Eagles-49ers player matchups to get excited about in Week 2

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Jordan Mailata faces tough challenge and more in Week 2 matchups to watch originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles started off the season with a win in Atlanta in Week 1 and will host the 49ers, also coming off a win, at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Eagles’ receivers vs. 49ers’ banged-up corners

The 49ers have a good pass rush, one of the best linebackers in the NFL but their situation at cornerback is an area where the Eagles might be able to attack. Heck, I would have said that even before Jason Verrett went down with a knee injury in Week 1. The Niners have brought in veterans Josh Norman and now Dre Kirkpatrick.

But this is still an area where the Eagles can do some damage, especially if Jalen Hurts can have a strong Week 2 performance and the line gives him time. The trio of DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins performed well in the opener and they’ll have an opportunity to have another big week.

The 49ers beat the Lions 41-33 (that score sound familiar?) in Week 1, but Jared Goff still threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns. The 49ers started Verrett and rookie fifth-round pick Deommodore Lenoir, who will make his second career start on Sunday.

Deebo Samuel and George Kittle vs. Eagles’ corners

Samuel is coming off a career performance in Week 1. He had 9 catches on 12 targets for 189 yards and a touchdown. He was tremendous against the Lions, who tried a bunch of different guys in coverage against him.

Samuel is tricky to defend because he lines up everywhere. Against the Lions, he was mostly lined up out wide but also took some snaps in the slot and even lined up in the backfield for a snap, according to ProFootballFocus.

So Jonathan Gannon is going to have a decision to make in this game about how to cover Samuel. Does he decide to use Darius Slay and travel him or is it a team effort?

And then the Eagles have to worry about Kittle too.

In the opener, the Eagles did a very good job of limiting rookie Kyle Pitts, who was considered by many to be the best overall player in the 2021 draft. Pitts had just four catches for 31 yards in his debut.

But as far as tight end challenges go, Week 2 is about as difficult as it gets. The Eagles will have to deal with Kittle, who is coming off a four-catch, 78-yard game against the Lions. Ho hum. Kittle is arguably the best tight end in the NFL and it’s going to take a team effort to stop him. Again, another tough task for Gannon. The Eagles used their corners against Pitts and that might not be a bad idea in Week 2.

These playmakers make the 49ers extra tough because we already know they’re going to have a good running game plan because of Kyle Shanahan. But then these mismatch problems on top of it make things even tougher.

Jordan Mailata vs. Nick Bosa

After signing a $64 million extension the day before the opener, Mailata had a good performance against the Falcons but now he’ll really need to earn his money.

Bosa last year went down in Week 2 last year with a torn ACL but returned for Week 1 this season and picked up where he left off. Against the Lions, Bosa had 4 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFLs and 2 QB hits. Not bad for a player returning from a serious injury. Of his 52 snaps last week, Bosa lined up on the right side for 40 of them. So that means he’ll get his shot at the Eagles’ left tackle, Mailata.

For Mailata, this will be one of the best tests during his young career. Bosa as a rookie in 2019 (as the No. 2 pick) had 9 sacks and 25 quarterback hits on his way to a Pro Bowl nod.

49ers’ two quarterbacks vs. Jonathan Gannon

In the Niners’ opener, Jimmy Garoppolo played 51 of the 55 offensive snaps, which means rookie Trey Lance got just four. But the 49ers have this two-QB offense in their back pocket and the Eagles have to be ready for it.

The good news for the Eagles is they have an absolute football nerd (I mean that lovingly) as their defensive coordinator.

“I don't think it's a detriment,” Gannon said this week. “That's just part of how you have to prepare for the game. There's not a lot of tape on this guy in the pros. He played a lot in the pre-season, played some snaps against Detroit. That will be part of our plan. We got to have a good plan for when he's in the game. Our guys will be prepared with, ‘Hey, this is this guy's skill set, this is how we have to defend him.’

“It's a little bit different than defending Jimmy . Jimmy, this is his skill set, this is what we have to be aware of and defend. When they make adjustments, we'll have to make adjustments. We'll prepare our guys with the first start of how we're going to roll. If we need to make adjustments, we'll prepare them kind of later in the week, ‘Hey, here is the next wave, so to speak, of here's what we're going to do.’

“It's kind of cool. Our players, they'll be excited to start -- they're already prepping for San Francisco, but they'll like the multiplicity of how we're going to play this week.”

The Eagles already have a multiple defense and will likely game plan differently each week. So that makes preparing for two quarterbacks less of a heavy lift.

Jalen Hurts vs. Fred Warner

As good as Bosa is, you can make an argument that Warner is the 49ers’ best player on the defensive side of the ball and one of the best middle linebackers in the league. The 49ers’ defense is predicated on his abilities.

A lot of this will fall on Nick Sirianni’s game plan against the 49ers but he gives Hurts options at the line of scrimmage based on what he sees from the defense. So this could turn into a chess match of sorts between Sirianni/Hurts and Warner.

Warner has been in the NFL for three seasons and finally got his recognition in 2020, being named a Pro Bowler, All-Pro and signing a five-year, $95 million extension with the Niners in July.

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