The Eagles last played a meaningful football game on Jan. 16. Their next meaningful game will be Sunday at Detroit, 238 long days after their playoff loss to Tampa Bay.
A few things have happened to the Eagles, the country and the world since Jan. 16. The Eagles retooled their defense, picked up important free agents, drafted what appears to be a strong rookie class.
Last year, they beat the Lions, 44-6. With all the positive happenings around the Eagles, you would think the buzz would be stronger for another big Philadelphia victory Sunday.
Caesars Sportsbook lists the Eagles as a four-point favorite. The Lions might be the textbook definition of a “tough out” this season.
Fiery Detroit coach Dan Campbell has taken on the task of turning around one of the league’s worst franchises in the Super Bowl era.
The Lions should be improved this season. Last year, they finished 3-13-1, but were a momentum-building 3-3 over their last six games.
Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said watching the game film from last year’s victory was pretty satisfying.
“We got on a roll there in that game by the way we ran the ball, so it was good,” Steichen said.
“Obviously, you’re going back through watching all the season, all the stuff, but it was good. Just to grow from that game and then continue to do what we did throughout the season.”
Last year, the Eagles gained 236 yards on the ground as they improved their record to 3-5 and turned around their season.
Then Steichen issued the standard coach-speak/warning about this year’s game.
- “But every year is a new year,” Steichen said. “It’s going to look different. It’s not always going to be the same.
- “It could be, you never know. Every year is a new year, so we’re looking forward to the challenge this Sunday.”
The Lions selected Michigan defensive lineman Aiden Hutchinson with the second overall pick in the draft. The Lions hope the Metro Detroit native can be a franchise-changing defender for his hometown team.
After all, he turned around the Wolverines last season as they won the Big Ten championship.
- “Without giving out any secrets, he’s a heck of a football player,” Steichen said. “I really just talked about him as a football player, watching him in college, I mean he’s explosive, he’s long, he’s powerful.
- “You saw in the preseason him coming off the edge, just the explosiveness he plays with. So, we have to be ready for him.
- “I think in whole their defense, you watch them in the preseason game, just the way they’re flying around with energy and effort, it’s showing up big-time from last year to this year.
- “In the NFL, right, every game is going to be a challenge. I don’t care who you play, where you play. You have to be ready to go.”
LIONS LOADED WITH GOOD PLAYERS
“They have some good players,” Steichen said. “[Defensive lineman Michael] Brockers is still there, linebackers, [uniform number] 34 [Alex Anzalone], 55 [Derrick Barnes]; they have the rookie, [Malcolm] Rodriguez, 44;
“The corners, 1 [Jeff Okudah], 24 [Amani Oruwariye] and then the safeties, 5 [DeShon Elliott] and 21 [Tracy Walker III], are good players; and they have [Mike] Hughes from Kansas City.
“All those guys are flying around making plays, so we have to be ready for it.”
GANNON IMPRESSED WITH LIONS
Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was asked about the differences he saw between last year and this year in Detroit.
- “Completely different football team,” Gannon said. “I feel like the last half of the year they 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 [Jared Goff] is a good player, and they have some skill guys. We have it cut out for us. We have to play good football to give our team a chance to win.”
Detroit’s offensive line will be missing former Eagle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, a guard who was placed on injured reserve and will miss the first four games. Vaitai, who was on the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl team, has a back injury.
The Lions’ most potent offensive weapon might be tight end T.J. Hockenson. He had 10 catches for 89 yards in last year’s game.
Gannon was asked if the Eagles have tightened up defending tight ends with their new linebackers.
- “A lot of that is predicated on call, where certain times people that are on him [Hockenson] have help and certain times when people are on him, they don’t have help,” Gannon said.
- “I think it’s just executing the call when guys know when they’re matched up on him how to defend him, where to be strong, where they’re strong, and use their help accordingly.”
Two-hundred and thirty-eight days between Eagles games feels like an eternity. The Delaware Valley is ready for this party to start.