The Philadelphia Eagles will try to spoil another special day for Tom Brady when they open the season against the New England Patriots on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.
The Patriots will honor the now-retired quarterback at Gillette Stadium during the game. Brady, who won six of his record seven Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, lost 41-33 to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, 2018.
Of course, this Philadelphia team also knows what it’s like to come up short in the big game, heading into this season after a 38-35 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII.
The Eagles have turned the page, said veteran defensive end Brandon Graham.
“Last year is last year and we’re trying to create something special this year,” Graham said. “Our focus is on what we’re doing now, and I know we are all excited about getting it going.”
Third-year head coach Nick Sirianni is 2-0 in season openers, with both wins on the road. The Eagles won their first eight games in 2022 en route to a 14-3 record, a division title and a conference championship.
Last year’s MVP runner-up, quarterback Jalen Hurts, leads what should once again be among the NFL’s most potent offenses.
A.J. Brown set a franchise record with 1,496 receiving yards last season and DeVonta Smith caught the most passes (95) ever in a season by a Philadelphia wide receiver. Philly native D’Andre Swift gained 2,000 yards from scrimmage in his last two seasons with the Detroit Lions and takes over in the backfield for Miles Sanders, who is now with the Carolina Panthers.
The Patriots also have a new running back, with two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott joining last season’s 1,000-yard rusher Rhamondre Stevenson. During his time in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott rushed for 1,107 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games against Philadelphia.
New England missed the playoffs last season for the second time in three years since Brady departed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots slumped to 26th in total offense as quarterback Mac Jones experienced a regression from his Pro Bowl rookie season in 2021.
This game could come down to whether New England’s banged up offensive line can protect Jones. Philadelphia led the NFL with 70 sacks last season — 15 more than the runner-up Chiefs — and return Haason Reddick (16 sacks), Josh Sweat (11) and Graham (11). The Eagles also drafted the Georgia tandem of defensive tackle Jalen Carter and linebacker Nolan Smith in the first round.
“They’ve got great players up there. Obviously drafted very well at that position,” Jones told WEEI on Tuesday. “They take a lot of pride in that, and they have the best defensive line in the NFL. At the end of the day, we just have to go out there and compete and … understand that we’re going against a bunch of beasts.”
New England offensive linemen Trent Brown (illness), Mike Onwenu (ankle) and Cole Strange (knee) were all limited participants in Wednesday’s practice, as were wideout DeVante Parker (knee) and cornerback Jack Jones (hamstring).
The only player on the initial Philadelphia injury report is cornerback Josh Jobe, a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice due to an illness.
Brady isn’t the only ex-Pat making his return to New England. Matt Patricia, a member of Bill Belichick’s staff from 2004-17, is in his first season as a senior defensive assistant for the Eagles.
Belichick downplayed the return of Patricia, whose three Super Bowl wins in New England include two as the defensive coordinator.
“I have a ton of respect for Matt. Matt’s helped us win a lot of games (and) championships here,” Belichick told WEEI on Monday. “But Sunday’s game will be about the Eagles and the Patriots. You won’t see either one of us playing on the field, which is probably a good thing.”
–Field Level Media