Controversy, hype, speculation, press conferences, surprise announcements - just another week in Philadelphia. Life is never boring for those of us who follow the Eagles. The good news is that we finally get to put all that stuff in the background and focus on the game with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Both teams come into the game 1-1. The Jags played poorly last week and lost to the Chargers 38-13. I watched the game to get a feel for Jacksonville and there weren't a lot of positives to take away from that performance. The game was played in San Diego. Not all teams play well when they go to the west coast so we have to keep that in mind.
Let's start by talking about our offense and their defense. The Jags had 14 sacks last year so improving the line was a priority. Free agent Aaron Kampman has given them a nice boost at right end. He has a good motor and is quick off the ball. Kampman lacks the burst to beat elite left tackles, but will make effort plays. Jacksonville spent the 10th overall pick on defensive tackle Tyson Alualu. He had a sack in the opener, but was very up and down last week. He plays the under tackle role which means he's trying to get upfield and be disruptive. He was solid in standard situations, but didn't seem like much of a factor in known passing situations. The other tackle is Terrence Knighton, formerly of Temple. He is a good young player. He is big and athletic, but needs to be more consistent. The pass rush is better, but still needs a lot of work.
Normally the Jags have really good linebackers. Darryl Smith looks like the best of the bunch this year. Kirk Morrison came over from the Raiders to be the middle linebacker, but he failed to impress me last week. He did have one good blitz, but missed Philip Rivers in the backfield.
The secondary isn't in good shape right now. The team's leading tackler is old friend Sean Considine. He leads them in solo stops, total tackles, and pass breakups. I thought he looked all right last week. The other safety spot was manned by Courtney Greene last week. He replaced Anthony Smith, who was benched. Greene played well. He was in on 11 tackles and added an interception and forced fumble. Cornerback Derek Cox was benched in the opener and stayed there last week. David Jones took his place. Rashean Mathis is the other corner. He's another player that is up and down. Some games he will be very impressive, but other times he looks like a marginal player.
Jacksonville's basic scheme is similar to Detroit's so that could give us an advantage. Vick did a good job last week of finding the holes in Detroit's zone and getting the ball to the open receiver. The Jags back seven really struggled last week when San Diego spread them out and attacked. There were some blown coverages, but also plays where individuals were simply getting beat. The middle of the field seemed especially wide open. That could bode well for DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek and company. I want Shady McCoy to have another good game. He got 16 carries last week. I would love to see him get 20 carries this time out, assuming that our running game is working.
I think our line should be solid in this game when the Jags use a four-man rush. Detroit has a better line than Jacksonville. We did a solid job on the Lions when they rushed just four. Their blitz is what gave us fits. The Jags aren't a blitz-crazy team, but you can bet they'll test our line early to see if we've gotten better in that area. If Vick and the offense burn them, the blitzes will stop, or at least slow down.
The Jacksonville offense is built on running the ball and playing ball control. The offense played well in the opener as Jacksonville beat Denver, but ball control went out the window last week because they got behind early. Quarterback David Garrard had a terrible game against the Chargers. He threw four interceptions, breaking a streak of 47 straight games with two or fewer picks. He's not the athlete that he used to be and isn't a consistently good pocket passer. At his best, Garrard is safe with the ball, completes a couple of critical throws, and makes a play or two with his legs.
Maurice Jones-Drew is the heart and soul of the offense. He is still an excellent back. He might be short, but he's thick and strong. He has good speed and runs hard. San Diego shut him down pretty well. That will be a big challenge for us, especially with our inconsistent run defense.
None of the Jags receivers is a standout player. Mike Sims-Walker is the best of the bunch. Denver shut him out in the opener, but he had 10 catches last week. He has good size and is a talented receiver, but isn't an explosive player. Mike Thomas is a young guy that I loved coming out of college. He's smaller, but has good athleticism and RAC ability. Tight end Marcedes Lewis has developed into a solid player. He would really benefit from being in a better passing game. He impresses me whenever I watch Jacksonville, but only has a career high of 41 catches. Lewis is off to a good start this year with seven grabs so far.
Jacksonville's offensive line is a work in progress. Left tackle Eugene Monroe looks like the real deal. He is very impressive for a second-year guy. Monroe is athletic, has good footwork, and plays with balance. He's the best of the blockers. Center John Meester has always been a blue-collar, overachiever type, but he's now 33 and age may be catching up with him. Right guard Uche Nwaneri just got a big extension, but didn't stand out in the Chargers game. I liked him quite a bit at Purdue. He was a nasty, physical blocker. Right tackle Eben Britton is a young guy who will get better with time, but is inconsistent right now. He's not so naturally gifted that he can dominate with talent. He's got to learn the tricks of the trade.
Our defense should be able to handle the Jags passing attack. They have some big guys that are possession-type receivers. They don't have the big-play guys that you tend to fear. It looked like Jacksonville used a lot of in-breaking pass routes last week. You can bet that Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel are licking their chops and will be dying to jump routes. That can work against us. If Garrard has time to pump fake, we could get burned for a deep ball.
I am interested to see how we do against Jones-Drew. He's the kind of running back that could give us fits. Our linebackers must flow to the ball and tackle well. We've been very sloppy in the first two games. That cannot continue, especially in a game like this. The return of Stewart Bradley should help. He is a major upgrade at middle linebacker and is the kind of physical inside player you want against Jones-Drew. Up front, I think Brodrick Bunkley and Brandon Graham could have big games. Each guy will have a match-up that works in his favor.
Our defense has the talent to clamp down on the Jags and really control the game. We need our guys to put together a good 60 minutes of football. We have had segments of outstanding play followed by major breakdowns so far. It isn't a lack of talent. Something just isn't clicking. That needs to change on Sunday. We need to see the defense come alive and play to its potential. It doesn't matter whether Mike Vick, Kevin Kolb or Bubby Brister is the quarterback if we don't start playing better defense.