It’s been 253 days since the Philadelphia Eagles suited up for a regular season game. That game was on January 1, 2011 against division rival Washington Redskins as the Eagles ended their 2011 campaign with a 34-10 victory over the Skins. Despite finishing the season strong on a four-game win streak, Philadelphia wrapped up their campaign with an unthinkable 8-8 record, missed the playoffs and were forced to watch the New York Giants get hot at the right time to win the Super Bowl.
As I said, that was 253 days ago.
On Sunday the Eagles will be again facing the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium for the second time in just 17 days. When these two teams faced each other during the preseason, Philadelphia’s backups had an impressive performance routing the Browns 27-10 in front of an attendance of 54,550. Rookie quarterback Nick Foles continued to impress fans and coaches alike completing 12 of 19 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles defense forced an interception (Cliff Harris) and two forced fumbles (D. Landri / D. Tapp). Yet the secondary allowed a total of 220 passing yards.
This time around it’s the starters going mono-e-mono. So as you are probably reading this prior to the official start of the 2012 season, here are a few things I will be watching for during the game.
Quarterback Michael Vick appeared on the Eagles injury list four times during the preseason for varying reasons — the biggest scare was the shot to the ribs that forced him to miss the remaining preseason games. Since then the company who created his protection, UnEqual technologies, has come up with a super enhanced version of protection and has guaranteed that Vick won’t suffer another rib injury — time for Unequal to put their money were their mouth is and put this protection to the test.
However, I’m also going to be looking for a smarter playing Vick. I want to see him help protect himself numerous ways — don’t slide head first — throw the ball away if he has to and live to pass another play!
What will the Eagles do first on offense?
During the opening game when former Eagles Donovan McNabb was the QB, the Eagles liked to take a shot deep downfield in hopes to score a touchdown very early and intimidate their opponent. As we all know Andy Reid is a pass-happy coach. So what will the Eagles do on their first play of offense? Another attempt way down field? They certainly have the fire power to do so with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. But they also have a running back named LeSean McCoy who earned a Pro Bowl berth last season and can take it to the house from anywhere on the field.
Or will Michael Vick decide to move outside the pocket and take the ball himself for a large gain…maybe a touchdown? Who knows, because with as much ammunition as the Eagles have offensively, anything is possible. But let’s be honest, we all want to see a deep bomb to DJax for a TD.
A Dominating Defense
2012 Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin is set to join his teammates along a defensive line chalked full of talent. He and Trent Cole are the starters at the end position while Cullen Jenkins and Derek Landri are the starting defensive tackles. Those four players will be expected to provide a ton of pressure on the Browns quarterback and have all the potential in the world to do just that. If they can, it’s going to be a very long game for the Browns.
At linebacker the Eagles will showcase two newcomers and one unexpected veteran to round out the front seven — (MLB) DeMeco Ryans, (SAM) rookie Mychal Kendricks and (WILL) Akeem Jordan. Apply pressure, fill the gaps in the wide-9 and for pete’s sake….cover the tight end.
The secondary is where the brunt of my focus will be. The Eagles shipped Asante Samuel to the Atlanta Falcons in order to showcase more of a man coverage with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. There aren’t any more excuses, I don’t want to hear the second-year coordinator Juan Castillo isn’t using these two players to their fullest potential. Both cornerbacks are better equiped to play press coverage and so the Eagles made that switch. Now it’s time to for them to put their game faces on and produce — early and often!
The safeties is the Eagles biggest weakness as they prepare to open their season. Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman have a lot to prove this season and it all starts right here, right now. Can these two rise to the occasion and become legitimate threats as the Birds “safety net”, or will they give the Eagles a reason to seek a more proven veteran by the trade deadline?
As a whole, the job of the defense is to get the offense back on the field while holding the opposing offense to as few points as possible. Essentially that is what I want to see more than anything in regards to the defense.
Putting the 2011 season and those 253 days in the past and look forward to six months of football. Yeah I said it, SIX months of football.