Lions vs. Eagles
Kickoff: 1 p.m., Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
Records: Lions 0-0, Eagles 0-0
Line: Eagles by 4
Detroit News staff writer Nolan Bianchi breaks down the Detroit Lions’ Week 1 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.
LIONS’ OFFENSIVE LINE VS. EAGLES’ DEFENSIVE LINE
In the blink of an eye, the Lions’ strongest position group heading into the 2022 season now looks like it may be a liability in the season opener. The Lions were already going to be without Halapoulivaati Vaitai, but now with Frank Ragnow missing practice Thursday, it’s possible that the Lions’ interior offensive line could be in serious trouble.
While it’s uncertain who on this roster will fill in at guard, there’s a degree of comfort in knowing that Evan Brown can competently pick up the snaps at center, if needed. The Lions made do with ample shuffling along the line last season, but still, filling two spots in the middle of their line for Week 1 could be an issue — and you can certainly bet on the Eagles trying to make it an issue.
Though Fletcher Cox missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in seven years last season, he is still very much a problem. Besides Cox, the Lions are staring at an interior rotation that also features Pro-Bowler Javon Hargrave and 6-foot-6, 340-pound rookie Jordan Davis.
On Sunday, the success of Detroit’s offense will come down to how well the interior offensive line — with Ragnow or without him — handles Philadelphia’s defensive interior.
Eagles to watch
► Jalen Hurts, QB: All eyes are on Jalen Hurts heading into the Eagles’ opener. Hurts threw for more than 3,000 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, and as the front office attempts to build a winner around him, many are hoping for a breakout season. Hurts was the leading rusher (71 yards on seven attempts) in a ground game that tore the Lions to shreds last season, and after Detroit’s struggles to stop a scrambling Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder in the preseason opener, it’s clear that Hurts has the potential to beat Detroit in a variety of ways come Sunday.
► A.J. Brown, WR: Brown is a new addition to the Eagles’ offense after surpassing 1,000 yards receiving in two of his first three NFL seasons, all of which came with the Tennessee Titans. Brown adds a new dimension to Philadelphia’s offense opposite second-year receiver Devonta Smith, and together, they will certainly be a handful. Brown gives Philadelphia the ability to stretch the field in a way that they couldn’t last season, and even if the Lions defend him well, it’ll be interesting to see how that threat opens things up for the Eagles.
► C.J. Gardner-Johnson, S: While it’s the Eagles’ defensive line that has the biggest chance to blow up Detroit’s offense on Sunday, the most interesting player to watch on Philadelphia’s defense may just be in the secondary. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who joined the Eagles via trade last week, figures to play a factor in Detroit’s ability to stretch the field. With a healthy receiving room in Detroit, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where that’s not a focal point of Detroit’s attack, which would make Gardner-Johnson a key figure to watch entering Sunday.
Facts and figures
► The Eagles rushed for 236 yards in last season’s 44-6 shellacking of the Lions. Hurts ran for 71, Boston Scott 60, Jordan Howard 57, Kenneth Gainwell 27 and Jalen Reagor 21. Oh, and they’ll have first-string running back Miles Sanders this time around.
► Philadelphia allowed 31 sacks last season, tied for sixth-fewest across the entire league. Every member of last year’s starting line is back besides Brandon Brooks, who retired, and had his role replaced by second-year guard Landon Dickerson. As the Lions look to debut a new scheme and pass rush, they’ll certainly have their hands full trying to get past the Eagles’ dominant offensive line.
► Heading into his fourth season, Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson has set quite a standard for Week 1. He’s collected a touchdown and is averaging 94.7 yards and 6.3 catches in each of his three season openers thus far.