The Eagles get a big test this week. Taking on a team like the Ravens means getting a W will be really tough. That’s okay with me. I’m just as interested in seeing how the Eagles play. That may sound odd, but good teams are going to find a way to win 10 or 11 games.
I’ll be more comfortable with the Eagles when I see how they respond this week. I’ll either know that my expectations were too high and we’re going to have another year of highly inconsistent play or I’ll see us look like a playoff team. I’m hoping for a good game, but trying to be realistic as well. The Cleveland game was way too sloppy.
So what am I looking for? 3 general things.
First, I need the offense to eliminate the mistakes. Shady didn’t trust his blocking on the run where he fumbled. Maclin didn’t block well on multiple plays and cost us a lot of yards. The O-line made too many mental mistakes. And of course Michael Vick must play worlds better than he did.
Next, I need the defense to repeat what they did. There were a few blown plays, but the times when we left guys open, the rush got to the QB. The plays where the rush was slow, the coverage was tight. On the few missed tackles, there was someone there to clean up the play. Good team defense.
STs I’m pretty good with, but Alex Henery needs to quit with the misses. His 3-game miss streak must end this week (barring a 60-yarder or some fluke kick like that).
We don’t lack talent. We need guys to play better football. This is something the players and coaches can work on. That’s what gives me confidence that the issues can be fixed.
As for the Ravens…I was really impressed on Monday. I thought they might be a tad overrated this summer. I had my doubts about Joe Flacco and the offense. I had concerns about the OL. I had questions about who was going to replace Terrell Suggs. I’m also not a huge believer in their CBs.
On Monday, the Ravens looked like a dominant team. To me, Baltimore, SF, and Houston looked like the 3 juggernauts so far. Playing the Ravens in Week 2 is tough. Or is it? The Ravens won the last 2 season openers, only to fall in Week 2. Both losses came on the road. That doesn’t mean the 2012 Ravens will have the same outcome, but it is a trend.
Can the Eagles win this game? Absolutely.
The Ravens are good, but they aren’t unbeatable. There was a moment in the opener when the Bengals looked to have seized control of the game. That didn’t last because the Bengals weren’t good enough to play at that level for a sustained period. The Ravens then took control of the game and buried them.
If Vick comes out and throws the ball up for grabs, Sunday will be The Longest Day. If Vick got that out of his system and is now ready to play good football, we’re going to be in for a good game. The health of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin is critical. We need them to stretch the defense and provide some big plays. You can’t sustain long drives on the Ravens getting 4 and 5 yards a pop. You need some 20 and 30-yard gains mixed in. Reuben Frank wrote yesterday that Andy Reid is optimistic about them playing.
Will the offense be more balanced? I don’t know. The Ravens have a big defense. Conventional thinking is that you’re best to spread them out and make them run around in pass coverage. At the same time, Reid knows he must help the OL and Vick by running the ball more than just 7 times in the 1st half.
Cincy had a lot of success with WR screens and quick throws. They also ran the ball effectively. Benjarvis Green-Ellis had 18 carries for 91 yards. He ran up the middle quite a bit. Quick hitters with Shady or even Bryce Brown might be effective.
It occurred to me yesterday that the offensive gameplan vs Cleveland might have been a bit bland by design. Save the good wrinkles for the Ravens. We did a few interesting things last week (loved the end around with Harbor as the lead blocker), but there weren’t any plays that jumped out as brilliant or overly-creative. We’ll have to see what Marty and Andy have in store for Sunday.
The Ravens can be vulnerable to the pass. Look back to 2011:
TEN 26, BAL 13 … 432 total yards, 358 passing
BAL 23, PIT 20 … 392 total yards, 322 passing
BAL 31, CIN 24 … 483 total yards, 364 passing
SD 34, BAL 14 … 415 total yards , 270 passing
The teams that the Ravens just dominated were running teams like SF, JAX, and NYJ. When you let them load the box and attack, you’ve got little chance of winning.
In order for us to be successful, the line must block well and not miss assignments, the receivers must get open and must catch the ball, and Vick must find the open guy and get him the ball in a timely fashion.
I feel pretty confident in the defense. Am I alone in that? The Ravens were impressive in the opener and it looked like legit success. Flacco threw some balls into coverage, but he’s got the arm to get away with that. Also, when you’re forcing the ball to a guy like Anquan Boldin, he’s still good enough to make crazy-tough catches. Don’t be dismissive of these guys.
The reason I’m confident is that I liked what I saw from our guys so much. I think the defense will improve as they get used to each other and the way the scheme is being play this year. We played more press coverage in the opener than we did in a 3-week span last year.
I think we’ve got the players to match-up with the Ravens. We have a good DL. We have fast, physical LBs. We have big CBs who can run. We have solid Safeties. The Ravens did use the end around as a weapon in the opener. Our guys will need to be disciplined.
The Bengals had their most success on defense when blitzed. I wasn’t overly impressed with their base pass rush. Geno Atkins had success up the middle a couple of times, but Flacco had a good pocket way too much.
I like our DL a lot more than the Bengals, but it will be interesting to see if Juan Castillo does try to mix in more blitzes to confuse Flacco or just get him out of his comfort zone. I think the fact he’s such a big guy and takes such deep drops will help our rush. The DEs will have a clear aiming point to attack. I’ll be highly disappointed if they don’t get him down a couple of times off the edge. As Jimmy Bama pointed out the other night, Jason Babin will be going against a rookie OT for the second week in a row.
The run defense was sensational in the opener. Shutting down Ray Rice will be much harder. I want to see how good the D is. Can they control the LOS against a big, powerful OL and limit Rice as a runner? Can’t wait to tune in and see this. Should be a lot of fun.
I’ll add more thoughts on the game over the weekend.
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Derek put up an amazing post at Iggles Blog using the All-22 to show a variety of things. This is truly must-read material. Great work.