Here we are, a blink of an eye since the Eagles opened the 2023 season in New England. Tonight is the home opener, a Rumble in the Lincoln Financial Field Jungle, if you will, and there are some very key storylines as Philadelphia hosts the 0-1 Vikings (Amazon Prime nationally, FOX in Philadelphia) in the 8:15 PM kickoff. Let's get right to them ...
1. Injuries are an important factor
Minnesota doesn't have center Garrett Bradbury, the engine of that offensive line. How can the Eagles use that absence to their advantage? And what does it mean for Philadelphia to be without linebacker Nakobe Dean (on Injured Reserve, foot), cornerback James Bradberry (concussion), safety Reed Blankenship (ribs), and running back Kenneth Gainwell? Depth is tested for both teams and, with the short week, so is the ability to adjust from a scheme standpoint.
2. The short week and its impact
"It's all about getting your body and your mind right for a Thursday night game," wide receiver A.J. Brown said. "That's what you focus on as soon as the game ends on Sunday. It's an exciting night, the home opener, and I know the place is going to be crazy, so everything goes into matching that energy."
The Eagles have had walkthrough practices all week and much of their preparation has been done in the meeting rooms. The Vikings were home on Sunday and traveled to Philadelphia on Wednesday night. This is a test for every player.
3. Slowing Minnesota's passing game
The losses of Bradberry and Blankenship challenge the pass defense, so the Eagles expect second-year man Josh Jobe to potentially have his role increased at cornerback, with Terrell Edmunds, Justin Evans, and Sydney Brown manning the two safety spots.
On Jobe, Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai said earlier in the week, "I'm extremely confident and comfortable, really all the guys that we've prepared out there, and Josh being one of them. He's had a really good camp. We're looking forward to him doing well. He did a great job in the situation he was put in in the game (after Bradberry left in New England). Really, he showed kind of his mentality and his approach, which is a thing we really like about him."
Light Up The LINC
Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings, the team will debut an all-new light show. Attending the game? Fans will want to be in their seats early, as the light show extravaganza will begin during the team introductions. Must have the Eagles mobile app to participate.
4. Defensive pressure up front is the key
This kind of goes along with every game and every team, but for the Eagles there is a little more at stake tonight. Bradbury's injury sets Minnesota back at the center position and we saw what the Eagles did from a defensive tackle standpoint last week, so this is an area that is so huge tonight. Philadelphia must get up into quarterback Kirk Cousins' comfort zone and make him uncomfortable. Cousins has great weapons in wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison, along with tight end T.J. Hockenson. The Eagles, obviously, are going to have some new faces replacing Dean (possibly Nicholas Morrow and Christian Elliss), Bradberry (possibly Jobe), and Blankenship (Edmunds and Brown). So, the Eagles need to win and win big up front.
5. Finding a rhythm on offense
With no Gainwell, the Eagles will use D'Andre Swift, Boston Scott, and Rashaad Penny more than last week. They want to get the ball to tight end Dallas Goedert. They want to attack outside with Brown and DeVonta Smith. And they want to have quarterback Jalen Hurts do what he does - damage defenses in a variety of ways.
To do so, the Eagles must get into an early rhythm, keep the chains moving, play error-free football, and go after Minnesota's defensive weaknesses. The Vikings have a strong pass rush, so the offensive line will be tested as well.
That early flow will be so important. Let's see how the Eagles play it on their first couple of possessions.
6. The key statistics
Minnesota gave the football away three times in its loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday. It's obviously the biggest number out there that leads to the final score. Cornerback Darius Slay returned an interception for a touchdown and then tackle Jordan Davis forced a fumble and the Eagles scored a second touchdown from that takeaway in the win at New England. You see where I'm going here ...
We can talk all we want about numbers and balance and all of those statistics, but turnovers, penalties, and red zone efficiency are the ones at the top of the list. So, as you are watching the game tonight, keep those three in mind.