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Eagles Preview: Five on the Lions

The Lions have been close this season but haven't been able to get over the hump this season. Many in Detroit believe that will end against the struggling Eagles

PHILADELPHIA - Call it Flower Power vs. Biting Kneecaps as two rookie head coaches look to stave off the mob with the only thing that can satiate those with the torches and pitchforks: a win.

For the Lions' Dan Campbell, it would be his first in Detroit while Sirianni is trying to fend off the growing portion of the fanbase that believes he's overmatched.

Here's what you should know about the 0-7 Lions, a group that has been competitive in five of its games but has yet to learn how to win with a number of younger players in key roles.

"Consistency. We haven’t been consistent enough," Detroit coach Dan Campbell told SI.com's EagleMaven earlier this week. "When there’s a play there that needs to be made in a critical time of the game, we have to be able to make it.

"We have not done that yet. So, we’ve had the ability, we’ve been in position where we can win these games and we haven’t made that play, yet. That’s the next step, man, it’s just consistent play, being steady and when the time comes and when the time’s right and you get your opportunity, it may only be one of them, we have to embrace that and take it and find a way to win."

Here's what you need to know about Campbell's Lions:

OLD FRIENDS

The Lions' assistant head coach/running backs coach is Duce Staley and he will face off against the Eagles in Week 8 for the first time in his career after spending more than two decades with the organization as both a player and a coach.

Before arriving in Detroit, Staley coached in Philadelphia from 2011-20 under three different head coaches in Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, and Doug Pederson, the last three of those seasons as Pederson's assistant head coach/running backs.

Staley also piloted the Eagles' developmental program under Pederson and took charge of the team for a short period in the 2020 training camp when Pederson tested positive for COVID-19.

Could popular assistant coach Duce Staley be next in line for Eagles offensive coordinator job?

Duce Staley when he was with the Eagles as RB coach

The popular Staley helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII, the first and only Lombardi Trophy in franchise history when the Eagles ranked third in the NFL by averaging 132.2 rushing yards per game that season.

"Just all those games in the NFC East playing against him. There was a lot of crossover with different teammates and people in the league. You could tell he was my type of guy," Campbell said when discussing Staley on a conference call this week. "Then once we started coaching, I’d see him on the road all the time.

"We’d say hi to each other and talk. Then watching him work, his passion for it, his knowledge and man, Philly’s backs were always good. They were always humming. It didn’t matter who it was he had them coached up. You could tell he knew how to develop talent."

Also on the Lions staff as special teams coordinator is Dave Fipp, who spent the past eight seasons as the Eagles STC under Kelly and Pederson. Fipp's units in Detroit recovered an onside kick and converted two punt fakes vs. the Los Angeles Rams last week.

“I think Fipp is a superstar," Campbell said. "... I think [special teams is] probably been our most consistent unit out of the three phases. We’ve got a pretty good core group of guys, but he’s been great. I just think he’s an outstanding teacher and he’s high energy and I think you have to be both to be a good special teams coach.”

Unfortunately, Fipp told reporters Thursday via Zoom that he received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis on Tuesday but hopes to register two negative tests before Sunday and be on the field against his old team.

ONE-TWO PUNCH

Lions running backs Jamaal Williams (312 yards rushing, 99 receiving) and D’Andre Swift, a Philadelphia native and St. Joe's Prep alum, (262 rushing, 391 receiving) are one of three NFL tandems to have at least 250 rushing yards and 95 receiving yards through Week 7.

They are the first Lions pair to total these numbers through the first seven games of a season since RBs Dexter Bussey and Billy Sims in 1980. Overall, the dynamic duo is responsible for 1,064 of Detroit’s 2,341 net yards (45.5 percent) and seven of Detroit’s 12 touchdowns (53.8 percent).

Philly native D'Andre Swift

D'Andre Swift

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"[Swift] gets the ball a lot of different ways," Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said. "They like to get him on the perimeter on perimeter runs and also get him out in space. Giving him check-downs and screens.

"Every way they can find ways to get him the ball, they do and he does a good job and he's very talented and so, one we have to rally to the ball. We gotta tackle well in space against him and he's a guy that's grabbed our attention on film."

 RACKING UP YAC

The Lions receivers aren't big names but Jared Goff's accuracy will make tackling on the back end for the Philadelphia defense very important.

Of Detroit's 1,790 passing yards on the season, 1,096 have come after the catch (61.2 percent), the second-most in the NFL. The 61.2 percent of the total receiving yardage is tops in the NFL.

Tight end T.J. Hockenson and receivers Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown, a rookie, are the biggest threats.

FIRST-DOWN FRIGHT

Nick Sirianni has placed a lot of the Eagles' offensive struggles on the lack of efficacy on first- and second-downs. The Lions, meanwhile, have held opponents to 911 yards on 192 first-down plays this season, the sixth-fewest in the NFL.

Teams are averaging only 4.74 yards gained on those 192 first-down plays, the third-lowest average in the NFL through Week 7.

EDGE ON THE EDGE?

A week after Yannik Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby looked like world-beaters, Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson may again have their hands full again with Trey Flowers, Julian Okwara, and Charles Harris.

The Lions' edge rushers have combined for 230 pass-rushing snaps, generating 55 total pressures and 38 quarterback hurries. The advanced numbers say the Lions edge players have won 33.5 percent of their individual matchups at the line of scrimmage, the sixth-most efficient rate in the NFL.

PREDICTION:

JOHN MCMULLEN (6-1, 5-2 vs. the spread): This should be about two mistake-prone teams with young players in key positions battling over who makes fewer mistakes over 60 minutes.

Many in Detroit feel this is the week a Lions team which has been close in a number of games gets over the top against an Eagles club trying to halt the outside noise that will be turned up to a Spinal Tap-like 11 if the Eagles lose.

Figure on Philadelphia winning a close one because the Lions usually invent ways to lose. Maybe a long Jake Elliott field goal at the final gun is the difference.

EAGLES 23, LIONS 20

ED KRACZ (4-3, 4-3 vs. spread) The Eagles have the better roster. The Lions have played better, though. Detroit has been competitive, at least, losing two games on late field goals/ This time around, they find a way to win with a late-game field goal.

LIONS 21, EAGLES 20 

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.