A week after tagging in for injured right guard Cam Jurgens against Washington’s talented inside duo of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, the heat gets turned up in Los Angeles against seven-time All-Pro Aaron Donald, one of the most dominant interior defensive linemen in NFL history.
The powerful 6-foot-4, 305-pound Opeta is not shying away from the challenge even though he understands the Rams will likely target him with Donald more often than not.
“When you’re getting in and playing well, your confidence shoots up,” Opeta said. “I’m confident in my own ability to play, so it’s cool I get to go out there against Aaron Donald now.”
Jurgens missed practice on Wednesday and was spotted in the locker room wearing the same walking boot he left with after Sunday’s 34-31 overtime win over the Washington Commanders. He’s been labeled week-to-week by head coach Nick Sirianni, a designation that means the second-year player isn’t going to be in the lineup against the Rams.
Obviously, the Eagles wouldn’t expect to handle Donald one-on-one with Jurgens and will likely slide help to wherever the future Hall of Famer lines up. Helping matters will be the strength of Philadelphia’s offensive line as a whole and the Rams’ less-than-stellar supporting cast for Donald.
The Eagles are one of only two NFL teams (the New York Jets are the other) that has not allowed Donald to register a sack in his storied career. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year has 105 career QB takedowns but has been shut out in four games against Philadelphia. Donald does have six quarterback hits in those games, however.
Sunday’s game is likely going to be the fifth start for Opeta and his first since the wild-card playoff loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021.
“We’re going to try to know where he’s at every time and when we can we’re going to try to get attention to him,” Opeta said of Donald. “A lot of it is play-specific, personnel-specific. …That’s one of the tricky things when you’re playing against a really good player, too much attention to just one guy what is everybody else doing, what’s going on outside of that?”
The Eagles have other options and they could have tapped into like third-round rookie Tyler Steen and veteran sixth man Jack Driscoll, who has nine career starts at RG. Opeta though earned another look after holding up against Allen and Payne last week.
“He didn’t play as much last year, but in 2021, gave us a lot and even before that, I’m just saying in the time I’ve been here, we won some big games with him in ’21 on that field,” said Sirianni. “We know he has great power. He really can do the things that we require of our guards to do. And so, we have a lot of faith in him based off his previous games that he’s played but you know, that faith really gets built year-in, year-out.”
“I feel like I did well,” Opeta said. “Pass protection, run game. I’m always going to be a little harder on myself. There’s definitely some things I could clean up, but overall I think I did well.”