The 2022 NFL Season is upon us! The Detroit Lions open up with a tough matchup on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, home at Ford Field. The two teams faced off last season, which resulted in a blowout 44-6 win for quarterback Jalen Hurts and the Eagles.
Although the Lions secondary was very susceptible last season without a true proven group of players, the Eagles cut them up in the ground game. Without their number one running back in Miles Sanders, Philadelphia still ran for 236 yards and four touchdowns with Boston Scott, Jordan Howard and Kenneth Gainwell taking most of the snaps.
Head coach Dan Campbell, when asked about the opening game against the Eagles, discussed last season’s disappointing result.
“It was an embarrassing loss… and they came in and did everything they wanted to do to us times ten,” Campbell stated.
Campbell also addressed how difficult of a matchup the Eagles will be.
“They are disruptive up front… They have enough juice off the edge right now with [Haason] Reddick and then they still got [Fletcher] Cox to push the middle and among others,” Campbell said in a press conference this past Monday.
However, Campbell is looking ahead and is happy with the group of athletes he has around him and believes that his team can definitely compete against this tough Eagles team.
While Campbell mentioned the elite defensive players that Philly has in the front seven, they have a greatly improved secondary unit with the additions of James Bradberry and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Down below, I analyze each offensive matchup that we will see on Sunday afternoon.
D.J. Chark v. Darius Slay
D.J. Chark signed a one-year, $10 million deal in the offseason back in March. Chark is a former pro bowler, being voted to the team in 2020 with the Jacksonville Jaguars after a season with 53 receptions and 706 receiving yards. However, the talented young receiver saw his 2021 season shortened due to injury. Being a contract year, the Jaguars elected to not extend Chark, so the Lions made the addition as a sure, short-term investment. The 25-year-old will face off against the former Lion cornerback Darius Slay. Slay rejuvenated his career last season with a pro bowl caliber year, scoring three defensive touchdowns. After a tough 2021 campaign, Slay decreased his total yards allowed by over 300 yards, and I expect another great season for the veteran with the excellent offseason acquisitions. While Chark is a talented receiver with sticky hands and a knack for making contested catches, I expect Slay to get the better of the matchup against his former team.
Amon-Ra St. Brown v. James Bradberry
One of my favorite players on this Lions team, Amon-Ra St. Brown will face off against one of the new additions to this Eagles defense. Cornerback James Bradberry was acquired in free agency from the New York Giants after a solid season from the seven-year veteran. Bradberry totaled 13 passes defended, along with four interceptions. Bradberry has excellent ball skills and has solid instincts, which leads him to undercutting routes in order to make a play on the ball. However, Bradberry can be susceptible to the deep ball in some cases, and if St. Brown is able to execute in those situations, then the second year stud could make some noise this weekend. With that being said, I do believe that St. Brown has a big game and leads all receivers in yards (watch out for those yards after the catch too!).
D’Andre Swift/Offensive Line vs. Defensive Line
On paper, this looks to be a super interesting matchup, as both sides got players who can ball. Obviously D’Andre Swift is in for a big year, but it helps that he is lining up behind one of the best offensive line units in the league. The highlights on the line for Detroit are the two tackles in Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell, and also center Frank Ragnow. However, it is worth mentioning that the Lions starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai will be starting the season on the injured reserve after suffering a back injury in the team’s preseason finale. Backup Tommy Kraemer will start in his place on Sunday and should be sufficient for this already capable line. For Decker, Sewell and Ragnow, being able to create massive holes against Cox, Brandon Graham, Javon Hargraves, and rookie Jordan Davis will be key for any Detroit success. If Swift is able to carve up this Eagles front seven on the ground, then the potential of upset is very possible.