Sunday night football, a prime-time chance to see the Eagles and hope they find themselves in Game 5 of this 2010 season. What do we really know about the Eagles in this 2-2 start? How much different would things be had the quarterback situation been more settled four games in? Will the defense allow as many points as it did in Weeks 1 and 2 or as few as it did in Weeks 3 and 4? Special teams? Questions galore ...
Let's explore some of the many questions the Eagles will face when they play the far-better-than-their record 49ers on Sunday night ...
What Does A Week Of Practice Mean For Kevin Kolb?
Healthy and with all of the cobwebs out from the first-game concussion and last week's relief appearance, Kolb is ready to go against the 49ers' outstanding defense. It won't be easy pickings. San Francisco, led by middle linebacker Patrick Willis, is aggressive, plays well at the line of scrimmage and is fast. The way to attack the 49ers is to hit them in the secondary, and that means getting the ball out quickly to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
Kolb needs to demonstrate some poise, and that should not be a problem. He is an extremely mature young quarterback who did a nice job last week giving the Eagles a chance to win the game against Washington. Kolb has to be decisive with his throws and he has to find some soft areas in the 49ers' pass coverage.
And, hey, look out for that San Francisco pass rush. It is coming. Mike Singletary will order a lot of blitzes against Kolb.
Is The Run Defense Up To Snuff?
So far, the Eagles haven't been as strong against the run as they would like to be. The defense will be tested severely on Sunday night with hard-charging Frank Gore and a young, strong offensive line. The 49ers aren't going to mess around here. Why get fancy when you can line up and play smash-mouth football against a defense that got smashed in the mouth last Sunday early against the Redskins?
Certainly, tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley are going to have to lead the way. They have to play physical football and engage blockers and keep the linebackers clean. The edges have to be stout as the 49ers come at them with a power running game.
If the Eagles can stop the run, they can get after quarterback Alex Smith. He has trouble, as does every quarterback, when he is under pressure. The Eagles must get in his face.
The best way to neutralize a strong pass rush is to run the ball well and to roll out and use play-action passing and even get the screen game going. Look for the 49ers to do all of the above to keep Trent Cole and Co. grounded.
*How Much Does The Scheme Help Again Elite TEs? *
Sean McDermott and his X's and O's have done a pretty good job against opposing tight ends thus far. Jermichael Finley caught 4 passes for 47 yards, Brandon Pettigrew had a big game late with 7 catches for 108 yards, Jacksonville's Marcedes Lewis was held to 3 catches and 15 yards and Washington's Chris Cooley was limited to 2 catches and 37 yards, although one was a 31-yard touchdown grab.
This week, the opponent is premier receiving tight end Vernon Davis. He is simply a load to handle. He runs like a wide receiver, has great size and strength and is a threat with the ball in his hands. Davis is a great player.
Moise Fokou starts at SAM linebacker primarily, McDermott said, to be physical against the run. But would it surprise anyone to see the 49ers try to target Fokou by trying to isolate him in coverage against Davis?
The Eagles need a great scheme to contain Davis, who stretches the field as well as any tight end in the league. He is a true deep threat as a tight end.
*Is This Offensive Line OK? *
You would expect the offensive line to come out and play with a purpose and with great focus this week after the tough game against Washington and resulting criticism the group received. San Francisco doesn't have big numbers in terms of quarterback sacks, but they are going to go after Kolb. The Eagles have allowed 15 sacks in four games, a number that is far too high for the team's liking.
San Francisco is a tough team to run against, so the Eagles may look to really air it out in this game. The challenge is that the winds at Candlestick Park are often difficult to gauge, and the passing game is tricky to rely upon.
Philadelphia has to get some answers at right guard, at both tackle spots ... across the line, honestly. This is a big challenge for a group that will look up and see a sea of red at Candlestick Park on every snap of the ball.
Special Times For Special Teams?
The 49ers get dangerous return man Ted Ginn, Jr. back on the field, and that is a scary proposition for a coverage group that is still in need of establishing itself. It wouldn't be a bad idea if the Eagles kick away from Ginn all night.
Meanwhile, the return game for the Eagles could really use a big one. DeSean Jackson is due, isn't he? The special teams must step up and help the offense and the defense and win a huge road game.
Bobby April's enthusiasm is undaunted and his track record is unquestioned. He expects greatness from his group. Let's see if they are ready to deliver on Sunday night.