In just two days, the New England Patriots will play the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. A lot – a lot – is being written and said about the game since the NFL's championship weekend. From Tom Brady's quest to win an unprecedented sixth title, to the Eagles' underdog role to defend the run/pass option, the matchup has been dissected from every angle imaginable.
But of course, some aspects or players – Rob Gronkowski or Chris Long, for example – are talked about more than others, particularly as it relates to the Eagles from a Patriots-perspective. Let's therefore take a look at some of the underrated Eagles players who might play big roles on Sunday:
RB Corey Clement
While the Eagles' one-two punch at running back – Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount – gets most of the attention, Corey Clement flies under the radar a bit. But even though he gained “only” 508 scrimmage yards so far this season, the rookie is still a dangerous option as a runner and receiver. Because of that he might see considerable playing time on Sunday, especially with New England focusing on stopping Ajayi and Blount. For more information on Clement, check out this story by Pats Pulpit's very own Oliver Thomas.
TE Trey Burton
Zach Ertz is Philadelphia's best tight end and will see his fair share of playing time. The team's number two option at the position cannot be underestimated either: Trey Burton. While he was rather quiet during the Eagles' playoff run, Burton has shown over the course of the year that he can rise up to the occasion when his number is called upon. After all, the 26-year old finished the regular season in the top five in every major receiving category.
OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Halapoulivaati Vaitai started the season as the Eagles' backup swing tackle. However, after Jason Peters was placed on season-ending injured reserve, the second-year pro became a permanent starter on the left side of Philadelphia's offensive line. While his first performances were uneven, Vaitai progressed as the season went along and had his best game of the year in the NFC Championship Game. While Vaitai is not the star Peters is, he plays a core role within the Eagles offense.
DE Derek Barnett
Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are the Eagles' top options at defensive end. The rotational players behind the duo need to be kept an eye on as well, though: While Chris Long has been in the headlines because of him playing in New England last season, Derek Barnett has quietly carved out a nice role as well. The rookie registered six sacks so far this year and is a vital member of one of the NFL's best pass rushing units.
CB Patrick Robinson
As the Eagles' number three cornerback, Patrick Robinson does not see the playing time of starters Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills. When on the field, however, the 30-year old has been outstanding this season and is graded as Pro Football Focus' number four cornerback. Playing primarily in the slot, Robinson will likely be matched up against Danny Amendola or potentially even Rob Gronkowski on Sunday – some key battles to watch.
KR/PR Kenjon Barner
As a running back, Kenjon Barner will likely not be a factor in the Super Bowl. However, as a kickoff and punt returner, the 28-year old might see plenty of action. Barner has not been a standout in either category, so it will be interesting to see how the Patriots approach him and the Eagles' kicking game on Sunday: Will Stephen Gostkowski kick off short to create favorable field positions? And if so, will Barner rise to the challenge and create yardage on the returns?
Patriots versus Eagles will be a game filled with stars on both teams. However, in the end it might just be the under-the-radar guys that will make a difference. Hopefully for New England, neither of the six players listed above will be that guy in Super Bowl LII.