A Great Test Awaits
Beating the Rams the way the Eagles did was great for this football team. It was OK for Andy Reid to say it was just one of 16 games. And the players should be putting the game in the rear-view mirror. And the Eagles shouldn't get carried away.
But for the rest of us, it is something to enjoy. It was maybe the most impressive open to a season that I have ever seen. It was a 35-point win. It was fantastic. Certainly, the wins in 2000 in the Pickle Juice game in Dallas and the 2004 opener against the Giants were great, and this ranks right up there.
I felt that some of the things that happened were things that I expected to happen. I thought DeSean Jackson would contribute from the first game on. Maybe it was a surprise to some how much he contributed, but if you watched him in the preseason, you knew what kind of talent he had.
The young linebackers played an outstanding game against St. Louis and, again, I expected that. How can you not be impressed with Stewart Bradley and Omar Gaither and Chris Gocong? They are young, improving players who work extremely hard.
The special teams, I said weeks ago, were going to be vastly improved, and they showed that in the first game.
Now comes Dallas, and a great test. What is the magnitude of this game? Well, it would be a big win if the Eagles could win their third straight game in Dallas, but that is asking a lot. I think this team is capable of doing it, but it is a tall task.
Are the Cowboys the team to beat in the division? I'm not sure the Eagles aren't the team to beat in the division, but I can't put either of those teams ahead of New York. The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions, and they are very, very good.
One of the matchups to watch on Monday night is the Eagles' secondary against the Dallas skill players. This is a game you sit back and say, ""I want to see Asante Samuel and Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown against Terrell Owens and Jason Witten and Patrick Crayton."" Samuel is an amazing athlete who has a great break to the ball. He is a top-notch cornerback and was clearly the best player in free agency. He is going to make a lot of big plays this year.
The Eagles have talent and depth at cornerback. I can't wait to see what Jim Johnson cooks up to cover the Dallas receivers. Do the Eagles need to double-team Owens? I don't know about that. They certainly can't leave him alone, but I'm not sure he needs to get more than a man-to-man commitment.
Offensively, the Eagles need to keep Jackson in the mix, even when Reggie Brown comes back from his hamstring injury. I don't care who starts, but I care that Jackson stays on the field in a prominent capacity. There is a learning curve for rookies - you have to learn how to play football at this level and you have to learn the playbook. DeSean has the kind of natural ability that you don't see very often. He is incredibly instinctive and has a certain brilliance that can't be taught. He is a very special talent.
We're going to see a good test on Monday night. But I want to make this clear: Nothing that happens on Monday night will convince me that the Eagles aren't a good team. The Eagles are a very good football team. They match up well against Dallas. They have a shot to beat Dallas. It's tough to take any quality opponent and beat that team three years in a row in their house.
I know that Jim Johnson will try to exert a lot of pressure against the Dallas offense and get after Tony Romo and try to force him into some mistakes. If that happens, the Eagles have an excellent chance to win this game.