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What To Evaluate Vs. Tampa Bay

Posted Dec 8, 2012

Next up for the Eagles is a game against Tampa Bay and the chance to evaluate the roster in a unique way ...

There is a lot to look at in this game. Tampa Bay is a needy team at 6-6 and the Bucs are going to have Raymond James Stadium charged to the hilt as the 2002 Super Bowl team is honored.

For the Eagles, a win is the goal, of course, along with the chance to learn more about the players on the roster. Here are some of the particulars ...

Nick Foles, QB: Naturally, Nick Foles is first on the list. The rookie quarterback made great progress last week against the Cowboys as he stretched the field and challenged Dallas with the vertical passing game. We had a chance to see Foles move and throw and put points on the board late in the first half. We saw him face the blitz and make the Cowboys pay for it.

The Tampa Bay defense has the best numbers in the league against the run and the worst numbers in the league against the pass. Sounds like an easy offensive game plan, right? The Eagles may throw the ball quite a bit on Sunday, but they must achieve balance, too. The Eagles must make Tampa Bay respect the running game as well.

Every week is a new chance to evaluate Foles and see the progress he is making. As offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said the other day, Foles is no longer a rookie. Expect to see the Eagles ask a lot of Foles with the passing game on Sunday.

Colt Anderson, S: With Kurt Coleman sidelined, Colt Anderson gets his chance to start. We've long looked at Anderson as a special teams ace first and a safety a distant second, so here is a day for Anderson to show he is more than that. Fully recovered from his knee injury, Anderson has been great in kick coverage. Can he run well enough to cover the middle of the field in the passing game. Tampa Bay has a very strong play-action passing game, so Anderson is going to have to play with depth here. That he is starting over David Sims is telling after Sims had the start in New Orleans a few weeks ago. Has Sims regressed in the coaches' eyes? Or has Anderson simply outplayed Sims? We'll see against Tampa Bay.

Fletcher Cox, DT: A pretty strong rookie season could get a lot better for Fletcher Cox as he develops some improved technique with Tommy Brasher in as the defensive line coach. Cox hopes to use his hands better and use his strength and play the run as well as rush the quarterback. It's a challenge to learn so much and apply it so quickly, but Cox is a talented young player. The Eagles ultimately need him to be a great defensive lineman.

Bryce Brown, RB: His first two starts have been remarkable from a production standpoint, so Bryce Brown is now a marked man. Defensive players want to get their hands on the football when he's carrying it, so the next step for Brown is to cover up the ball and retain possession. Can he still run with such aggressiveness and keep the ball high and tight? Can he run with such remarkable big-man speed and be a reliable 25-carry-a-game running back? Tampa Bay has a quick, darting run defense. This is going to be a great test for Brown.

Nate Allen, S: The third-year safety is not having a top season, but the chatter in the locker  room is that with the Wide 9 out of the picture, the back seven will benefit on defense. We shall see. Allen needs a strong last quarter of the season as the Eagles look ahead and build the defense. Is Allen someone the Eagles can move forward with? It's not like safeties are out there in abundance. It's a tough position to fill in the NFL.

Dennis Kelly, RT: He has played well alongside right guard Jake Scott, and Dennis Kelly has provided some stability at the right tackle position. He goes against veteran Michael Bennett on Sunday and is going to have a battle on his hands. Kelly uses his punch well and has good feet. He can't let Bennett get leverage and gain the edge.

Riley Cooper, WR: Where does Riley Cooper fit in as far as the wide receiver picture here? The Eagles have Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson under contract for 2013. Jason Avant, too. Cooper has played really well, and he's got to be a factor moving forward. He's big, faster than you'd think and he creates separation. Cooper and Foles have a good thing going on the field, so the wide receiver could be in for a big day against Tampa Bay.

Brandon Graham, DE: In his first start of the season against Dallas, Brandon Graham was huge with 1 1/2 sacks, 6 tackles, a handful of quarterback hurries and excellent effort. Now he has to repeat the performance and, as does the entire defensive line, handle rookie running back Doug Martin. Tampa Bay has a balanced offense and a decent line, and Graham has to lead the charge. He and end Vinny Curry are in the spotlight.

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