The first week of the regular season is often the most unpredictable. Every team believes they have a shot, and underdogs will look steal a game early. The Eagles are heading to Cleveland on Sunday hoping to avoid having the underdog Browns steal one from them.
As a very young team led by a rookie quarterback, few are giving the Browns a chance in this game. And on paper, the matchup certainly looks good for the Eagles. But to ensure they start the season on the right foot, focus will be critical.
"The last thing we want to do is start the way we did last year," quarterback Michael Vick said. "We found ourselves in a hole and tried to dig ourselves out of it week in and week out. It obviously created more pressure to perform well and the mistakes that you make are hard to overcome when you create such a huge deficit. The thing is to start fast and that's what we preached last year and this year. We want to get out to a great start."
Vick himself is a large part of the equation. For the Eagles to win on Sunday, Vick will need to stay healthy and on the field.
"It's just very, very important for us," said wide receiver Jason Avant. "We are going out there to play a really good Cleveland team, and it would help us to have our best player. We look at him as that, and we hope he can play well. If he plays well, all of us play well."
Vick will also need to effectively move the offense. Blockers will have to give Vick time to throw and receivers must step up when called upon. And going into Sunday, the Eagles' offensive stars recognize that success is a total team effort. To LeSean McCoy, the formula is simple: make it easy for Vick to get into a rhythm.
"I think we need to help him out a little more with protection issues and making plays," McCoy said. "Using the playmaker abilities that we all have in this offense (to) make it easier on Mike. We don't need Mike to make a million plays by running or trying to make a play out of something and getting banged up.
"We don't need that because I feel like we have enough great players in this locker room, especially on the offense, to make plays. I think we are fast enough and talented enough."
Of course, McCoy himself will be a big piece of the puzzle. The All-Pro running back has the ability to take over a game with his speed, strength and elusiveness. As for the quarterback himself, Vick knows that he has to protect himself. After all, he's been hearing it every day for months. Now it's about putting together a good performance. And it all starts in Cleveland.
"As a team, we just want to put ourselves in a position to compete," Vick said. "I think that's where it all starts. Our short-term goals are to be the best that we can be, week in and week out, and that's how we'll advance to the postseason."
Vick and the Eagles will have a chance to start the season the right way on Sunday afternoon in Cleveland.
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