The Philadelphia Eagles could not have asked for a better start to their 2021 season.
Jalen Hurts looked like the franchise quarterback the team was hoping for while rookie first-round pick DeVonta Smith provided the kind of outside threat the Eagles missed so dearly last season.
The defense was just as good, yielding just six points to a Matt Ryan-led offense that still had some weapons despite losing Julio Jones. But all in all, the Falcons are going to be one of the worst teams in the NFC this season, and Week 2 provides a much stiffer test.
Philadelphia’s home opener on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET) comes against the San Francisco 49ers, who hung up 41 points against the lowly Detroit Lions last week. Granted, they almost blew a massive lead and snuck out with an eight-point victory.
But the Niners bring in a two-quarterback system that should see rookie Trey Lance’s time under center increase.
While Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 314 yards and a touchdown, Lance saw just six snaps with his lone pass also finding the end zone.
It’s a challenge that Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon seems to be relishing (h/t Philly Voice).
“That’s just part of how you have to prepare for the game,” he said. “There’s not a lot of tape on [Lance] in the pros. He played a lot in the preseason, played some snaps against Detroit. That will be part of our plan. We got to have a good plan for when he’s in the game. Our guys will be prepared with, ‘Hey, this is this guy’s skill set, this is how we have to defend him.’
“It’s a little bit different than defending Jimmy. Jimmy, this is his skill set, this is what we have to be aware of and defend. When they make adjustments, we’ll have to make adjustments. We’ll prepare our guys with the first start of how we’re going to roll. If we need to make adjustments, we’ll prepare them kind of later in the week, ‘Hey, here is the next wave, so to speak, of here’s what we’re going to do.’
“It’s kind of cool. Our players, they’ll be excited to start — they’re already prepping for San Francisco, but they’ll like the multiplicity of how we’re going to play this week.”
While the Eagles defense might have their hands full, their offense might be in for a big day as well at Lincoln Financial Field.
The 49ers’ defense is significantly banged up, most notably in their secondary. Jason Verrett, one of their top corners last year, suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 and is done for the 2021 season. San Francisco’s No. 2 corner, Emmanuel Moseley, missed the opener with a knee injury and is questionable to play against the Eagles.
The rest of the Niners’ secondary is thin, meaning Hurts could have the opportunity to air the ball out a bit more in Week 2. It comes down to the protection against an active and aggressive San Francisco front seven that enjoys putting pressure on the opposing quarterback.
“We’re all aware we’re going against a really good defense, a really good team, a very good and active front seven,” Hurts said. “They’re really good up front, so we have to be prepared for them.
“I look at it and I say, ‘Continue to grow, continue to grow. That goes with learning how we want to attack this week, getting a feel for what they do defensively and who they are as a team, and going out there and trying to attack it. Grow every day. That motto will never change.”