Both the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles put up dominant performances in Week 1, but which club will continue their perfect start to the season on Sunday? Philadelphia enters the second week of the season flying high after holding the Atlanta Falcons out of the end zone for the entirety of the contest, while seeing their second-year quarterback take strides forward in the win. Meanwhile, the 49ers offense got off to a strong start with their dual-quarterback system with the hopes their defense can continue it's ascendancy despite missing a few key components.
49ers.com is joined by Eagles insider Dave Spadaro to break down several storylines heading into Week 2 and the biggest question marks for both clubs in preparation for Sunday. Without further ado, here are this week's Four Downs.
1st Down: Biggest Takeaway From Season Opening Victories
@KeianaMartinTV: Don't Underestimate Jimmy Garoppolo
Kyle Shanahan mentioned it, teammates have noticed it and Jimmy Garoppolo has confirmed it, at least thus far. The 49ers starting quarterback came into the 2021 season with a vengeance. People have quickly taken note of the quarterback's focus and confidence heading into Year 5 in San Francisco, and rightfully so. Trey Lance is waiting in the wings for his time to shine under center. But Garoppolo's plans are to clutch his spot as long as possible.
His season opening performance reminded many that he is still the quarterback that led his team to a Super Bowl just 19 months prior.
Beyond the 49ers forgetful opening possession, Garoppolo excelled in moving downfield, connecting with his receivers and keeping the ball out of harm's way. His first incompletion of the game did not occur until the final minute of the first half. The quarterback closed out the game 17-of-25 passing for 314 yards (12.6 yards per attempt) and a touchdown for a 124.2 quarterback rating. His most impressive throw came under pressure, as he connected with wide receiver Deebo Samuel for a 79-yard touchdown. While Garoppolo was only under pressure on 7 of his 27 dropbacks, in part due to San Francisco's new-look O-line, he had a perfect quarterback rating when under duress, completing 4-of-5 passes for 112 yards and one touchdown when under pressure. He was also 5-of-5 for 184 yards and a score on throws of 15-plus yards downfield.
If Garoppolo can put up an encore performance to his 2021 season debut, Lance might have to get used to watching the quarterback from the sidelines.
@DaveSpadaro: O-line and D-line are the Strength of the Eagles
In a convincing 32-6 win over Atlanta last Sunday, the Eagles dominated at the line of scrimmage. They felt coming into the season that the offensive and defensive lines would be the strengths of the team, and they were proven right in Week 1. The offensive line, healthy now after 14 different starting combinations in a disastrous 2020, held up very well against the Atlanta blitz game and, in fact, dominated as the Eagles rolled to 434 total net yards. Fourth-year tackle Jordan Mailata, a seventh-round draft pick in 2018 who had never played football (he was an Australian rugby player in his youth), has matured to be the starter for the present and the future. Left guard Isaac Seumalo has been a starter for four seasons. Center Jason Kelce is one of the game's best and the right-side combination of guard Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson is right at the top of the NFL's list.
On defense, the Eagles pounded Atlanta with a four-man pass rush led by tackles Javon Hargrave (two quarterback sacks) and Hassan Ridgeway (sack, three quarterback hits). The Eagles gave up 144 yards on Atlanta's first two drives but held each time in the red zone and limited the Falcons to six points. The Falcons managed only 59 total net yards and six first downs in the second half. The Eagles have depth up front and they come into this game healthy. They know they have to be great against a balanced 49ers offense.
2nd Down: Position/Player Matchup with the Most Intrigue in Week 2
@KeianaMartinTV: 49ers D-line vs. Jalen Hurts
I'm going to go with the obvious and take San Francisco's pass rush's challenge of limiting quarterback Jalen Hurts. He showed accuracy, patience and smarts when it came to his throws. Hurts 'arm is certainly an area of concern, but so are his legs. San Francisco has struggled with its ability to contain mobile quarterbacks in the past and will need to build off last year's outing to limit Hurts' dynamism as a runner and passer.
Over his five-career starts dating back to last season, Hurts has amassed 416 rushing yards on 70 attempts. Keeping Hurts in the pocket is crucial for San Francisco to slow down Philly's offense. It will be interesting to see what first-year defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has in store to combat his first of multiple fleet-footed quarterbacks on the docket.
