We've got a long way to go until Sunday night when all of the pomp and circumstance of the Perfect Hype Storm of the weekend comes together, when Eagles Nation stands up and celebrates the retirement of No. 20, when we bring the past and the present together in a group hug for Brian Dawkins and then, of course, when the Eagles look to establish something in the NFC East against the New York Giants.
First, Dawkins. The Eagles have a huge night -- huge weekend, really -- and if Sunday night is anything like what I witnessed on Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field when AAA and the Eagles presented its "Night With A Legend" event that featured, of course, Dawkins. He walked in to the Tork Lounge in the SCA Club to a standing ovation from the 250 fans in attendance, followed by an "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES" chant and shivers for all. Merrill Reese and Troy Vincent delivered heart-felt speeches and then Dawkins delivered with a 10-minute barrage of emotion and love for the fans.
Great night. Great time. A good primer for Sunday. If you're in Philly, you have noticed the wall-to-wall coverage of Dawkins, you've seen the billboards and you've felt the good vibrations. This is a special weekend for a lot of reasons.
So before I go into some thoughts about Eagles-Giants, here are some reminders about Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field ...
- Get to the stadium early. AAA is giving away a super-cool poster drawn by Marvel Comics depicting Dawkins as his alter-ego, Wolverine to all fans on their way to the stadium. You will love it.
- About Dawkins ... he is in complete awe of the love he receives whenever he steps foot in Philadelphia. Remarkable guy and incredible intensity, even in retirement. Dawkins has a full plate with his ESPN duties, his family in Colorado and a weekend unfolding that is going to be unforgettable.
- Dawkins will address the crowd at halftime, in addition to some pre-game festivities, so make sure you are paying attention to what's going on. And if you haven't downloaded the official Eagles app, do so now and view a special Dawkins message to the fans that is played through augmented reality for fans anywhere on the planet.
So the Dawkins part of the equation is special, indeed. But the business at hand that really matters is beating the Giants, and that is always a huge challenge. Even with injuries -- New York is down a few key players -- the Giants play football the right way and they are very, very tough to defeat. Quarterback Eli Manning is playing as well as any in the league. The Giants have major weapons on offense without wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Their defense is, of course, headed by a front four that moves around a lot and generates a ton of pressure on the offensive backfield.
Andy Reid and his coaches have the gameplan in place and I'm sure they think it's a good one. The Eagles need to win the line of scrimmage and then go from there. So that's where I begin with some thoughts, the offensive line ..
- This is a telling game for center Dallas Reynolds, who got off to a slow start in Arizona and then played pretty good football. The Eagles obviously like Reynolds or he wouldn't be here. Fact is, though, he's making the second start of his NFL career. Reynolds is a work in progress, just as Jason Kelce was last year. Reynolds has his hands full from the mental side of things for Sunday night, and you can be sure the Giants will test him with blitzes.
- I would expect the Eagles to give left tackle Demetress Bell some help, especially when star Jason Pierre-Paul lines up on the right side of the Giants defense. Maybe a back chips Pierre-Paul, or tight end Brent Celek helps. Pierre-Paul is too good to be left alone in this game.
- Will the Eagles run the football? Yeah, sure. But they also want to get something going in the passing game and allow Michael Vick to get into a flow. Don't think that the offensive inconsistencies are going to force Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will suddenly get overly conservative. Yeah, they'll run. But the Eagles also have to get the passing game going or it's going to be tough scoring points against New York.
- How much does it impact the Giants with Nicks not on the field? (Nicks was declared "out" by the Giants on Saturday and didn't make the trip to Philadelphia) He's a great player, but the Giants showed last week in Carolina that they're deep at wide receiver with Ramses Barden helping out and with Victor Cruz just dominating in the slot. This is another tough job for Brandon Boykin, who seems like he is up for every challenge. I really like that kid.
- Big assignment for Mychal Kendricks, with tight end Martellus Bennett joining the ranks of the elite early in the season.
- I feel very good with Mat McBriar handling the punting game. He's a month healthier than we last saw him, and even at that time McBriar was kicking the ball very well. I expect consistency and great directional punting from McBriar.
- I remember the days when the Eagles would isolate running back Brian Westbrook against the Giants linebackers in the passing game, and the Giants just weren't athletic enough to handle Westbrook. Can the Eagles now do the same with LeSean McCoy? The Giants have improved a lot at linebacker, though ...
- Giants safety Antrel Rolle is questionable with a knee injury suffered late in the win over Carolina when Rolle tumbled into a television cameraman on the sidelines. Nasty injury. Scary at the time. Rolle has been productive against the Eagles as a deep blitzer, so if he's not on the field, the Eagles have to capitalize.
- Give Vick some rollouts and some easy throws and see if a good start helps him get into a rhythm and keeps him there. Again, count the number of times he gets hit.