With his quickness and burst, Darren Sproles was a matchup nightmare in the making. He has been the safety outlet for quarterback Drew Brees and is a game-breaker in the screen game.
But Sproles is out of the game because of a hand injury, and the Saints are down a key weapon and, in a sense, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has to make an adjustment in mid week. With Sproles on the field, the Eagles were certain to designate a particular player -- an extra defensive back? -- to contain Sproles in the open field.
Now that Sproles is out, the Saints will go to another option, and while every player in the NFL is a great player and a major threat, nobody on the New Orleans roster and very few players in the NFL have the skills he brings to the table.
Additionally, Bobby April knows that the Saints lose a major weapon in the return game, a specialist capable of taking it to the house every time he touches the football.
Coaches and players and teams understand that injuries are never a reason for blame in the league. In this case, though, there is no denying that New Orleans will be without its biggest, big-play maker, a running back who has averaged 10.2 yards per touch on third downs in the last two seasons.
New Orleans will alter its game plan, so there is the element of surprise for Bowles and the defense. And the defense can't have a letdown with Sproles out. New Orleans still has ample weapons with Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory in the backfield, with Jimmy Graham at tight end and with Marcus Colston leading the wide receivers.
However, the structure of the defenses changes with Sproles out. Bowles has an adjustment to make, but he also knows that a huge playmaker in a little body (Sproles is 5 feet 6) is not going to be in uniform on Monday night.
- Speaking of injuries, there is concern with safety Nate Allen nursing a hamstring injury that caused him to miss Friday's practice. If he can't go, the Eagles will turn to David Sims, whom they acquired from Cleveland prior to the start of the regular season. What do we know about Sims? Not a whole lot. He's been around long enough to know the scheme and he made a lot of plays for the Browns in the preseason. He has moved ahead of special teams ace Colt Anderson on the depth chart. We may learn a lot more about him on Monday night.
- Will Michael Vick run the football more if he sees an opening on Monday night? It sounds like that is what Vick is saying this week. But I'm not so sure. I think the important part for Vick is to be decisive in his reads and step into his throws and give his receivers chances to make plays in the passing game. I'm going to throw this out there: Vick runs 8 times for 57 yards on Monday night. A total guess, but there you go ...
- How do the Eagles contend with Graham, the extremely athletic tight end who moves around the formation and who can stretch a defense, or take a screen pass and get up the field quickly? Mychal Kendricks will see a lot of Graham, I'm sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if the Eagles give Graham a lot of looks.
- Colston is a big target for Drew Brees, and he goes up and makes plays above defensive backs. So if Nnamdi Asomugha has Colston down the field, he's going to have to do a good job adjusting to the ball and making plays on the ball. That's an area in which Asomugha has to improve.
- Glad to see that Peter King from Sports Illustrated has named middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans to his midseason All-Pro team. Ryans has had a great impact, has been around the football all year and is in it for the long haul here.
- Look out for Fletcher Cox, the rookie defensive tackle. He had 10 tackles against Atlanta and is on the come in a big, big way. For him to be so productive in his first year is mighty impressive.
- I'm fine with Dennis Kelly at right guard, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is correct when he says that Kelly's chore becomes more difficult because teams have film on Kelly. And when a team has film on a player, that player's weaknesses -- and every player has weaknesses -- are challenged. So Kelly has to be better at what he is weakest in doing to remain a starter and improve his game. If that makes sense ...
- Placekicker Alex Henery has missed one field goal this year and he has road games in New Orleans (dome), Washington (in November), Dallas (December), Tampa Bay (December) and at the Giants (December 30) remaining. OK, so the weather is going to turn tricky and potentially quite cold in the Northeast the remainder of the season, but Henery is going to be in line for a terrific season, weather wise.