What is perhaps most impressive about the Donovan McNabb/Michael Vick/Andy Reid/Eagles fans hype this week has been the sheer volume of the coverage. I lead off my random thoughts with that and welcome the respite from the onslaught of repetitive conjecture, even if it lasts only a day or two.
It's a good thing players and coaches don't pay attention to the media. It has just been overwhelming and, frankly, exhausting. We know the storyline. We understand that Donovan McNabb is returning to Philadelphia to face his former team and his former head coach and to play in front of a fan base that largely loved him for 11 years. We know about the resurgence of quarterback Michael Vick, a story that transcends sports.
OK, I appreciate all of the coverage. But it's time to talk matchups and X's and O's and, so, here we are. Eagles-Redskins, a battle of a couple of teams who had extraordinary off-seasons. At this point, you can keep all of the chatter to yourself. I just want to beat the Redskins.
The rapid development of rookies Brandon Graham and Nate Allen has aided the play of the defense, of course. Why have these rookies stepped on the field and played so well right away? Sometimes, you can tell very early after the draft how quickly players will assimilate to the NFL. Graham and Allen had "it" right away. They showed maturity. They learned quickly. The moment wasn't too big for them. And the physical skills were there. Allen is here for the long haul and could be the next great Eagles free safety. Graham is as talented as any defensive end drafted by the Eagles that I have ever seen. Both have great careers ahead of them.
- Trent Cole is expected to see rookie Trent Williams on Sunday, while veteran Jammal Brown matches up against Graham/Juqua Parker on the other edge. Interesting battle of youth and experience in both instances. Williams is hobbled by a toe/knee injury and has been limited in practice this week. Cole has played very, very well through three games, and Parker and Graham have been tremendous. The Eagles need the defensive line to close in the room that McNabb has to buy time and keep plays alive with his legs.
- As I write this, a tropical storm is pummeling the region with many, many inches of rain. By game time, though, the weather is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous, with temperatures in the low 60s and sunny skies. The field at Lincoln Financial Field is, of course, covered and protected.
- Not sure what to expect from Albert Haynesworth, but he is an extremely disruptive player when he wants to play. He is a tough matchup for the Eagles inside. Jacksonville's Terrance Knighton was a handful for the Eagles last week. Big bodies like that are very difficult, and Haynesworth is no exception. Center Mike McGlynn has a nose tackle on his helmet, so he has to be outstanding.
- Waiting for Brent Celek to explode? It will happen. He is being patient, working hard and understanding of his role in the offense. "We're winning and that is all that matters," he said. "When you have the players we have in this offense, everybody has to get his touches. I think it has been great so far."
- I'm waiting for the Eagles to turn Ernie Sims loose on the blitz. He needs to get home when he gets the call, though.
- Akeem Jordan had an underrated game last week. He was outstanding. Big challenge on Sunday against Chris Cooley. Will the Redskins run a lot of two-tight end sets and include Fred Davis?
- Defensive tackle Trevor Laws was credited with a second sack last week on a play that was originally ruled a quarterback run. David Garrard rolled right and actually looked at a receiver, but Joselio Hanson jumped the route and Garrard was forced to eat the ball on Laws' sack. Good job by the Eagles to petition the league to have a sack added.
- Hanson, by the way, has been much better in the regular season than he was in the preseason.
- The secondary has to watch McNabb throwing the long ball off of play action. Allen is key here.
- Vick's 110.2 passer rating is second-best in the NFL. It really is a remarkable story. I wonder if the Redskins will use inside linebacker London Fletcher to shadow Vick this week and keep him in the pocket.
- The Eagles had better respect Santana Moss. He runs great routes, has superior quickness in and out of his routes and has those hands. He is the Redskins' most dangerous weapon catching the football.