(Photo courtesy of The Athletic)
Each week we will look to see how the 2021 Eagles rookie class performs. The Eagles opened the 2021 campaign with a shocking 32-6 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The MVP of the game was second year QB Jalen Hurts. However, some of the players that helped him succeed in the season opener were the 2021 rookies.
Patrick Johnson and Milton Williams
Each player recorded a tackle in the victory today. Even though they did not produce much in the eyes of the stat book, both players were extremely disruptive for the Atlanta offense and Matt Ryan. The Eagles defense was led by the defensive line. Johnson and Williams were both bullying their way through the opposing offensive line.
The Eagles are so stacked at DT, and Williams will still need to continue to climb the depth chart ladder. However, this is a great opportunity. He saw his fair share of snaps on defense. His coaches see the potential in the rookie from Louisiana Tech. Even though he is not the starter, by playing behind the elite veterans in Philly could prove to be a great learning opportunity for him.
Johnson is in the same boat. He still has a long ways to go until he is the starter, but his coaches see the big potential in him. He got his fair share of snaps and helped the Eagles defensive line continue to be disruptive all game long. Check out this big tackle for loss!
The former Memphis Tiger, Kenny Gainwell made his presences known in the Eagles offense on Sunday. He had 9 carries for 37 yards and added his first career touchdown to complete his afternoon. His biggest upside during the draft process was his ability to be a top tier slot receiver as well as a top running back. Jalen Hurts is going to love adding Gainwell to his very young collection of receivers. Even though he only added 2 receptions for 6 yards, his work load will only be increased from here. The more he continues to improve, defenses will struggles keeping him under control in both the run and the pass.
Going into week 1 all eyes were going to be on the reigning Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith. When he was first drafted, Eagles fans hoped that Smith and QB Jalen Hurts could rekindle their connection from their days at the University of Alabama. It did not take long for Eagles fans to jump out of their seats with joy after a Jalen Hurts to DeVonta Smith touchdown.
The Eagles first points of the ball game came from an 18 yard touchdown pass, and right then we knew we had a WR who was competent and could catch the ball. The Eagles have struggled at wide receiver for many years now. Fans have seen the receivers the Eagles have passed on in the draft go on and become pro bowl receivers. Smith's big debut makes fans seem hopeful and optimistic that the WR struggles may be ending soon.
Smith ended the game with 6 receptions, 71 yards, and 1 TD. This was the excitement that Eagles fans were praying for. He led all Eagles with receptions and yards. The Eagles offense was electric. DeVonta Smith and Kenny Gainwell become the first pair of Eagle rookies to score TD's in the season opener since 1950. The Eagles are a very young football team. Seeing the early success of Smith and Gainwell is promising for the Eagles offense.
By technicality Coach Sirianni is a rookie. In his first game at the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles Sirianni led the birds to their biggest margin of victory since the 2017 NFC Championship against Minnesota. The expectations for the Eagles were low going into the season opener. After a disappointing pre-season, no one knew what we would see from Philadelphia week 1. Sirianni started his tenure in a perfect way. In his first full game being the primary play caller on offense, the Eagles 175 rushing yards and 264 passing yards. Jalen Hurts looked like a true franchise QB and we saw multiple players on offense get involved.
After the game Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie was given the decision to present the game ball to the individual he felt deserved it. Most people would think QB Jalen Hurts would get it, but in the end rookie Head Coach Nick Sirianni was the recipient.
Many rookies either did not play or were non-factors. Offensive lineman Landon Dickerson was inactive for week 1. He is still recovering from injuries in college, and I am sure the Eagles will not rush him onto the field unless he is fully healthy or they have no other lineman on the roster. Zech McPhearson made some appearances on special teams, but for the most part was a non-factor for the Eagles.
Week 1 is in the books. The Eagles' 2021 rookie class had an A+ week 1, and I can only see them improving from here. Even though they all started off very strong, there is still room to improve for them all. Be prepared to watch them continue to grow and help the offense and defense continue to play at elite levels.