Training Camp will be here before you know it, but in the meantime, we’ve been previewing the upcoming season game by game, offering insight into each Eagles matchup. Our previews are now moving into the second half of the schedule, so take some time to check out five things that you need to know about the Eagles’ second four-game stretch of the season …
1. Under Pressure - Handling the Pass Rush
One of the biggest determining factors of the Eagles’ success during this four-game period may end up being their ability to quell the opposition’s pass rush.
In 2013, the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals ranked second and sixth, respectively, in the NFL in sacks. The Rams recorded 53 sacks as a team last season, led by Robert Quinn, who finished the year with 19.0 sacks, trailing only Indianapolis’ Robert Mathis. Arizona’s John Abraham (11.5 sacks) tied for seventh in the league in quarterback takedowns, and Houston’s J.J. Watt (10.5 sacks) finished tied for 16th in the league. On top of those well-established names, first-overall pick and pass-rushing prodigy Jadeveon Clowney has been added to the Texans' front seven, offering another challenge for the Eagles' offensive line. The Giants lacked a serious pass rush in 2013, and Justin Tuck is now an Oakland Raider, but expect a healthy amount of pressure from New York in the rivalry matchup, as is typically the case.
2. Familiar Foes
The Eagles have played the Giants 160 times in the regular season since 1933. That’s the most games that the Eagles have played against any opponent. Of course, it’s up for debate as to who the Eagles’ biggest rival is, but let’s just put it this way - these two teams know each other, and they probably don’t like each other that much. The battle between midnight green and blue begins under the lights at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 6. Buckle up your chin strap.
The Eagles and Cardinals played in the same division until the 2002 season, but the two teams have been meeting so much recently that it feels as if they are still divisional rivals. The Eagles and Cardinals have gone head-to-head five times since 2008, including the 2008 NFC Championship Game. In 2014, the Eagles will head west to play Arizona, looking for their first win at University of Phoenix Stadium (0-2).
3. Saying Bye To The Bye Week
Since 1999, the Eagles have been fantastic in the game immediately following their bye week. They’ve gone 14-1, with the only loss coming in 2012. The Eagles' bye comes in Week 7 this season, followed immediately by consecutive road games against Arizona and Houston. Former head coach Andy Reid was known for being successful after the weekend off, and Chip Kelly started out strong in 2013 with a win in Week 13 over - that’s right - the Arizona Cardinals.
4. Bounce Back Candidates
The Rams, Giants and Texans all finished under .500 in 2013, but it’s reasonable to think that each of those teams will take a step forward this season. The Rams played half of the season without quarterback Sam Bradford, and this year they’ve beefed up their offensive and defensive lines via the draft, adding Greg Robinson with the second-overall pick and following up that selection with Aaron Donald later in the first round. St. Louis finished with seven wins despite injury setbacks and playing in the NFC West, arguably the toughest division in the NFL.
The Giants started off 0-6, and just when it looked like nothing could go right for the turnover-ridden team from New York, they turned it around and even managed to keep playoff hopes alive throughout the second half of the season. As long as Eli Manning is under center and Tom Coughlin is on the sidelines, the Giants will be perennial contenders. Ben McAdoo has been hired as the Giants' new offensive coordinator, and he’ll look to jump-start an offense that was dormant for much of 2013.
The Texans only won two games last season, but they were thought of as a Super Bowl contender entering the season. Head coach Bill O’Brien is back in the NFL after a successful run at Penn State, and Watt and Clowney figure to be a nightmare for opposing offenses. Don’t be too surprised if the Texans come back with a vengeance in 2014.
5. Moving On To Greener Pastures
The Eagles currently have eight former Houston Texans on the roster -
Barwin, Jones and Ryans can find their names all over the young franchise’s record books, and for all of the former Texans, Week 9 represents a chance to go back to the stadium that they used to call home. It’s sure to be a memorable day in the heart of Texas.