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News, Notes, Time For Atlanta!

What are we looking for, then? Everything, of course. Here are some of the specifics as the Eagles finish their week of preparation for this huge road contest …


It's significant this week. Darryl Tapp was a factor last week at right defensive end, forcing a fumble and recording a quarterback sack. He is out with a pectoral muscle strain, meaning rookie Phillip Hunt will get some reps with Trent Cole on the right side.

Hunt is a bullet coming off the edge, but he is going to have to do more than that. He is going to have to play the run and allow the Eagles to keep Cole fresh. If line coach Jim Washburn plays it like he did last week, Cole and Hunt will virtually share reps. Washburn wants to use eight defensive linemen and keep them playing with energy and wear down the opposition's offensive line. Hunt is going to have to be a factor.

Left offensive tackle Jason Peters left practice on Friday with an ankle/Achilles injury and is listed as questionable. Head coach Andy Reid seemed to downplay the severity of the injury after practice, but you never know with big men and ankle injuries. If Peters is limited in any way, King Dunlap gets the call at left tackle. He has played John Abraham before and he has done a nice job, but this assignment would come on the road, in the loud Georgia Dome and in front of a national television audience.

There are significant injuries for Atlanta, too. Center Todd McClure remains out, replaced by second-year man Joe Hawley. Atlanta had troubles up front in Chicago last Sunday and the Eagles will hope to exploit the matchup this week. Another injury to factor in is the one to defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who left last week's game and won't play because of a knee injury.

Also, Atlanta could be without reserve cornerback Chris Owens and that leaves the Falcons thin at a position that is crucial when the Eagles are on the other sideline.

Depth is going to be tested in this one, on both sides.


How well quarterback Michael Vick keeps his emotions in check and maintains his focus is critical to the cause. Vick is going to be swarmed by the spotlight on Sunday night, and while he is always in that position, this one has to be a little bit different. He plays the Falcons for the first time as a starter, as a Pro Bowl player, as a player who has another superstar contract.

The Falcons are smarting from the visit a couple of years ago when Vick cleaned up in a blowout and the Eagles continued scoring points and playing aggressive football. There is no telling how much that game will factor into this one, but you can be sure that Vick is in the crosshairs of the Atlanta defense.

He needs to keep his mission as simple as possible: Find holes in the Atlanta defense and exploit them. The Eagles have a super-charged offense with tremendous speed. They need to take advantage of their depth of talent.


All eyes are on middle linebacker Casey Matthews and the defense against the run. While Juan Castillo's group rebounded after a tough first quarter last week, there is still a question or three about the defense's ability to play strong against a power running game.

Atlanta is going to get the football to Michael Turner a lot. You can be sure that's going to happen. Linebacker Moise Fokou called Turner a "bowling ball," an apt description for a running back who is 6 feet tall and 244 pounds. A pretty fast bowling ball, at that.

The Eagles have to play a great defensive game against the Falcons running game. If they can turn Atlanta's offense into a one-dimensional attack, they can pin their ears back and go after Matt Ryan and the passing attack.

Be sure that Atlanta is going to run the ball and use a lot of quick-pass schemes to keep the Eagles' pass rush off its tempo. The Eagles must force Ryan into some third-and-long situations to take the Falcons out of the grind-it-out game they want to play.


This is going to be a great football game. Discount what happened to the Falcons last week, because they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. So, I think, are the Eagles. What we will see Sunday night are some great one-on-one battles. For example, how will the Eagles defend wide receiver Roddy White, a Pro Bowl player? What is Nnamdi Asomugha's role going to be in the defense? How are the Eagles going to match up against defensive ends Ray Edwards and Abraham? How can the return game put a dent in a terrific Atlanta kicking game?

Tight end Tony Gonzalez is still one of the best in the league, so how does this new scheme account for a great receiving threat down the field? Can the Eagles loosen up the Falcons defense and push the ball down the field quickly?

A win here would be huge for the Eagles. To go on the road and win twice to open the season would put the Eagles in an enviable position. And to win in Atlanta, the Eagles have to play an "A" game. Doing what they did last week won't get it done against the Falcons. Let's see if the Eagles are up to the task on Sunday night.

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