October 9, 2023   5 MIN READ

‘I Can Play With The Best’

RG Sua Opeta's Confidence Soars After Battle With Donald


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Even with a 60-minute bout looming against future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Aaron Donald – arguably the best player at his position – nothing changed in terms of preparation for newly minted Eagles right guard Sua Opeta.

The game day tradition has become old hat for the fifth-year pro, who started Sunday in place of an injured Cam Jurgens and will start for at least the next three games.

He habitually approaches each week as if he will be starting.

With Sunday’s showdown against the Rams being no exception, Opeta arrived at his locker – nestled somewhere within the confines of SoFi Stadium – and continued according to schedule, with a massage designed to warmup his legs.

He then ventured onto the field a couple hours early to run through his typical pregame regimen.

Waiting to give Opeta his first test was Donald, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, seven-time All-Pro and notorious game-wrecker, who entered Sunday leading the Rams with 2.5 sacks to go along with six quarterback hits.

For the Eagles to steal a cross-country win and remain unbeaten, they would require an inspired performance from Opeta, making his fifth career start on the league’s best offensive line.

Sua Opeta

Opeta proved on the first drive that he belonged, blowing linemen off the ball and providing his signature power at the point of attack as the Eagles drained six minutes and 23 seconds of clock on a drive that covered 75 yards on 12 plays, putting the Eagles en route to a 23-14 win.

A powerful mauler with violent, heavy hands, Opeta – a one-time collegiate defensive tackle  –  cited his ability to fire his hands from the ground as an element from his defensive linemen days that translated.

It’s also a skill at which Opeta believes Donald excels.

But on Sunday, Opeta was hardly a liability. He looked like more than any typical replacement, as he helped keep the high-octane Eagles offense churning without hindrance.

“Sua did great,” said center Jason Kelce after the game. “We feel very confident with him. Obviously, we love Cam, and we can’t wait to get him back, but Sua’s been here a long time.

“He went in and played really, really well against Washington – he has played well against Washington a couple of times now – and this one, he’s playing against the best player in the world, so I think the nerves were a little up there.

“But as Lane and I told him, it’s good to be nervous. Nerves bring your system alive. It makes you awake. You want to be nervous. If you’re not nervous, you’re f—-d up. That’s not good. You’re gonna get killed if you’re not nervous. So, you want to be nervous. But just go out there and do everything that we practice every single day and you’ll be just fine.”

One would be hard-pressed to find any semblance of nerves from Opeta based of his performance.

All told, Donald combined for just four tackles as the Eagles’ offense rolled up 454 yards of total offense, including 159 on the ground.

“I feel like I did pretty good against [Donald],” Opeta said. “There’s a couple where he definitely got his hands on me and shed the block quick. That’s a really good player, just, what am I gonna learn from that, you know?

“I think as far as my matchups with him, I did well. We had a lot of help with him today, just as far as the gameplan, scheming up and stuff.”

Sure, Opeta received help from his surrounding linemen, including Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson, distinguished veterans with whom Opeta felt comfortable alongside.

“With communication, especially,” Opeta said. “It just feels like we’re always there for each other. I’m getting beat a little, somebody will always come and help me. Somebody else is getting beat, [I’ll] help them.

“You gotta be able to work together and know where the weak spots are and stuff, as far as what the protection call is. It was fun.”

With plenty of resources around him to help his transition to starter, Opeta revealed that Jurgens has also assisted whenever possible despite the rehab schedule.

Jurgens, an avid spectator at practice, communicates with Opeta if he sees Opeta’s sets look a little off and relays other tidbits that might be useful.

The next three games might well serve as an audition for the 27-year-old Opeta, a pending free agent at the end of the season.

If he continues to turn heads and prove to be capable, he could parlay the opportunity into a starting role elsewhere.

And even though Opeta has always prepared as a starter would, the Weber State product reaffirmed something within himself after stacking consecutive impressive showings against some of the sport’s most formidable defensive linemen.

“That I can play with the best,” Opeta said. “Because I went out there and did it. So, that brings a lot of confidence in my game but I’m always about, ‘What can I do to get better?’

“It was far from perfect, so what can I do to get better is really all I’m thinking about.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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