Tampa Bay Buccaneers A look at Philadelphia’s top playmakers who could impact the outcome of Monday night’s matchup Brianna Dix
The stage is set. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will square off against the defending NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football on September 25. Kickoff is slated for 7:15 p.m. ET. The Week Three clash between the Bucs and Eagles, featuring two undefeated clubs, is part of a MNF double-header, as the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals battle at 8:15 p.m. ET on the same night.
This game will mark the first time that the Bucs and Eagles have met since the 2021 Wild Card Round following Nick Sirianni's first season as head coach. Philadelphia will strive for their first regular-season victory over Tampa Bay since the 2013 season - the Bucs have won the last four contests, including the 2021 playoff showdown.
The Eagles will vie to win their third-consecutive game at Raymond James Stadium, a season after going 14-3, which garnered the NFC crown. The team eventually lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII and the Eagles enter 2023 with an 'unfinished business' mentality. In 2022, the Eagles shattered records, as Jalen Hurts became the second-youngest quarterback in NFL history to win 14 regular-season games, behind only Dan Marino.
Hurts, who emerged as a lethal dual-threat quarterback in 2022, has a talent-filled cast. The group boasts a two-headed monster at receiver with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith - who both eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving threshold - and reliable pass-catching tight end Dallas Goedert. In 2022, Hurts threw for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns while scoring 13 times on the ground and rushing for 760 yards.
Defensively, the Eagles became the first team in NFL history to have four players with double-digit sacks in the same season and they accomplished the feat before the 17th game, with Haason Reddick (16), Javon Hargrave (11), Josh Sweat (11) and Brandon Graham (11) leading the charge. Fletcher Cox finished fifth on the team with 7.0, the most he had accumulated since 2018 (10.5). The defensive front was ravenous and imposed its will. On the back end, Darius Slay and James Bradberry made their presence felt, holding opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 81.6, the third-lowest in the NFL in 2022. Last season, the Eagles' front-line produced a league-high 70 sacks. The unit lost Pro Bowler Javon Hargrave to the 49ers in free agency, but the team added a flurry of Georgia Bulldogs via the 2023 NFL Draft, including Jalen Carter in the first round.
Keep your eyes on these six who could help swing the game in Philadelphia's favor on Monday night:
Haason Reddick has cemented his status as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL with extraordinary burst off the edge. He recorded a league-high 4.5% sack rate last season including playoffs with a minimum of 300 pass rushes per Next Gen Stats. The hybrid linebacker/defensive end finished fourth in voting for Defensive Player of the Year voting following a 19-game stretch in 2022 (including playoffs) in which he acquired 19.5 sacks. Additionally, he posted 87 total pressures last season, including the playoffs, becoming one of the most formidable downhill threats in the game. The sack artist is one of the best at getting from point A to point B and does not just win off the high side. Reddick is lethal off inside stunts/twists, as well. On a two-way-go, tackles are often overwhelmed. With rare burst to close, Reddick sets himself apart. He has outstanding change-of-direction agility and is always working his feet to improve leverage. Reddick has quick-twitch athleticism in space, elite bend and the Bucs will have to know where No. 7 is at all times. He cannot be left on an island with a tight end chipping, or it will be a long evening come Monday night for Tampa Bay.
DeVonta Smith may be small in stature, but his play speaks for itself and so do the numbers. In 2022, Smith racked up 1,196 yards on 95 receptions (league-best), adding seven touchdowns to the mix. He is a smooth route runner with long strides and is able to generate space on short-to-intermediate routes. With elite speed and change-of-direction agility, Smith creates separation. Smith possesses outside/inside versatility and creates opportunities off comebacks and hitches with sudden footwork. He is able to subtly change route tempo and that unpredictability keeps defenders guessing. Smith can slip by tackles, and he is a player the Bucs will have to account for on Monday.
No receiver in the NFL racked up more yards than A.J. Brown's 1,409 in 2022. The big-bodied receiver is adept at creating off in-breaking routes and his center of gravity allows him to routinely make contested catches. He is stout at the catch point and can win versus press coverage. Brown is physical at the top of his routes and essentially turns into a running back after the catch. He is hard for defenders to tackle with deceptive speed for his size and Brown is a threat to go the distance on any reception. Following his trade from the Tennessee Titans during the 2022 NFL Draft, Brown quickly established a strong rapport with Hurts, becoming the Eagles' primary target on offense. With 88 receptions for 1,000-plus yards and 11 touchdowns, Brown played a vital role in propelling Philadelphia to Super Bowl LVII.
Lane Johnson is touted as one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL. The 33-year-old was a First-Team All-Pro for the second time in his career following the 2022 season, and has not allowed a sack since Week 11 of the 2020 season - setting the record for most consecutive games (26) without allowing a sack. With rare athleticism, Johnson is quick off blocks to mirror the opposition's speed off the edge. The technician plays with above-average balance, pad level and quickness out of a three-point stance. Johnson can get push in the run game and keeps some of the NFL's most feared pass rushers at bay. The well-rounded craftsman sets the tone in the trenches for the Eagles. While he may not often receive the recognition he deserves, Johnson is among the upper echelon in the NFL at what he does.
By leaning into an offense that maximizes Jalen Hurts' strengths, the Eagles have reached new heights. Their offense is based off a read-option rushing attack, with Air Raid principles incorporated. Philadelphia finds ways to create in space and puts defenses in conflict. With additional defenders having to account for Hurts on the move or attaching to RPOs, the Eagles see more man coverage, which provides advantageous matchups downfield for DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown. Hurts is a dynamic threat who tallied 68 rushing first downs during the 2022 regular season. He has steadily improved as a passer and Hurts finished second in MVP voting following a stellar 2022 campaign. With experience playing baseball, Hurts has applied the same versatile and unconventional arm angles that an infielder uses and has carried those concepts into football on his throwing motion when working off-platform.
Hurts showcased his deep-ball touch in the Super Bowl, in a performance that saw him run for 70 yards and three touchdowns, throw for 304 yards and a 45-yard touchdown, while completing 71% of his throws. Over the past two seasons, Hurts has rushed 304 times - an NFL-high among quarterbacks and 59 more rushes than second on the list, Josh Allen. The Eagles have called 173 designed rushes for him, according to ESPN Stats, which is also a league-high. In terms of accuracy and decision-making, Hurts has taken significant strides, embracing the uniqueness of his skillset. Hurts elevated his completion percentage from 61.3 in 2021 to 66.5 in 2022, while throwing for 3,701 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. He is able to drive the ball down the field with velocity and can elude pocket pressure with his legs. For the Buccaneers, staying disciplined in run fits will be critical.
Darius Slay is coming off a season where he made his fifth Pro Bowl after starting every game for the Eagles in 2022, totaling 55 tackles, three interceptions, and 14 passes defended. Slay possesses elite route recognition and understanding of patterns. He is a physical tackler and attacks the hands of the receiver to prevent receptions. Slay recorded his 27th career interception in the team's Week One victory over the Patriots, returning it 70 yards for a touchdown. Slay uses his 4.36-speed effectively on the field, quickly accelerating into second gear for recovery speed, while he moves his hips fluidly to break on routes. Slay allowed just 56.6% of passes thrown his way to be caught in 2022 per PFF and he is regarded as one of the league's elite at his craft.