Another week, another pass-catching threat at tight end for the Eagles to contend with.
On Sunday night, the Eagles will face Bears tight end Greg Olsen. The former first-round pick is tied for second among all tight ends with six touchdowns this season. The 6-5, 255-pound Olsen has 24 catches for 361 yards this season.
In the Eagles' two recent losses, the opposing tight end certainly played a key role. Dallas' Jason Witten caught seven passes for just 43 yards, but converted the key third down late to seal the win. San Diego's Antonio Gates moved around the formation to create opportunities as he led the team with seven catches for 78 yards.
Olsen will be a player to watch because of the injury situation for the Eagles at the linebacker position. For the second straight week, the Eagles will not have Akeem Jordan at weakside linebacker. Head coach Andy Reid ruled out Jordan on Friday. Will Witherspoon moved from the middle linebacker spot to the weak side last week. Reid did not state who will start where at any of the three linebacker spots Sunday. Chris Gocong, who started in the middle last week, said that "it's not just one thing. It's a collection of things" that explain why tight ends have had success against the Eagles.
One factor is that tight ends are usually the hot read on the blitz and the Eagles aren't shy about rushing the linebackers. According to Gocong, another reason is that it's hard to push a tight end off of his route because the tight end has outside leverage.
Gocong understands that the linebackers will be under the spotlight that much more this week because of how the Bears feature their tight ends. He said that the defense must "win first and second down" to help neutralize their impact. Last year, Olsen had four catches for 35 yards and the game's first points on a 19-yard touchdown in a 24-20 Bears win. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott detailed how Olsen is part of the tight end movement where the position has become a more involved weapon in offenses across the league.
"(Olsen) brings different things to the table. Gates obviously moves tremendously well in space but Olsen does as well," McDermott said. "I think you mix in (Redskins tight end Chris) Cooley and Witten and then (Falcons tight end Tony) Gonzalez that we'll see later on down the road here and every week is a tight end that brings something different to the table other than just blocking and catching five yard routes like they used to back in the day."
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 4:52 p.m., November 20