I want to see how the offense reacts tonight to a defense with a powerful front seven and a strong secondary, a defense that has no obvious weaknesses. I want to see how quarterback Nick Foles operates against a defense that he has watched on film for only a couple of days. I want to see if the Eagles can incorporate a running game that was completely shut down in Tampa.
I want to see the Eagles win a second consecutive game.
The Eagles aren't going to re-invent the offensive scheme against a sound, powerful defense. They're going to have to be patient, and they're going to have to be efficient. The offensive line has a huge challenge against a seven-deep Cincinnati front four. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg must be at his best mixing an offense that is missing running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and now tight end Brent Celek, in addition to the starters along the offensive line.
First, Foles. He's come a long way in his four starts and he is coming off the thrilling last-minute win over the Bucs. Cincinnati is likely to go after Foles with a variety of blitzes, with some exotic looks and veteran creativity. The Bengals have experience together and they have a defense that "fits" so well.
So how do the Eagles counter that? I want to see some misdirection in the scheme, a screen pass or four, and the involvement of Bryce Brown and the running game. How can the Eagles get the Bengals off balance, keep the sticks moving and at the same time take a shot or two down the field? Do the Eagles tighten up their formations and play smash-mouth football?
I feel like this is going to be one of those gut-it-out games and we're going to see more from Foles, the tough-guy side of him. It may be ugly at Lincoln Financial Field against a rugged defense. I don't expect a free-flowing offensive performance, because the Bengals don't often permit that kind of success.
Instead, look for a field-position game, and may the team that best takes advantage of the opportunities it has win the game.
What are we going to learn about Foles tonight? Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been around the block a few times and he will have a good plan of attack to isolate Foles' perceived weaknesses. He's going to put pressure on the kid, and he's going to offer a lot of different looks in coverage. Attacking the line of scrimmage helped Tampa Bay stuff the running game on Sunday, while the Bucs generated pressure with its four-man front and, at times, an extra pass rusher.
This is a huge challenge for Foles, for the offense. It's not one of those make-or-break games for Foles, of course, but it's a significant one in the development of a young quarterback. This is a dig-deep moment for Foles, so let's see how he responds.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- Colt Anderson gets his second start and he'll be asked to play tough against Cincy's smashmouth running game. Benjarvus Green-Ellis is a banger. Can Anderson hold up in such a physical situation again? He's a good player, but is Anderson a starting safety in this league? It's tough week after week, for sure. Anderson is best suited as a backup safety and a star on special teams, from this perspective. I love the guy and here's to him having a big night.
- How the Eagles handle standout wide receiver A.J. Green is a key to this game. I expect the Eagles to pay a lot of attention to Green with a cornerback in man coverage and a safety over the top. Isn't this why the Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha?
- Why do I have the feeling that the return game is going to make the difference tonight? I'd love to see Brandon Boykin finally break free with a big kickoff return.
- Love the move of putting Mychal Kendricks at WILL linebacker. It frees him up to make plays, to run to the football and to have some versatility. With that in mind, it wouldn't shock to see Kendricks used in the blitz game to get to quarterback Andy Dalton.
- This is a great opportunity for Clay Harbor to prove he can be a starting tight end who has the ability to get down the field and stretch a defense. Harbor is a fine athlete and he's got to be a viable target for Foles in the middle of the field tonight.