Game #2 is finally here. This is going to be a key game for many players. Some guys are looking to rebound from a slow start. Others are looking to build on a hot start. How you perform in one game is just that…one game. Two games becomes a trend, whether good or bad. And that starts to give the coaching staff some definitive answers.
The focus will be on the QB battle. Nick Foles gets the start tonight. Foles played well last week and needs to do that again. He had the fumble last week and needs to avoid turnovers tonight. I hope we get a chance to see him stretch the field with a pass to DeSean Jackson. Foles is throwing the ball better this year, but the deep ball was a major weakness last year.
Vick will take over in the 2nd quarter, but still be with the starters. He led the offense on an explosive TD drive last week. I’m hoping to see Vick show that he can lead a more sustained drive this week. It will also be interesting to see how he does running the offense up-tempo. Kelly started things slowly last week so the players could shake off the rust and get going. That meant things were slow in Vick’s 2 drives. That should change this week.
Matt Barkley started very slow, but got better. He’ll play the 3rd quarter tonight and now has an idea of what an NFL game is like. I’m hoping he’s more consistent tonight. I’d love to see GJ Kinne get a couple of drives in the 4th quarter, but he still might be behind Dixon.
At RB, I’m hoping to see Chris Polk look quicker. He’s had a great summer, but wasn’t impressive last week as a runner. He blocked well, which is important, but I want to see the quickness that he’s shown in camp. Is he just getting the best of a bad Eagles defense in practice? That’s a fair question to ask. At the same time, the Pats played good run defense early last week. Polk needs to show us something. Bryce Brown was terrific. We just need more of the same from him.
I want TE Brent Celek to hold onto the ball. I want Zach Ertz to do a better job of blocking.
The top WRs are fine. I’m more interested in Damaris Johnson, Russell Shepard, Ifeanyi Momah and Greg Salas. They need good passes coming their way so we can evaluate their hands and then playmaking ability. Salas needs to build on last week’s strong showing.
Another good game by Allen Barbre would make me feel pretty good about the OL and depth. Lane Johnson looked like the real deal last week. More please. I do hope Todd Herremans wakes up and plays well. He was sloppy last week. Danny Watkins got better as the game went along. He needs to build on that (Update – apparently he’s not playing due to the concussion). Backup C is still wide open. I like Dallas Reynolds, but the coaches seem to favor Julian Vandervelde.
There is a lot to look at on defense.
Fletcher Cox must play better. I don’t need him to suddenly be J.J. Watt or Reggie White, but Cox played poorly last week. That’s not good, new defense or not. Isaac Sopoaga and Cedric Thornton were okay, but need to play better. The young DL drew a lot of praise. I hope they don’t get big heads. We need them to have another good game. Bennie Logan might see some time with the starters. Damion Square continues his push to win a roster spot. I hope Vinny Curry plays a lot at 3-4 DE tonight so we can judge him on that. Antonio Dixon makes his debut. I figured he was a shoo-in for the backup NT job, but that’s not the case anymore. He’s fighting for a roster spot.
OLB is mixed bag. Trent Cole just needs to show that he’s getting the hang of the spot. Last week he looked lost. I don’t want to make too much of that, but I’d be lying if I said I was completely comfortable with him. Connor Barwin is a player I am comfortable with. Brandon Graham did a good job of rushing the passer last week. The challenge now is to show he can play OLB. Chris McCoy impressed last week. Another good game will help him in his bid to win a roster spot. Phillip Hunt flashed, but he’s got to really stand out. The new coaches just don’t like small guys. Hunt has to blow them away. Rookie Travis Long didn’t get much of a chance to rush the passer last week. I’m hoping that changes tonight.
The starting ILBs, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, did not impress in the opener. They need to be smarter and more physical. We got the worst of both worlds last week. They weren’t gap sound. They weren’t blowing up blockers and being disruptive. As I re-watched the game yesterday, it was frustrating to see how they struggled with blocks while the Pats ILBs would punish OL that came at them. Gotta be more physical. The backups are definitely worth watching. Jake Knott an Emmanuel Acho were the 3rd stringers last week and played well. I’d love to see them play with the 2’s.
Safety remains a mystery, outside of Patrick Chung. Nate Allen must play well tonight if he wants to be a starter. We don’t know the full rotation. There has been speculation that Earl Wolff might start tonight. I’m all for it. Allen didn’t play well last week. The Eagles need someone to step up. Kenny Phillips has to show that he can run. I’m curious to see if David Sims plays more. Was he on the bench last week due to the rotation or because he’s behind the others?
Cary Williams is slated to make his Eagles debut. To the fans and media, he absolutely cannot afford a poor game. The coaches will be patient, but Cary’s talking has already worn down some in Philly. Brandon Boykin is likely to start in the slot. He should play on the outside with the 2’s. Brandon Hughes looked pretty good last week. He needs another good game. Curtis Marsh needs a good game if he wants to have a chance to make the team.
Reuben Frank pointed out the other day that the starting defense didn’t do anything special at all last week. No sacks. No TFLs. No fumbles. No pass deflections. Nothing. They didn’t play extensively, but that will change tonight. The starters should play close to a half. They need to show progress.
If the defense is awful again tonight, I’ll begin to get worried. I think last week brought out the worst in them for a few reasons. They were facing the Pats. The scheme was very basic. It was their first chance to really play live football in the new system. The coaches have made some adjustments, in terms of scheme and personnel. The players have been able to study tape. I can’t stress how valuable that is. Players learn visually. They need to see tape to truly understand concepts and roles. I think the defense will be better this game.
I’m not looking for the ’85 Bears, but I do expect the players to be smarter and more aggressive. They’ll have a better idea of what they’re doing. The rust is gone. They know it is time to show what they can do or there will be changes. That should bring an sense of urgency to things that was completely lacking last week.