Philadelphia Eagles News

Some Questions To Ponder With Titans In Sight

Everyone saw the game. The coaches have watched the tape of Tennessee's blowout win over Jacksonville on Monday night and everyone knows how legit the Titans are as Super Bowl contenders. The Titans are solid, top to bottom. And this one-game set, this one-afternoon season, the Eagles have to find a way to win. With that, here are some questions to think about as the players get back to work with the Titans in sight ...

CAN THE EAGLES CONTAIN RB CHRIS JOHNSON?

It clearly is the key to the game, isn't it? Chris Johnson is a breathtaking running back who finds big yards in the smallest of defensive cracks. In the Titans' two losses this season, Johnson was held in check, first by the Steelers (16 carries, 34 yards) and then by Denver (19 carries, 53 yards). Those are the only two games of this season in which Johnson has not scored a touchdown.

There is no coincidence here. The Titans' offense revolves around Johnson, as well it should. He is dynamic. He doesn't allow defenses to hit him squarely. He is a threat to go the distance on every snap of the football.

Tennessee's running game is a load, ranking third in the NFL. Javon Ringer is an outstanding backup to Johnson, averaging 5.6 yards per rushing attempt. The Titans are capable of grinding out wins, and perhaps that is the tact they plan to take on Sunday.

One thing is for sure: The Eagles have to tackle well, or Johnson will make them pay. If they miss on blitzes, Johnson will gash the defense. Running to the ball and gang tackling are musts here.

WHAT DOES VINCE YOUNG'S INJURY MEAN?

Tennessee's starting quarterback suffered knee and ankle injuries on Sunday and he is listed as "day to day," according to Titans head coach Jeff Fisher. The backup is veteran Kerry Collins, who has completed 28 of 41 passes this season. Collins is a winner and a pro's pro. He knows the game. He operates well from the pocket.

If Young plays, the Eagles have to worry about his mobility and the option the Titans use. If it is Collins is the starter, the Eagles must pressure him, make him move off of his spot and hope Collins makes a few mistakes.

It is likely that the Eagles won't know whether it is Young or Collins until Friday, or even later. This defense has the challenge of preparing for two quarterbacks and one system.

*WHO REPLACES DeSEAN JACKSON'S PRODUCTION AND HIS THREAT? *

Not only is DeSean Jackson the home-run hitter in this offense, he is a player for whom a defense must account. Jackson is a longshot to play on Sunday after suffering a concussion against Atlanta, so what will the Eagles do against a very good Tennessee defense? It is a good thing that Jeremy Maclin has made such great strides and is a superb go-to target in the offense. The Titans will be all over Maclin, so another receiver or two or three is going to have to step up and produce.

Jason Avant can line up in the slot or outside, and he has to be a factor. Having Riley Cooper will help, too, and the Eagles will look for good matchups. Chad Hall is no longer a secret, so the Eagles must counter anything the Titans do defensively to try to take Hall out of his routes, jam him, whatever.

This is a spread-the-ball-around kind of game. Marty Mornhinweg has to come up big with his game plan and provide Kevin Kolb -- as it looks now -- as many opportunities for big plays as possible.

This is a tough spot, no question about it. Tennessee is at home, coming off a big win, and playing very confident football. The Eagles have to chip away, be physical and take their shots when they present themselves.

Who stretches the field on offense? Maclin is one option. Somebody else has to step forward.

On special teams, it would appear that Jorrick Calvin is the best option on punt returns and, in this view, kickoff returns. He has impressed in his opportunities in the return game.

**IS JEROME HARRISON READY TO CONTRIBUTE?

**

Acquired last week in a trade with Cleveland, Jerome Harrison was inactive for the Falcons game. Does he know enough of the offense to help spur the running game in some capacity now? The Eagles sure could use Harrison and they would love to get him going and maybe use some sets with both Harrison and LeSean McCoy on the field at the same time.

The running game is as effective as it has been at any time in the Andy Reid era. The Eagles are running with some power and decisiveness. McCoy is among the most productive backs in the league. And if the Eagles acquired the same Harrison who tore it up in the final month of last season for the Browns, they have a player who can really help the offense.

Eldra Buckley did a good job against Atlanta and he brings it, but Harrison is a cut above. He can score touchdowns and he can catch passes and he has the kind of versatility the Eagles hope to use.

*WHAT OTHER INJURIES OF NOTE ARE THERE? *

Does Jason Peters recover from his knee injury, or do the Eagles again go with King Dunlap at left tackle? Having a game under his belt is one thing and Dunlap did an excellent job, but now the rest of the league has more of an idea of how to attack Dunlap. With the likes of former Eagle Jason Babin on the other side of the line of scrimmage on Sunday, Dunlap has to be ready to play low and expect a lot of speed and stunts and twists from the Titans.

Brodrick Bunkley didn't play defensive tackle, either, but he may be closer to playing with that elbow injury. The question is: Are the Eagles in a better place against a team like Tennessee with Antonio Dixon and Trevor Laws sharing the reps in place of a not-100-percent Bunkley?

There really is no room for error against Johnson and the Titans ground game. It is time for all hands on deck in this crucial game.

DOES THE PRE-BYE GAME HISTORY HAVE ANY IMPACT?

The Eagles are just 5-6 in their pre-bye-week game, so history is against the team here. But who knows? This Eagles team is unlike any in recent memory, so maybe the past means absolutely nothing. The truth is, there is no history with this roster. The Eagles are creating their own present and future, and straight ahead is no question their stiffest test of the season.

That's the way it will be the rest of the season. The remaining schedule is brutal. The Eagles have to play their best football every week to win. The challenge ahead is a great one.

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