The Patriots haven't had a week 1 matchup against this good of a team in a while. The Eagles are coming off as season that sent them to the Super Bowl, and via excellent drafting and a decent free agency period, they've arguably gotten better. Believe it or not, though, it isn't all done and dusted in Foxborough - here's where the Patriots can really hurt Philly.
Stellar Front Seven
The Eagles do have an excellent offensive line, but it may not be enough to hold off this ferocious group. Judon and Wise were already a lethal edge combination, but with powerful Keion White joining the ranks this year and coming off an excellent preseason, there's a lot to play with, and the Eagles' RTs are likely in for a tough day.
It doesn't get much easier with the interior. Barmore is looking to really get going after an up-and-down 2022, a now healthy Ekuale is coming off a great preseason, Godchaux and Guy round out the interior unit with experience and skill. Uche, and to an extent Bentley at LB adds to the pass-rushing threat further. The front seven is skilled and it's deep - one of the best in the league if they materialize.
Jalen Hurts' legs are a luxury right now. They may be a necessity on Sunday.
With Jack Jones now fully cleared of charges, the Patriots no longer have to worry about cornerback depth. The second-year will look to build off a promising 2022 where his aggression and ball skills paid serious dividends. He's one of three Jones, with Jonathan coming off a 2022 where he rose to the occasion and led the team in picks, and Marcus getting ready to play an elevated role at corner and leverage his unreal athleticism.
The safety position is RIFE with depth. With Jack Jones cleared, Jalen Mills can be safety with no reservation after a preseason where he took to the position like a duck to water. While he can't replace McCourty's experience and intangible presence, Mills fills the role of the traditional cover safety.
Who's left? Just a bunch of versatile monsters in Dugger, Peppers, Mapu (who we'll maybe also see at LB), and Phillips who can both cover and hit well, are capable of getting to the backfield and could conceivably line up anywhere. Good luck game-planning for that, Brian Johnson.
As if more coverage threats are needed, JaWhaun Bentley, Marte Mapu (when he's lined up at LB), and Mack Wilson have all shown the ability to play in coverage linebacker roles. With Belichick and an excellent group of assistants leading the charge on defense, they can maximize the potential of the roster.
Bringing The "Special" Back To Special Teams
In 2022, having the combination of a poorly functioning offense AND a special teams unit who couldn't successfully flip the field was a lethal combo - in the worst way possible. Add in three return touchdowns allowed - the same clip, by the way, that they had allowed in the 20 years prior COMBINED - and it just wasn't pretty.
2023 looks to bring a different story. Bryce Baringer has wasted no time in alleviating Patriots Nation's concern about the punter position, consistently kicking for around or over 50 yards this preseason with good hangtime and no weak punts. As far as the punt/kick coverage is concerned, Slater and 2022 rookie standout Brenden Schooler are joined by offseason acquisitions Chris Board and Ameer Speed in leading the coverage unit.
With Joe Judge - who thrived in his last stint as Patriots special teams coach - leading the unit, there should certainly be monumental improvement. And as far as the kicking game is concerned, while losing the ever-so-consistent Nick Folk is tough, Chad Ryland won that job for a reason - he's young, promising, and has range. The Patriots will have someone who can consistently kick off as well.
The Bottom Line
It's not going to be easy to find a path to victory for the Patriots, but there are absolutely areas where they can hurt Philadelphia. That's a start, at the very least.
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