Zone: Eagles 24, Lions 21
Brendan Danaher writes: “The Lions’ newest defensive acquisition, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, will have his first NFL appearance against one of the best offensive lines in the league. The Eagles had one of the best offseasons/drafts in their history and are my pick to take the NFC East this season. The Lions will fight hard but the Eagles will prevail, especially with the debuting of their most high-profile addition—wide receiver A.J. Brown. Fly Eagles Fly.”