Jarvis Landry and Lamar Miller on offense. Ndamukong Suh on defense. The names to focus on for Miami's visit to Lincoln Financial Field are significant and present a real challenge for the start to the second half of the regular season.
Miami's offense has the kind of weapons that earn respect. Landry has 53 catches and 535 yards in eight games and the Dolphins make a concerted effort to get the ball to him on bubble screens, slants, crosses and handoffs. He's a major threat, at 5 feet 11, with the ball in his hands. The punt coverage team will be on high alert with Landry returning kicks for he's got the kind of shiftiness, great feet and burst that all the best return men have.
"Landry is a good player," cornerback Byron Maxwell said. "He's going to catch the ball and try to make you miss. Runs good routes. Goes up and gets it. You have to be aware of him at all times."
And you have to tackle him, and that's where Maxwell and Nolan Carroll and Malcolm Jenkins or Walter Thurmond in the slot are going to be so important. Tackling will be at a premium in this game. The Eagles, coming off the emotional win at Dallas, cannot afford to be sloppy with their tackling technique or their intensity.
The same applies to Miller, who averages 5.3 yards per carry. He's a big-gain back, and now he's got rookie hard-charger Jay Ajayi as a complement in the Miami backfield. The Eagles must win at the line of scrimmage here. They can't let the Dolphins running game gain momentum and allow quarterback Ryan Tannehill to set up some play-action passing and his read-option running game.
Don't sleep on Miami's offense is the message here. The Dolphins have some dangerous weapons if they are able to get things cranked up early.
Defensively, the Dolphins really miss end Cameron Wake, so they're relying on Suh to dominate the middle, along with fellow tackle Earl Mitchell. The Eagles, you would think, might focus more on stretch runs and hitting the edges of the Miami defense. But Suh can go sideline to sideline and he's a formidable physical foe for an undersized Eagles offensive line.
Make no mistake, Suh can dominate a football game. Center Jason Kelce is well aware of that.
"He's a great player, very powerful and athletic," Kelce said. "We're going to have our hands full with that entire line. They lost Wake, a big loss for them, but they have other guys who are very capable."
The realistic view, still, is that Miami gave up a preposterous 266 rushing yards last week in a loss to Buffalo. That just shouldn't happen. Miami is going to be smarting from that. Starting fast for an offense that has just 10 points in the first quarter of eight games is really, really important.
- Ajayi carried 5 times for 41 yards in his NFL debut last week after having a great collegiate career at Boise State. He brings it. The Eagles must be ready for his fresh legs and is extremely physical style. He is not easy to bring to the ground.
- In addition to Landry, the Dolphins could also have first-round draft pick DeVante Parker on the field for the first time. He's listed as questionable but head coach Dan Campbell said he felt "pretty good" about Parker getting on the field. Kenny Still is also a big-play wide receiver to watch. The Eagles must get after Tannehill.
- In Miami's five losses, they've been outscored 50-3 in the first quarter. They've won three games and in those three games they've won the battle in the first 15 minutes by a collective score of 31-6. Seems pretty obvious, then, how important the first quarter is going to be here.
- The Eagles have converted 33 of 107 third downs this season, a 30.8-percent conversion rate they know they must improve significantly. The area that has hurt them the most is third-and-3 plays. The Eagles are just 1 of 7 on third and 3. They're not much better on third and 4 (3 of 8) and third and 5 (2 of 9).
- He hasn't played much with the offense, but tight end Trey Burton has made his impact felt on special teams. He leads the coverage teams with 13 tackles and has progressed very nicely in his second NFL season. That's exactly what the Eagles hoped would happen for Burton.
- Brandon Graham had 2 quarterback sacks, 3 tackles for loss and 2 forced fumbles in the win over Dallas. "It's coming together for me," Graham said. "I wanted to stay here and prove that I could be a starter and play at a high level every week. I think I'm doing that. I think I'm getting better every week."
- Miami is still without right offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James, and that's a significant absence. The Eagles must take advantage.
- Speaking of offensive lines, it's still not clear how the Eagles are going to live up in this game. Jason Peters is questionable after taking part in pieces of training during the week. If he can't go, then Lane Johnson stays at left tackle and Dennis Kelly plays right tackle. Johnson moves back to the right side should Peters play. Johnson sounded like he was preparing to play the left side earlier in the week, but we'll see. Nothing is definite. There is no question, however, that depth is a concern. Julian Vandervelde and Tanner Hawkinson are the available linemen off the bench if Peters doesn't play.
- The Eagles really need some wide receivers other than Jordan Matthews to make some plays down the field. It looks like Nelson Agholor will be ready to go, but with a high-ankle sprain, it's always takes longer than you think to come back all the way. Riley Cooper has been slowed by injury. Josh Huff has not been consistent catching the football. The Eagles could have some chances in the passing game here. They need to gash the Miami defense in the passing game.