The Browns, see, many of them, don't know any better. This is the NFL, and it's something that many of them, 15 rookies in all, haven't experienced.
But the Eagles have been here, have done this, and know how much the intensity has ratcheted up. This ain't the preseason, in other words. The game's tempo increases. The pressure builds. And the teams that handle it best win games.
Everything points to a strong Eagles win today -- talent on paper, experience, the chemistry on the team -- everything. It means nothing, of course, and I think that's why Eagles fans are a bit nervous.
If it looks too good ...
OK, so we're set. There are a lot of Eagles fans here. Not enough to offset the sound from the Dawg Pound, but a good representation of Midnight Green hitting the streets of Cleveland on Saturday night. They're loud and they're proud and they can't wait for this season to begin.
Well, it's here. So what are you looking for from the Eagles? A win, obviously. But I want to see more than that. In last year's opener in St. Louis, the Eagles came away with a win, but there were concerns that repeated throughout the season. The first snap from scrimmage for St. Louis resulted in a Steven Jackson touchdown run. The Eagles turned the ball over in the red zone, inside the 10-yard line, in fact. The defense had gaps in coverage that St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford just couldn't expose, but ones that quarterbacks in the following weeks made big plays against.
Sometimes, the first game of the season does predict a season ahead, at least to some degree.
Today, well, the Eagles need to show us something. They need to play with great hunger and urgency. They need to have desperation. They need to show some timing on offense and some aggressiveness on defense.
As kickoff nears, here are some thoughts ...
- Michael Vick has practiced for the last two weeks and, by all accounts, has looked very good. He needs to get back into his drop and get the football out quickly and accurately. If nothing is there, take off and get into the open and out of bounds. I'm going to count the number of hits Vick takes today.
- I want to see the running backs, LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown (Dion Lewis has a nagging hamstring injury) get their touches. Let's see the Eagles establish the running game and give an offensive line that was still looking for its timing some help. Let them get physical and throw their weight around.
- I expect cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to play press coverage most of this game. Why back off and give quarterback Brandon Weeden easy throws? Challenge these receivers -- a young and talented group -- and make Weeden throw into tight windows.
- Whatever happened to Josh Cribbs? Not too long ago he was one of the game's most dangerous playmakers. I don't want to hear his name today.
- How much will the Browns blitz? Well, I have a lot of respect for defensive coordinator Dick Jauron. He's a very smart football mind, and he knows how to attack weaknesses. I expect a controlled blitz that tries to pin Vick in the pocket and at the same time collapse the room around his feet. We'll see.
- Why do I think Clay Harbor is going to be a large factor in this offense? His preseason was real, and the opportunity to line up two tight ends, especially in the red zone, is something the Eagles need to use.
- If I'm Vick, I'm going after Sheldon Brown at cornerback. The Eagles beat him in the preseason with Damaris Johnson. Can Brown run working against Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson? I want to see the Eagles test Brown, rather than Joe Haden on the other side.
- Large test for the linebackers, but I'm certainly not making much of their "rotation." We'll see how much actually occurs. It isn't easy being a linebacker behind a scheme that sends the defensive linemen up the field and leaves gaps open. There is a lot of unplanned playing that happens up front. Many times, the linebackers have to guess which gap is uncovered. So I'm not down at all on DeMeco Ryans at all. He's going to be a huge asset for this defense.
- It's a cool, dry day, and the wind won't be a huge factor. Yeah, it's a big moment for punter Chas Henry and, for that matter, placekicker Alex Henery. Both second-year kickers need to come up big in this one. Can't give the Browns field position or take points off the scoreboard with missed field goals.
- How much will the Eagles blitz? Hopefully, they don't need to do too much. The Browns will have their hands full against this front four, but I think Weeden has been told to get rid of the football, so we may not see a huge sack total. The Trent Cole-Joe Thomas matchup is one to watch.