Oh bittersweet irony, how you are a force to be reckoned with. Last week, prior to a write-up previewing the Eagles road game in Arizona, my laptop’s memory died on me and I was unable to submit a preview for the game. Then, like clockwork, the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense (and defense for that matter) forgot to look like a professional football team and was dominated in all phases of the game last Sunday as they went to 2-1 on the young season after a 27-6 drubbing. Football players, and fans alike, are creatures of habit. Superstitious acts are performed in all manners by fans, including myself, if something is going right, or if things are going wrong. Do I blame myself for the loss? I feel a small bit responsible for the loss. If I had been able to write about Larry Fitzgerald’s rampant success in his career against the Eagles, or the fact that Damaris Johnson would have big shoes to fill in the absence of Jeremy Maclin perhaps maybe the Eagles could have scored an offensive touchdown. Then again…
The past is the past. This Sunday is about the defending Super Bowl champions coming to Philadelphia on a night that is going to be perhaps one of the most special moments in Philadelphia sports history. Safety Brian Dawkins’ number 20 is being retired prior the game against a team in which Dawkins had MANY special moments. Aside from Dawkins, not much of this Eagles team remains from the last time Dawkins wore midnight green. It seems like a lifetime ago in which the Eagles made their final NFC Championship game, coincidentally a loss in Arizona, and much has changed. What hasn’t changed is that this Eagles team is still very competitive, and they’ll need to bring a defensive A-game in order to knock off Eli Manning and the New York football Giants.
Tackle David Diehl will miss his 2nd trip in three seasons to Philadelphia as he has been ruled out for the 2nd week in a row. Hakeem Nicks has also been downgraded to doubtful for this game, which means that Cal Poly SLO alum Ramses Barden and Dominik Hixon will need to step up in order to keep the pressure on an Eagles secondary that looked dreadfully bad a week ago. Victor Cruz remains the top target for Eli Manning, despite posting somewhat pedestrian numbers compared to a year ago. Martellus Bennett has emerged as a dominant tight end and has caught a touchdown in each of the Giants’ first three games and his yardage along with catches has increased in each game. Mychal Kendricks will have his hands full guarding a playmaking tight end who is very familiar with how the NFC East rivalries can play out. Ahmad Bradshaw is expected to play, but Tom Caughlin has not indicated how much the carries are going to be split between Bradshaw and Andre Brown. The Giants have a multifaceted offensive attack that can put up points in a hurry, but their defense is just as dangerous. While having injuries in the secondary, the Giants’ strength lies in the front seven and is led by Jason Pierre-Paul. Todd Herremans and Demetress Bell will have their hands full against Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck. This defense looked very good in making a Carolina Panthers team look very ordinary last Thursday. Michael Vick will need to be very careful in the first divisional game of the season for Philadelphia.
Can Michael Vick Survive The Season? Forget just this week. Michael Vick has taken an unbelievable amount of punishment just three weeks into the season. Much of it can be attributed to the injuries on the offensive line. However, Vick has not been given much protection in playcalling as well. The Eagles continue to throw the ball obsessively and it is making the offensive seemingly one-dimensional. LeSean McCoy must become involved in screens, runs, and better in pass protection. Aside from that, Vick also needs to worry about surviving as the starting quarterback even if he is healthy. Turnovers have been costing the Eagles and it finally cost them a game against Arizona. The key moment was just prior to the end of the first half with the Cardinals leading 17-0. The Eagles were at the one yard line with 16 seconds left in the 2nd quarter. Rather than give the ball at least once to LeSean McCoy and try to run in for a yard, the Eagles threw two incompletions and then for whatever reason, rather than kick a field goal and go into the locker room down two touchdowns, they dropped Vick back to pass with 6 seconds left and he got sacked, lost the football, and it was returned for a 93 yard touchdown. A ten point turn around ended up dooming the Eagles and the game was all but wrapped up with just 30 minutes expired. Vick must protect the football better or a 2-0 start will suddenly become a 2-2 record with criticism mounting against both Vick and Andy Reid.
Can Victor Cruz Be Stopped? Last season, Victor Cruz had a field day against the Eagles. Nine catches for 238 yards and three touchdowns, including a ridiculous 74 yarder the first meeting last season. Cruz is well aware of his success against the Eagles, and said Cruz, “I did a personal best [in Philadelphia], and to come out like that was definitely great,” Cruz told the New York Post this week. “But it’s a new year and I just want to remain constant.” Constant has been in his repertoire since he emerged on the scene a season ago. But it up to Nnamdi Asomugha to earn his money as one of the top man-to-man cover cornerbacks in the league and shut the salsa dancing phenom down for a game.
Trent Cole Loves New York! That might even be an understatement. Trent Cole has had an enormous amount of success against the Giants, and in the 14 games he’s played against the team, he has recorded 8 sacks and has an interception returned for a touchdown. He’s totaled 45 solo tackles and 20 assists. 13% of his tackle total for his career has come against the Giants in just 14 games. The Eagles will need a vintage performance from Cole to keep the pressure on Eli Manning and limit the opportunity for his wide receivers to get down the field and create a big play opportunity.
Where is LeSean McCoy? I admit it. I am a Bryce Brown fan. I wrote about him prior to the season and during the pre-season multiple times. However, I know that there is a sharp difference in the talent level between Brown and McCoy. McCoy is averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season but has only rushed the ball 58 times in the first three games. I know that Andy Reid and Marty Morningwheg want to preserve their star running-back, but they need to utilize him in order to take the heat off Michael Vick. McCoy caught 48 balls a season ago and 70 passes two years ago. He needs to be placed in some short passing opportunities against a defense that is known to bring a lot of pressure from the front seven. One can think that the vocal opposition to the game-plan has been heard by Reid and company, but it’s my belief that the Eagles will try to utilize McCoy greatly against a team he averaged 120 yds rushing against a season ago.
Welcome Back Referees: The lucky recipient this week for this NFC East game? Ron Winter and crew. New York Giants fans are very familiar with Winter as he was the referee in the 2002 Wild Card game against San Francisco. Perhaps for the Giants, they could be wishing that the lockout lasted just one week longer?