Eagles notebook: Swift carrying the load, Slay on MetLife and more

Eagles notebook: Swift carrying the load, Slay on MetLife and more originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

It was a big Kenny Gainwell day for the Eagles in Week 1. But as the Eagles get ready to host the Vikings on short rest, it’s time to see what D’Andre Swift can do.

Gainwell (ribs) has been ruled out for this game.

So we should see Swift featured much more prominently in the offense against the Vikings. On Wednesday, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni was asked if he thinks of Swift as a player who can carry the load or if he’s better suited as a piece of the rotation.

“Yeah, I think he can play both those roles, no question about it,” Sirianni said. “He’ll be in that role sometimes where he carries the load for the game, and he’ll be in the role sometimes like he was in last game. Again, we don’t ever want to come out with him only having those many touches. That’s just kind of how the flow went in the game.

“We had things called for him, but sometimes the ball doesn’t go for him in a certain way. That’s just the way the defense takes it away. Now, you can always get it to him by just handing it off to him, but I see him being able to play any role that he’s in because of the type of back and the skill set that he has.”

In the season opener, Gainwell played 41 snaps and had 18 touches. Swift played just 19 snaps and had 2 touches. Sirianni after Sunday’s win said they never want to come out of a game with just two Swift touches.

“Whenever my number is called, I’ll be ready,” Swift said this week

Swift, 24, is a former second-round pick and has a ton of talent but he hasn’t exactly been a work horse during his NFL career. He has played in 41 career games and he has had 18+ touches in just nine of them (22%).

We’ll see if he’s and able to do it on Thursday night. Also expect Rashaad Penny to be active after being a healthy scratch in Week 1.

‘That’s trash’

Even if the turf at MetLife Stadium isn’t the reason Aaron Rodgers popped his Achilles on Monday night, the injury has created another swell of NFL players pushing for grass fields in NFL stadiums.

Eagles cornerback Darius Slay weighed in on the topic this week.

“Man, that was sad. I had high hopes,” Slay said. “I was hoping for them guys over there. Definitely A-Rod, being in New Jersey, new thing. It’s like, damn.

“And then MetLife. Everybody know about that goddamn stadium. They need to get real grass. That’s trash.”

After the Rodgers injury, the NFLPA is making a strong push to get natural grass in every NFL stadium.

“That’s sad for anybody to go down,” Slay said. “I don’t like nobody to go down because we play this dangerous game and everybody thinks we’re super heroes but we’re really not. We’re all really just normal human beings that go out there and just try to go hard at work. Seeing [Rodgers] go down, because I know he put a lot of hard work in with them guys in the offseason, I know them guys trusted and believed in him.

“I’m praying for him and his family and I hope he comes back stronger than ever. Unless he plays us. I don’t need him to be that great against us. But I want him to be great against everybody else.”

Time to go traveling?

Speaking of Slay, the Eagles play a home game on Thursday night but Slay might go traveling anyway. Justin Jefferson is coming to town.

“He’s an amazing player, man,” Slay said. “Tough task. Like I said, it takes the whole defense to stop a guy like that. High energy guy, after the catch, full go speed. It always takes a full team effort.”

The last time these two teams met, in Week 2 of the 2022 season, Slay traveled from side-to-side against the All-Pro receiver and performed extremely well. In that game, when Slay was covering Jefferson, he was targeted 6 times and gave up 1 catch for 7 yards. Slay also had two interceptions and a pass breakup.

Slay is typically the Eagles’ left cornerback but in that game last September he played 29 snaps on the right side of the field and 20 on the left, according to PFF. He was traveling with Jefferson.

And traveling a top cornerback is something new DC Sean Desai isn’t against.

“I think we have to do what is best for our matchups and our players that gives us the best chance, that doesn’t hurt us,” Desai said. “We’ve got to make sure it systematically fits.

“We’ve done it. I’ve done it in my history. I think it’s a good tool to have when you need it. I’m sure we’ll do it throughout the season at different spots if and when we need to.”

In this game, without James Bradberry (concussion), second-year cornerback Josh Jobe will start in his place. Even more of a reason to have Slay stick with Jefferson.

Cleaning up sloppiness 

The Eagles’ offense struggled against the Patriots in Week 1. It just didn’t look like the explosive offense we saw from the 2022 season.

“I mean, it was too sloppy,” new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said. “From just the standpoint of — I think for me, the thing that was really most frustrating is we had an opportunity up 16-0 with the ball in the minus territory, three possessions in a row, and we couldn’t get much going.

“Obviously, we’ve just got to continue to clean up those corrections, make those corrections, and put ourselves in a position to go out there and have some success.”

This was Johnson’s first game as the offensive play caller for the Eagles’ offense and the entire unit struggled some. But after the win, Sirianni said Johnson was “awesome” as a play caller in that game because he thought he adjusted well.

The biggest adjustment from the Eagles’ offense was getting A.J. Brown more involved in the second half. After Brown had just three catches for 18 yards in the first half, Brown had 4 for 61 in the second half. And Brown also caught a 48-yard deep ball that was eventually challenged and ruled incomplete.

Really, this offense probably has too much talent to struggle for long. But Johnson knows they can’t have a repeat performance like they did in the opener.

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