The New England Patriots will be challenged out of the gate with one of the most difficult matchups on their grueling 2023 schedule.
On Sunday, the Patriots will welcome the reigning NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles to Gillette Stadium for their Week 1 showdown. With a fearsome front seven, the Eagles could make it a long night fot third-year quarterback Mac Jones and the Pats offense.
But that doesn't mean Philly's defense is indestructible. On a new episode of Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro identified a weakness Jones and the Pats offense may be able to exploit.
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"If you're looking at the Eagles defense, they lost five starters from last year. They lost both linebackers and both safeties," Zangaro said. "And even though the Eagles feel like they have some good pieces in those roles, that's the area of this defense you would want to attack whether it's with your slot receiver, with the tight ends the Patriots have."
"Nakobe Dean was a highly-heralded pick. He was a third-round pick, everybody thought he was a steal in the draft. He didn't play last year. He barely got on the field. He's now the Mike linebacker. They brought in Zach Cunningham on Aug. 6 and he's now the starter next to him. So not a lot of depth at linebacker. And then at safety, we don't even know who the second starter is. The first one is Reed Blankenship, who was an undrafted rookie last year out of Middle Tennessee State.
"So middle of the field is where you want to attack this team. Outside, you have Darius Slay and James Bradberry. Tough sledding there. But up the gut is where the Eagles are most susceptible."
New England Patriots
If the Patriots' plan is to attack the Eagles up the middle, that means we can expect a heavy dose of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Gesicki, and Hunter Henry in the passing game. We could see rookie sixth-rounder Demario "Pop' Douglas excel in his NFL debut as well.
Patriots-Eagles is set for a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff in Foxboro.
Also discussed on the episode:
- Is the Eagles pass rush still diabolical?
- Expect the Eagles to stay aggressive on 4th down
- Philly loses this game if...
- Just how good will the Patriots’ defense be?