@DaveSpadaro: Jordan Mailata vs. Nick Bosa
Mailata has the toughest matchup of his career, going against right defensive end Nick Bosa. Mailata called Bosa "electric" as a football player and there is no doubt that the Eagles have the highest respect for how Bosa can wreck a game. Mailata is a massive man at 6-feet-8, 380 pounds (give or take 20 pounds) and he's an incredible athlete who has learned to play the game from the ground up. Bosa is a different animal than anyone that Mailata has faced. Bosa's strength, array of moves and relentless nature will test Mailata on every snap. If Mailata holds up against Bosa and the Eagles can leave him in one-on-one situations on the edge, the offense benefits enormously. If the Eagles need to give Mailata help, it changes the entire complexion of the offense. The Eagles want to release their wide receivers and running backs into the passing game and they want to have flexibility with their three tight ends. If Mailata can battle Bosa to a standoff, that's a win for the Eagles.
3rd Down: Biggest Question Heading into Sunday's Matchup
@KeianaMartinTV: Can the 49ers Slow Down Philly's Ground Game?
Despite injuries, the 49ers still owned the seventh-best rushing defense in 2020, with the hopes of that potency carrying over to this season. Instead, the 49ers struggled to limit Detroit's run game, allowing several big runs totaling 116 yards for nearly 5 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Philadelphia sat near the top of the league in Week 1 with 173 yards on the ground, averaging 5.6 yards per carry led by running back Miles Sanders (74 yards) and Jalen Hurts (62 yards).
A lot of the 49ers struggles has to do with the absence of Javon Kinlaw, who is working through a knee injury. He was a limited participant at practice this week and could make his regular season debut on Sunday. The return of the second-year defensive lineman will optimistically remedy the 49ers early woes against the run.
@DaveSpadaro: Is What Jalen Hurts Did vs. Atlanta in Week 1 For Real?
Hurts completed 77 percent of his passes and threw for 364 yards and three touchdowns, and also added another 62 yards on the ground. The 49ers are much stronger along the front seven than are the Falcons, and with middle linebacker Fred Warner swarming sideline to sideline, the options may not be as plentiful for Hurts. He made great decisions, exercised impeccable ball security and stayed calm, cool and collected in the face of pressure. Hurts completed 52 percent of his passes last season when he started four games and played in five, so he is closer to a 52-percent passer or a 77-percent completion passer? Playing against a great front seven and a solid, makes-no-mistakes scheme the 49ers employ will answer some of the lingering questions about Hurts.
4th Down: Under-the-Radar Player to Watch in Week 2
@KeianaMartinTV: CB Deommodore Lenoir
With the number of injuries the 49ers are dealing with just a week into the season, they're going to quickly have to rely on their depth, and in particular, some of the younger and inexperienced guys to step up. Losing Jason Verrett was a massive blow to San Francisco's relatively thin cornerback unit as one of the few proven corners on the roster. There are still questions surrounding Emmanuel Moseley's availability for Sunday. Meanwhile, recently signed veteran cornerback Josh Norman continues to focus on getting his feet under him after missing out on an entire offseason in free agency.
Rookie corner Deommodore Lenoir appears as the next man up and he's already made a statement in his early debut. Following up on a strong preseason performance, the first-year cornerback played all of San Francisco's 90 defensive snaps against the Lions, a league-wide high, and allowed one catch for just 3 yards on 55 coverage snaps, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Albeit, Lenoir will be facing a completely different level of competition against the Eagles this Sunday that includes Jalen Reagor and fellow rookie DeVonta Smith, who led Philadelphia with 71 yards on six receptions and a score. But the 49ers should be able to get a good gauge on the corner's readiness to compete for a starting job if he can string together another strong performance on Sunday.
@DaveSpadaro: S Anthony Harris
To say the Eagles are concerned about San Francisco's inside-outside combination of tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel is a bit of an understatement, because the Eagles are fully aware of the damage those two can do. Kittle was targeted 15 times and had 15 receptions, 183 yards and a touchdown last season when the teams met in California. Samuel was a monster last week (9-189-1) in the win over Detroit and the Eagles know how good he is with the football in his hands. Samuel caught three passes for 35 yards and a rush for 10 yards last season when the teams met. It's going to take a village to contain those two along with a deadly wide-open running game, but safety Anthony Harris is going to be in the middle of it all. He joined the Eagles from Minnesota as an unrestricted free agent and gives the Eagles a bigger body in the deep secondary. Harris is well versed in the scheme, having learned a version of it when he played in Minnesota. He is going to need to support against the run, make sure everyone is lined up correctly and also play in coverage. Harris has a large assignment in his second game as an Eagle. The defense can't let Kittle and/or Samuel go off.