It’s over. The Philadelphia Eagles opened the 2022 season Sunday with a resounding 38-35 victory over the Detroit Lions.
Was it flawless? No it wasn’t. There were plenty of miscues from twice having too many men on the field to missing interceptions that could have silenced the Ford Field crowd.
But that’s OK. It was the season opener and there were things happening that won’t be occurring later in the season. Here are a few side notes worth passing on.
The Birds have a big meeting Monday against the Minnesota Vikings. One of the things they must do is stifle an opponent’s running game. Former St.Joseph’s Prep High School and University of Georgia star D’Andre Swift rushed for a game-high 144 yards on 15 carries. He looked marvelous and could have added more.
If they want to advance, they must find a way to control the opponent’s backfield. It keeps the pressure off and controls the game. Swift got some good looks, but he also exposed the Eagles defense against the run. Minnesota has a dynamic rusher in Dalvin Cook. A 1,000-yard rusher for the past three last seasons, Cook collected 90 yards on 20 carries in the Vikings’ 23-7 triumph over Green Bay. He will be looking for yards against the Eagles.
Cook is a firebrand who makes things happen. His younger brother, James, is a rookie running back with the Buffalo Bills.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts looked well. He and receiver A.J. Brown hooked up 11 times for 155 yards, the best ever in an Eagles opener. It was the first time that the two connected after not doing so through three pre-season games.
What the Eagles must do is get more people involved in the offense. Brown, who was targeted 13 times, got open against a poor Lions secondary. There were other receivers such as Dallas Goedert, Zach Paschal and DeVonta Smith who were open and could have had a pass flicked their way. Goedert had three receptions and Pascal had one. Smith was shut out but hopefully will be able to comeback against the Vikings.
And finally, James Bradberry, who signed in May, picked off a pass that was deflected by linebacker Kyzir White, who signed in April. The end result was a 27-yard interception return. If the Eagles are going to be successful this year, they will need to make more plays like this.
Minnesota has a fine wide receiver in Justin Jefferson. He collected nine receptions for 184 yards with two touchdowns against Green Bay. A first-round 2020 draft choice, he has been a participant in two straight Pro Bowls. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers Randy Moss and Sammy White can equal that claim.
On Monday, the Eagles got some bad news. An MRI revealed that defensive end Derek Barnett sustained a season-ending torn ACL during the win over Detroit. Head coach Nick Sirianni felt bad about the injury.
“It is a big blow for us,” Sirianni said in press conference. “I love the way [he] comes to work every single day and plays with grittiness and toughness...I am a huge fan and he will be missed.”
Barnett was hurt midway through the third quarter, collapsing to the ground during a pass rush up the right side. After being examined by trainers, he was able to walk off the field and was listed as questionable to return but never did.
“This sucks. I hate that for him. I hate that for this team,” Sirianni said.
The injury is a blow to the Eagles’ defensive line depth. Second-year player Tarron Jackson, who was inactive Sunday, is expected to assume a larger role behind veterans Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat. The Eagles re-signed Barnett to a one-year deal this off-season. A first-round draft pick in 2017, he has 21.5 career sacks.
Losing Barnett is going to be costly for the Birds. He was counted on for so much during his career. It’s not known whether Jackson is up for the role but the job is apparently his if he wants it. Now, he’s going to have to show that he is capable of handling the promotion.