Instead of Michael Vick, the Eagles are going with Kevin Kolb at quarterback. Without Asante Samuel, Joselio Hanson and Dimitri Patterson get the call at cornerback. Minus Riley Cooper, the Eagles could very well activate Chad Hall. Depth is the key in this crucial Sunday night prime-time game against San Francisco -- for offense, defense and special teams.
To me, this is a circle-the-wagons kind of game, similar to the ones in the past when the Eagles rallied and won a game they were not supposed to win. I don't know if the Eagles are "supposed" to win this game. I don't pay attention to that kind of stuff. I just know that without Vick and without Samuel, the Eagles are without a couple of their best players and they have to compensate.
It's a big deal. We pretty much knew all along that Vick would miss the game. How long he is out, we don't know. Kevin Kolb is ready and sharp after a strong week of practice. His confidence level, as he said after Friday's practice, is "sky high." This is a statement game of sorts for Kolb. Not the definitive statement game -- I'm not sure there is such a thing -- but one of many in his career. Kolb has to be the leader of this offense, he has to make plays and he has to weather the elements of Candlestick Park -- the weather should be perfect, but the winds at that stadium are unpredictable -- and he has to find holes in a defense that has been stingy since its opening-game meltdown against Seattle.
It is a big spot for Kolb, a nationally-televised (NBC, 8:20 ET kickoff) moment for Kolb. The world is tuning in to find out about him, to learn more about the Eagles' decision to make the transition at the quarterback position. Kolb looks, and feels, great. This is his show.
Without Samuel, a premier corner cover, the Eagles are going to find out more about Hanson and Patterson and even rookie Trevard Lindley, who they like as a physical cornerback who can press at the line of scrimmage. It is likely the defense will employ a combination of coverages and cornerbacks against the 49ers. San Francisco has an interesting duo of Josh Morgan, more of the go-to wideout for quarterback Alex Smith, and second-year man Michael Crabtree, a physical possession receiver who has breakout abilities.
There is also the responsibility to play good football against the run, and both Hanson and Patterson can do that. Make no mistake, though: The Eagles lose a big-play maker on defense without Samuel, who is sidelined with a concussion.
Cooper is out with a concussion, so the Eagles will need to replace him as a gunner on kick coverage and as a fourth wide receiver. It appears that Hall, the feel-good story from Air Force, could be active for this game. Hall gets his shot. It is exciting for the young man who played so well in the spring and then early in training camp and then who hit the wall. He bounced back late in training camp and he may get his opportunity to touch the ball, add some juice and versatility to the offense, keep the chains moving.
Who replaces Cooper as a gunner is more of a question mark. Cooper has had his ups and downs in that role, but he has the makings of a standout there. Jorrick Calvin replaced Cooper last week, so we will see what direction the coaches take in this super-important meeting.
There are a lot of odds working against the Eagles in this game. They are playing on the road against a desperate 49ers team. The Eagles need to man up here. They have to want this game more, relying on a bunch of kids who don't really know how to win in the NFL. Huge spot for the kids, huge spot for the coaching staff.
Having LeSean McCoy in the lineup helps, for sure. He is playing despite a fractured rib and he is showing the kind of toughness and love for the game that makes you think he is going to be -- already is? -- a very special player for this team. The Eagles have to go back to basics here. Getting fancy with all of these kids is a recipe for mistakes.
Mentally, physically and emotionally, the Eagles have to be better than the 49ers. They have to want the game more and they have to execute from the very start of the game.
I think this is a telling game. The Eagles may not have as much talent as the 49ers on Sunday. But they can still win the game, and to do so, they have to win the game the old-fashioned way: By playing a sound, precise, nearly-perfect game on the road.