I like so much about this team already. It usually takes several weeks to learn a lot about a team, and certainly there are going to be some twists and turns ahead for the 2012 Eagles. Nothing is close to complete here. There is no sense of "arriving," because a very good Cardinals team that has won nine of its last 11 games waits, and a cross-country trip after such an emotional win has its challenges.
But the Eagles have shown us something, haven't they? There is some real grittiness to this team. I happen to love the fact that the Ravens spent so much of their post-game time complaining that the Eagles are "dirty," and that they are "bullies," and, well, I take that as a strong indication that the Eagles are fighters, that they have a lot of tough guys on the team and that they aren't going to back down from anyone.
There is a sense of urgency to the team in 2012 that was missing for much of 2011. The Eagles have, yes, taken that four-game winning streak at the end of last year and turned it into something meaningful.
Some observations, then, as we reflect on the win over Baltimore and take a look ahead at Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals ...
- Michael Vick is an inspiring guy and it's hard, having gotten to know him, to ever count him out. He is turning the football way, way too much and he still needs to exercise a tad more restraint at times, but he also puts an incredible amount of pressure on defenses every time the Eagles have the football. The Eagles have really only stopped themselves offensively in these two games with the nine turnovers. Otherwise, they've moved up and down the field and have done it with terrific balance, explosiveness and some power football mixed in. I love rolling Vick out, moving the pocket, and having him drop back and get rid of the football quickly. Arizona presents a great challenge. The Cardinals have a very, very good defense.
- Isn't it remarkable how the DeMeco Ryans we see in the regular season is so much different than the one who kind of felt his way around the defense in the preseason? The regular-season Ryans is a Pro Bowl middle linebacker who is literally all over the field. He's been outstanding in coverage, has timed up his blitzes nicely when called upon to do so and has played the run well. I expect teams to challenge this run defense in the weeks to come.
- The rookie class has delivered in a big way. Fletcher Cox is playing major snaps at defensive tackle. Mychal Kendricks has been outstanding at SAM linebacker and Brandon Boykin is all over the football at the slot cornerback position. He is such a tremendous athlete, so explosive. The rookies have grown up quickly.
- Jim Washburn isn't the least bit bashful about rotating his defensive linemen and we saw the depth pay off in the fourth quarter on Sunday. The Eagles were able to pressure quarterback Joe Flacco with a four-man rush. Flacco was intent on delivering the football quickly and he rushed some throws. Players like Brandon Graham and Cedric Thornton could get a lot more playing time in other cities, and they are taking advantage of their snaps here.
- Howard Mudd and Eugene Chung are doing a fantastic job with an Eagles offensive line that is battling some major injuries. Left tackle Jason Peters has the Achilles injury, of course. Center Jason Kelce has a significant knee injury that is going to keep him out of the lineup for at least a month, if not the season. Left tackle King Dunlap left Sunday's game against Baltimore with a hamstring injury. So what happened against the attacking Ravens defense? Dallas Reynolds went in and played great at center and Demetress Bell dominated Ravens first-round draft pick Courtney Upshaw from his left tackle position. Bell and Reynolds are such huge keys in the weeks to come. If Bell can build on what he did against Baltimore ...
- The coaches need to get Bryce Brown going. LeSean McCoy, for as good as he is, can't play an entire season getting 25-30 touches each week. If the Eagles don't believe in Brown, or Chris Polk or Dion Lewis, they need to find a veteran they can trust. Otherwise, the kids need to get some touches and see what they can do in this explosive offense.
- Don't you see a huge difference in DeSean Jackson this season? He's so into the games, so fiesty, so tough and he's made plays beyond just going deep. That 49-yard pass he caught just as he took a big hit on the sidelines was marvelous. Jackson is going over the middle, he's catching the ball in traffic and he's making defenders miss when he has the ball.
- If Jeremy Maclin is down for Sunday against the Cardinals with a hip pointer -- it's too early to tell at this moment -- the Eagles have to rely on some depth. Riley Cooper won't play. Maybe Mardy Gilyard gets some reps. Perhaps rookie Damaris Johnson expands his role, something, by the way, I believe he is ready to do.
- The kicking game has been uneven over two weeks. That needs to be improved.
- Brent Celek is a great tight end, one of the best we've seen in a long line of fine ones in franchise history. But I don't compare him to Jermichael Finley or Jimmy Graham or even Rob Gronkowski. I go a step beyond. I compare Celek to Mark Bavaro, the star who played with the Giants and even with the Eagles for a short time. Bavaro was a standout blocker who caught the ball exceptionally well when the Giants called his number in the passing game. I mentioned this to Celek on Sunday night. "I need to look him up a little bit," said Celek.
- Three turnovers in the red zone obviously killed the efficiency statistics for the Eagles offense, but the team did score two touchdowns the two times they avoided giving Baltimore the football. The design of the offense in the red zone has been great, great, great. Now stop turning the ball over ...
- It's pretty obvious that the cornerbacks are going to play primarily bump-and-run coverage here. That's what suits Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie best, and Boykin just doesn't back down from anyone. Can't wait to see what the Eagles plan to do against Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday.
- Here's hoping that every player and every coach who was here last year remembers how awful it was to lose to Arizona in a game that ultimately meant the difference between winning the NFC East and watching the playoffs on television. It was a terrible feeling.
- Finally, Nate Allen is playing the kind of football the Eagles hoped when they drafted him in the second round in 2010. He's tackled well and has really played well in coverage. Allen's also been around the line of scrimmage a bit more than we've seen in the past, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him come on the blitz game in the weeks ahead.