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September 15, 2023

Eagles game ball: D'Andre Swift has a career night in Philly homecoming

Continuing with PhillyVoice's 'game ball' series, D'Andre Swift tore up the Vikings' defense and Fletcher Cox had a 'Turn Back the Clock' night.

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D'Andre-Swift-Eagles-Week-2-Vikings Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Philadelphia Eagles running back D'Andre Swift celebrates a touchdown in the team's Thursday Night Football win over the Minnesota Vikings.

Cruising into a long break after beating up on the Vikings, the Eagles now stand at 2-0. Following that Thursday Night Football win, PhillyVoice is handing game balls out to one offensive and one defensive player each. 

Here's more on the big nights from D'Andre Swift and Fletcher Cox...

Offensive game ball: RB D'Andre Swift

The mystery surrounding the Eagles' running back rotation hovered over the team throughout the summer. Kenny Gainwell was the go-to back in Week 1 with 18 touches. After missing Thursday night with a rib injury, Gainwell might not even come close to that total again this season given how well Swift played against the Vikings.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Swift is a Philadelphia native and a St. Joe's Prep grad. In a game where Swift said 30 friends and family members were in attendance (and assuredly thousands more in the stands claiming to be), he put up numbers not seen since his days wearing crimson and gray. With a career-best 175 rushing yards, the most by an Eagle in a decade, Swift destroyed Minnesota on the ground. An eight-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter where Swift racked up 63 yards on seven carries and a TD was the nail in Minnesota's purple coffin. 

There's a simplicity to Swift's running style. He reads his blockers well, hits the hole and then presses the R2 button to burst through the second level of the defense. 

These dominant rushing performances have become a standard in the Nick Sirianni era. Including the postseason, the Eagles as a team have rushed for over 200 yards 11 times going back to the beginning of the 2021 season. Thursday was the fourth time they've topped 250, racking up 259 yards on the ground. Credit is absolutely due to the Eagles' elite offensive line, which is the best in the business when it comes to the run game, but left tackle Jordan Mailata is giving "Swiftie" – as Mailata called him – his due.

"What we do is open the holes. It's up to him to see it and hit it," Mailata told PhillyVoice. "It takes two to tango, but more on his side because he's got to carry the ball. He's got to: 1. See the hole. 2. Ball protect, ball security... We've been telling him [this type of game] is coming."

Swift was asked after the win when the last time he played this well was. He said in high school. What game exactly?

"Every time we played La Salle."

Sorry to all the Explorers out there. You're going to have to deal with this all season long.

Defensive game ball: DT Fletcher Cox

It's the cycle of an NFL star. Cox went from being underrated while playing out of position early in his career to being an All-Pro force in his prime to losing a step or two at the tail end of the Jim Schwartz era. Cox bounced back a bit with seven sacks in 2022, his highest total since he was named a First-Team All-Pro defensive tackle in 2018. Cox, now in his age-33 season, looks like the dude who wrecked opposing guards and centers with ease back in his 20s.

Against the Vikings, Cox had two QB hits and scooped up a fumble that put the Birds' offense in a goal-to-go situation for their first touchdown of the evening:

With Minnesota's interior offensive line banged up, Cox and the Eagles' contingent of talented young DTs stepped up. The Eagles' back seven is dealing with a rash of injuries. Kirk Cousins put up some of his empty stats against undrafted players and guys who were signed off the street last month, but this d-line's pressure did just enough to make this more comfortable of a win than the 34-28 score would indicate. 

Two games into the season, Cox appears revitalized. Assuredly, he'd say he never fell off enough to need to be revitalized, but the one-year deal he signed this offseason worth $10 million caused a stir with a segment of the fan base and some media members. The Eagles have drafted successors to Cox over the last three years in Milton Williams, Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter. All three are on the cusp of establishing themselves as bonafide DTs in their own right, but Cox is still going strong despite being nearly a decade older than all of them. 

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