I had an opportunity this week to exchange a few questions with Bob Wankel of Fansided’s Eagles Blog – Inside The Iggles.
Here is what we talked about concerning the Philadelphia Eagles:
1. The dream team seems to have its own share of injury problems… is the QB situation a borderline nightmare for the Eagles?
One of the biggest concerns coming into the season for the Eagles was the ability of their offensive line to keep Michael Vick on the field. And less than seven quarters into the season, Vick limped off the turf of the Georgia Dome spitting up blood, concussed, and out of the game. So while it appears that Vick will play this week, there has to be at least some worry that last week won’t be the only time Vick goes down this season.
Mike Kafka filled in admirably last week and Vince Young is 30-17 in 47 career NFL starts, but if Vick were to miss an extended period of time, yes, it could spell trouble.
2. Statistically the Eagles have the third worst run defense in the league, but its only week 3. You;ve rotated the LBs, why? How will the Eagles plan to change their defense this week to protect against the Giants run game?
The Eagles rotated linebackers because Casey Matthews simply wasn’t ready to play in the middle. He’s undersized, but was billed as an instinctive player, one capable of using those instincts to make plays–that hasn’t happened. Jamar Chaney, the Eagles’ new middle linebacker, played well in that spot last season, but is more suited to cover tight ends. I think the Eagles felt they could sacrifice a bit in the middle if it meant they could better cover the tight end position than they did a year ago. Neither of those things happened in the first two weeks, so the switch makes sense in that regard. I don’t know that this linebacker shuffle will cure what ails their defense, but it sure as Hell can’t hurt.
3. LeSean McCoy – obviously a dangerous weapon that has killed the Giants before singlehandedly like Westbrook before him. What is his specific role looking like for Sunday especially after calling out Osi Umenyiora and the Giants over the summer?
Probably some hometown bias here, but I think LeSean McCoy is emerging as a top-five running back in the NFL. McCoy can catch passes, he can run inside, he can get to a corner and turn it, and most important in the Eagles’ offensive system–he can block. He’s turned into a complete running back and he’s still only 23-years-old. I think the Eagles will look to protect Michael Vick as much as possible, and that likely means lot’s of short, quick passes to McCoy. Still, it’s not in the Eagles blood to shy away from taking shots down the field, so if they didn’t feel Vick was at or near full strength he probably wouldn’t be playing. In that case, McCoy will be an important cog in the Eagles’ pass protection scheme. I’d expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 touches for McCoy.
4. Jackson and Maclin, Giants fans have not heard much so far this season from the dynamic duo with Steve Smith taking up all the attention — but leave it to the Giants rivalry to bring it out. What can we expect from the wideouts this week.
Jackson has eight catches for 123 yards and a touchdown thus far, while Maclin has hauled in 14 passes for 191 yards and two scores. Maclin, in particular, had a monster game against Atlanta last week. When Jackson runs his mouth (which is quite often) he has a tendency to back it up. Against a nicked up Giants’ back seven, I expect him to make some big plays down the field. If Washington and St. Louis can throw for 300-plus yards threw the air, that likely means there will be plenty of yards to be had for these two on Sunday.
5. How have you liked Steve Smith so far? What do you expect from him this game?
I think Steve Smith is playing at about 75 percent. He only has two catches for 29 yards. I expect him to contribute and be an important part of the offense in the season’s second half, but he’s been a non-factor thus far. The Eagles may try to get him more involved in this game because obviously it’s a big one for him, but I think he’ll be much more involved in the teams’ second meeting later this season at MetLife Stadium.
6. X-Factor for the Giants
Ahmad Bradshaw. The Eagles can flat out rush the passer. Bradshaw must provide effective balance on the ground or Eli Manning is going to spend much of the day on his backside. Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, and Jason Babin are the zone right now, so when they do throw I expect the Giants to run lots of quick angle-routes at new weak-side linebacker Casey Matthews. Bradshaw versus Matthews is a favorable matchup for New York, one that they must exploit in order to keep pace.
7. X- Factor for the Eagles
Brent Celek. Celek was only targeted three times in the Eagles 38-31 win last season. He he made his limited opportunities count–he finished the game with two catches for 72 yards, including a critical 65-yard grab that helped spark the Eagles’ comeback. He’s going to be an important player on Sunday. It’s essential that the Eagles find a way to get Celek more involved in the passing game, but he’ll also be called upon to help slow up the Giants’ vaunted pass rush. If the Eagles can find a way to effectively balance Celek, that’s only going to help their offense.
8. Final prediction and score
If the Giants were any other team but the Giants, I’d say the Eagles absolutely roll them this week. But they are the Giants. Whenever these two teams get together crazy things tend to happen. Still, the Eagles have scored 40, 45, 27, and 38 points, respectively, in their last four games against the Giants. I know this game means a lot to New York. And I expect them to keep it somewhat close, but at the end of the day I just don’t see how they can keep pace with Philadelphia. I’ll take the Eagles 31-20.