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Fan-Demonium: Time For A Feast

Posted Oct 13, 2012

Fan-Demonium

The Eagles offense has struggled to score points this year. I think that changes on Sunday. The offense has been hurt by two key factors. Turnovers are the primary culprit. You can't score when you're giving the other team the ball. Field position is the other thing that has hurt the offense. It is hard to put up points when you start at your own 20-yard line time after time. The Lions aren't good at forcing turnovers and they have the worst kick coverage units in the NFL. This is the matchup the Eagles need in order to get going.

The lack of points is driving us all crazy. You can bet Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and Shady McCoy feel the same way. The one suffering the most is Andy Reid. He lives for offense. A day without touchdowns is like a day without sunshine. Last week, he and Marty Mornhinweg had to be somewhat conservative because of the Steelers ability to blitz. This week I look for the Eagles to be very aggressive.

I'm not expecting every play to be an 80-yard pass. I do think you'll see more vertical plays. I think you'll see less max protect. Getting more guys out in pass routes opens things up on short and medium plays if the receivers have stretched the defense deep. Reid could also open up the playbook and mix in some wide receiver screens or a reverse. Heck, maybe we see the first flea flicker of 2012. That used to be a play he loved to try.

Detroit has a talented defensive line. Those guys can get after the quarterback. They don't blitz a ton, though. That means the offensive line doesn't have to worry as much about who is rushing and where. They just have to execute and block properly. The back of the Lions defense is less talented. The team does not have any interceptions this year. They have only broken up 11 passes. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has seven pass breakups (and three interceptions). Receivers should be open. It is up to Vick to get them the ball and the receivers to make the catch and to then make something happen after the catch.

Can Vick and the offense play a clean game? Is it possible for them to avoid turnovers? They did that against the Giants. The offense this year has been way too sloppy, but let's also remember that they've faced some tough opponents. Hopefully, the talk about increased ball security will pay off this week and the offense won't turn it over.

The Eagles defense has a huge challenge in trying to contain Calvin Johnson, a.k.a Megatron. I think he's the best wide receiver in the NFL. The Eagles were unable to control Larry Fitzgerald a few weeks back. Megatron is better than him so this isn't going to be easy. The key here is for the Eagles to show they learned from the Arizona game.

I think the wise thing to do is put Rodgers-Cromartie on Johnson no matter where he goes, right, left or slot. That means you have to trust Brandon Boykin to play outside when he's in the game and Johnson goes to the slot. I think Boykin has the skills, speed and ability to play outside. It is possible the coaches could decide to go with Brandon Hughes more in this game since he has experience in the slot and outside. I'm interested to see how Juan Castillo and his staff go about this.

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

Johnson needs to be double-teamed a lot of the time. The Lions have talent on offense, but things go through him. The key targets aside from Johnson are tight end Brandon Pettigrew and receiver Nate Burleson. They have combined for two touchdowns and 45 catches. Neither player averages 10 yards per reception. Johnson is the key guy. Make the Lions beat you by throwing elsewhere.

The defensive line is under pressure to generate more pressure. They have gone two games without a sack. That is an eternity. The Lions don't have a great line. Matt Stafford is a big target, but doesn't have great mobility. He can be sacked. I will be shocked if the line doesn't get him a time or two, at the least. Castillo may try more blitzing in this game. That's tricky because you want to double up on Johnson and that means a lot of man coverage everywhere else. It would really help if the defensive line could have a huge day.

Detroit has a limited rushing attack. They don't have any runs of 20 or more yards this year. They've split carries between a couple of runners, but neither has been all that impressive. They will mix in the run at times, but really are a passing team.

I'm sure Castillo and his coaches have been preaching takeaways to the players. The Eagles defense is at its best when coming up with turnovers. They didn't get any last week and haven't gotten many since the season opener. It makes a world of difference when you can give the offense the football with good field position. The Eagles were close to a couple of takeaways last week. The old saying is that they come in bunches. This would be a great week for that to start.

Special teams has not been a strength for the Eagles this year, but it has been a costly group for the Lions. They have already allowed four return touchdowns in four games. That is shockingly bad. Some people think the big problem for them is that too many of their players don't want to be out there on special teams. Covering kicks isn't easy or fun. You run full speed for 40 or 50 yards and then get in some violent collisions. That's not football so much as the human version of a demolition derby. Attitude is a huge factor. You must buy into your role and take pride in doing it well.

Some young players struggle with that. They were stars in college. Now they are "just special teamers" and feel insulted. When you have too many players like that, you will struggle to block on returns and tackle when covering kicks.

Boykin and Damaris Johnson have not delivered the kind of returns that the coaches expected. They are both rookies so the coaches are trying to be patient. Sunday is a huge test. There should be some running lanes. If Johnson and Boykin can't get going then, you might have to consider changes. Ideally, you'd love to see Johnson with a 15- to 20-yard return and Boykin break one of about 40 yards. If they can do that, it would be a huge boost to their confidence.

The Lions do have a talented returner of their own. The Eagles need to get down the field and cover well. Adrian Moten failed to impress last week and is gone. Jason Williams is his replacement. It was great to see Colt Anderson last week. His presence helped quite a bit in coverage and I'm sure he'll be even better this week.

The one downside to this game is that the Lions are coming off a bye. That means the players are well rested. The coaches had a time to self-scout and make adjustments. You certainly hope they didn't fix their pass coverage or their kick coverage. You hope they didn't come up with any offensive wrinkles that will catch the Eagles off-guard.

This is a big game. The Eagles are 3-2. After this, they have a bye week. It would be huge to head into the bye with a 4-2 record. Beating the Lions would drop them to just 1-4. They were considered a playoff team before the season and a loss Sunday would really hurt them. It will be interesting to see the character of that team. The Steelers responded well to being 1-2 last week. They played hard and were focused, but are a high-character team. I'm not sure what to make of the Lions. They have enough talent to beat the Eagles. I'm just not sold that they have the toughness to right the ship and do the little things it takes to win key games.

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