PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles’ season opener against the Atlanta Falcons couldn’t have gone any better. Jalen Hurts played phenomenal, Nick Sirianni managed the game very well in his debut as head coach, and Jonathan Gannon’s defense didn’t allow the Falcons to score a touchdown in a 32-6 victory.
Now, the Eagles will start the toughest five weeks of their schedule against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in front of a packed Lincoln Financial Field for the first time since 2020.
Here are some matchups to watch in the Eagles’ home opener:
Jonathan Gannon vs. Kyle Shanahan
It’s extremely early in the 2021 season, but Week 2’s game against the 49ers is a huge test for Eagles first-year defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Why?
Well, Gannon will be going head-to-head with Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan, who’s one of the best play-callers and offensive minds in the NFL.
Gannon’s defense passed with flying colors against the Falcons, as the Eagles held Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts in check. But weapons like George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and others will be a handful for the Eagles.
Whoever edges each other out in the Gannon-Shanahan matchup could decide the fate of the game.
Jordan Mailata, Eagles’ OL vs. Nick Bosa, 49ers’ DL
Speaking of matchups that could factor into the result of the game, this is right up there as well.
Jordan Mailata will face off against Nick Bosa, one of the best defensive ends in the league.
Bosa wasted no time getting busy in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions. He had four tackles, including one sack and three tackles for loss. Fellow defensive linemen Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, and Javon Kinlaw will also present challenges for the Eagles’ offensive line. Armstead and Kinlaw are both questionable for Sunday.
The Eagles did an excellent job protecting Hurts and opening holes for Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell against the Falcons, but the 49ers are a whole other animal.
Jalen Hurts vs. defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, 49ers’ defense
Hurts had his way last week against a poor Falcons’ defense. He completed 27 of his 35 passes for 264 passing yards and three touchdowns. He also racked up 62 rushing yards on seven carries.
In Week 2, Hurts will face the 49ers, who have a stronger defensive front than the Falcons, and first-year defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.
Ryans, the former Eagles linebacker, nearly let the Lions walk back into the game in Week 1. The 49ers were up by three scores until Detroit scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and made it a one possession game, but the Niners were able to hold on.
It’ll be interesting to see how the 49ers attack Hurts now that there’s film out on him playing in Sirianni’s offense. But Hurts’ skillset could allow him to exploit some matchups against a 49ers’ defense that let up 430 yards of total offense to the Lions.
Eagles’ WRs vs. 49ers’ banged up CBs
The Eagles’ wideouts had a great start in Week 1 against the Falcons. DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor caught touchdowns, Quez Watkins flashed early, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside played well in his role.
In Week 2, the Eagles’ wideouts will play a 49ers’ group of cornerbacks dealing with injuries.
Last week, San Francisco lost its No. 1 cornerback, Jason Verrett, after he tore his ACL. The 49ers’ No. 2 cornerback, Emmanuel Moseley, has been dealing with a knee injury and didn’t play against Detroit. He’s doubtful for Sunday and only practiced once this week as a limited participant on Friday.
The 49ers signed veteran Dre Kirkpatrick off the street earlier this week and veteran cornerback Josh Norman is expected to be active, but the Eagles’ young wide receivers might be able to take advantage of the group in Week 2.
Eagles’ LBs vs. 49ers’ running game
Even though the 49ers lost starting running back Raheem Mostert last week, their rushing attack is still one of the most dangerous in the NFL. Shanahan has a knack for plugging different backs into his system and making them efficient players.
For example, Elijah Mitchell, a rookie sixth-round pick, rushed for 104 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries against the Lions. Fellow rookie tailback Trey Sermon, an Ohio State product, could see some reps as well after being inactive last week.
The Eagles will also have to prepare for rookie quarterback Trey Lance in the running game, while JaMycal Hasty also might see some carries.
The key to stopping San Francisco’s running game will be staying disciplined. The 49ers’ scheme features a ton of movement, so it’ll be crucial that linebackers Eric Wilson, Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards, Gernard Avery, and Shaun Bradley don’t over-pursue their assignments.
Eagles’ secondary vs. 49ers’ pass catchers
The Eagles’ secondary held the Falcons’ passing game in check last week. Initially, it looked like Ridley and Pitts were going to feast on the Eagles’ defense, but neither player had more than 52 receiving yards.
Darius Slay, Steven Nelson, Anthony Harris, and company will have their hands full against Kittle, Samuel, and possibly Brandon Aiyuk, if he returns to the lineup.
Samuel had nine catches for 189 yards and one touchdown, while Kittle hauled in four passes for 78 yards.