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Key matchups in Eagles-Lions to kick off the 2022 season


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Key matchups in Eagles-Lions to kick off the 2022 season


The Eagles kick off their season in Detroit on Sunday against the Lions of Hard Knocks fame.

Last season, the Eagles won nine games and the Lions won just three. One of those nine wins for the Eagles came in Detroit … a 44-6 beatdown of the Lions.

"We acknowledged to our players that this is a team that can make you look silly,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said this week. "Because they did it to us last year. If we’re not on the details and we’re not playing with effort, we’ll get embarrassed. Because that’s what Philly is capable of. That’s the big takeaway for us.”

Let’s look at some key matchups:

Lions receivers vs. Eagles’ cornerbacks

One of the Lions’ big offseason acquisitions was receiver D.J. Chark, who signed a one-year $10 million deal. That gives them a solid trio of Chark, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds. St. Brown was a fourth-round pick last season but ended up having a fantastic rookie season. He had 90 catches for 912 yards and 5 touchdowns. This isn’t the best receiving corps the Eagles will see this year, but it’s solid.

St. Brown primarily plays out of the slot, so it’ll be a good test for Avonte Maddox in this game.

Lions’ depleted OL vs. Eagles’ defensive line

The Lions might be in trouble. Former Eagle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, now the Lions’ starting right guard, was placed on IR earlier this week. So he’s out for this game. And now starting center Frank Ragnow is dealing with a groin injury. He was limited on Wednesday but missed Thursday’s session.

So now the Lions are scrambling and working through their options. One of them would be to play Ragnow at guard if he plays and they’ve even talked about moving Penei Sewell to guard. It’s not ideal to have a major offensive line shuffle days before the opener, especially not as the Lions get ready to play a defensive line with Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Jordan Davis and more. This could be the most important matchup in this game and the Eagles have a decided advantage.

T.J. Hockenson vs. C.J. Gardner-Johnson

While the Lions were blown out the last time these teams played, their former first-round tight end had a big performance with 10 catches for 89 yards. That’s the most catches Hockenson has ever had in a game. And the Eagles last season gave up more catches (107) and touchdowns (14) to tight ends than any other team in the league. They also gave up 1,035 yards; only five teams gave up more.

So stopping tight ends will be a big deal in the second year of Jonathan Gannon’s scheme and the Eagles just happened to add a defensive back who should be very good at it. Gardner-Johnson has mostly played in the slot during his NFL career but is playing safety for the Eagles. At 5-11, 210 pounds, CGJ is better suited to cover some bigger slot receivers and tight ends than Maddox, who is great against most slot receivers. This is likely a way we’ll see CGJ used throughout the season and his Eagles career will start with a good test.

Eagles’ tackles vs. Aidan Hutchinson

The Lions were thrilled in April when the Jaguars made Travon Walker the No. 1 overall pick. That meant they got Aidan Hutchinson. The star from Michigan was an absolute beast at the college level and the early returns out of Detroit are good. The Lions think they got a potential star pass rusher.

During the preseason, Hutchinson rushed from both sides, but there’s no easy side against this Eagles’ offensive line. Jordan Mailata on one side, Lane Johnson on the other.

Miles Sanders vs. Lions’ defense

The Detroit game last year was when the Eagles really leaned into their run-heavy offense and it worked. Sure, once they got up big they kept running, but they started that game on the ground and the Lions had no answers. The Eagles picked up 236 yards on the ground in Detroit last season and they did it without Miles Sanders.

Sanders is healthy for Week 1 this season after a hamstring injury limited him all summer. It’s a big contract year for Sanders, who is eager to prove he’s one of the top backs in the league and just as eager to prove he can stay on the field after missing considerable action the last couple seasons.


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