It's awfully early to label this Eagles squad, but the makeup of the roster and the tempo at which the coaches want the players to perform suggests one thing: Speed kills. The Eagles have plenty of it, and they are going to use it to their advantage.
I watched the St. Louis defense lose its edge early in Sunday's game. The players were victims of playing the game at the Eagles' pace. Philadelphia obliged by spreading the field and throwing the football and challenging the Rams' defensive backs and linebackers to stay with players who were faster, fresher and more talented. The defensive front had its collective tongue dragging on the carpet at the Edward Jones Dome chasing quarterback Michael Vick, the best-conditioned athlete I have ever seen in an Eagles uniform.
Vick never tires. Vick kicks his game into a new gear and dares defenses to keep up.
As we learn more about the Eagles every week, this is going to be a constant theme. The Eagles have built up and array of speedy skill-position players who give the offense a wide variety of ways to win on every play. The offensive linemen are streamlined and quick on their feet to fit line coach Howard Mudd's requirements.
On defense, the line of scrimmage is a revolving door. Coach Jim Washburn interchanges eight linemen, who play one series and then rest one series. The Eagles were extraordinarily fresh throughout the opening-day win.
And by rotating the back seven, the Eagles kept that group of players on edge and ready to go.
There are going to be times when the Eagles have to line up and do the smash-mouth thing. We know that. Atlanta has the ability, for example, to spread the field and run the ball, so the Eagles have to be stout at the line of scrimmage and stuff the ground game on Sunday night.
At first glance, however, the name of the game for the Eagles to have success this year is to play faster than their opponents, to have better conditioning and to work the entire roster and wear teams down.
Sunday night's game in Atlanta is going to be played on a very fast track. The Eagles need to beat Atlanta with speed, and to match the intensity and not allow a rabid crowd and a national television audience to have any negative impact.
When you have somebody like Michael Vick setting the pace, it is easy to understand the concept: Catch us if you can. The Rams couldn't on Sunday. Not many teams will keep up the pace. The Eagles have their fastest, most talented and deepest roster in Andy Reid's 13 seasons. They need to take full advantage of those gifts.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- While the top three draft picks didn't suit up against St. Louis, the Eagles got plenty of help from their 2011 Rookie Class. Draft picks Casey Matthews, Alex Henery and Jason Kelce started, as did rookie free agent punter Chas Henry. Plus, draft picks Dion Lewis and Brian Rolle played significant roles, Lewis as the kickoff return man and backup running back and Rolle as a starting nickel linebacker and special teams ace. I think Rolle has a chance to get more playing time from the line of scrimmage.
- Thanks to the many great Eagles fans I saw and met in St. Louis. The turnout was most impressive. Fans came from Philadelphia, from the Midwest and from St. Louis. It was great to hear the fans in the Edward Jones Dome out-noise the Rams fans. Well done. See you in Atlanta.
- If Darryl Tapp can't play against the Falcons, and he is day to day with a pec strain, rookie Phillip Hunt will go. His speed off the edge is going to cause problems for offenses in this league. I am so glad the Eagles kept Hunt. He is going to fill the role of pure speed rusher in this defense.
- General Manager Howie Roseman deserves a lot of credit for building this roster. The Eagles went out and signed Hunt. They added a couple of unknown veterans to help the offensive line, Evan Mathis and Kyle DeVan. They brought in safety Jarrad Page, who is now starting. The Eagles knew their rookies would have some ups and downs, so they made sure to have depth by adding solid, hungry-to-play veterans who have already paid dividends.