Philadelphia Eagles News

Time To Learn What Eagles Are

The closest I can say I've ever felt to how I am now is 2004 and we all know what that season was like. The 2011 season begins any minute now and the Eagles are a Can't-Miss Team.

What is different about this team is that every single facet of the team bears watching, and scrutiny and intense examination. There are so many new faces on the coaching staff and the roster that every snap of the ball is literally going to have me on the edge of my seat. Every coaching decision matters.

Underneath all of that intensity -- and my stomach is already roiling, believe me -- is a tremendous sense of confidence, just like in 2004. I know the Eagles are going to win this game against the Rams. Whatever happens, whether it is pretty or not, the Eagles are going to win.

The Eagles meet the up-and-coming Rams in a short time here. We understand the circumstances. Andy Reid's opening-day record is just .500 -- 6-6 -- and he knows how difficult a tough start will be to overcome this season. The Eagles must emerge from September heading in the right direction. They just must.

Anyway, today is a great matchup. The Rams are a dangerous team, a playoff squad this season. Here are some things to keep an eye on ...

THE OFFENSIVE APPROACH

The offensive line is new to each other, and the Edward Jones Dome is going to be loud and the Rams are going to blitz. So it makes sense to think the Eagles might scale back the offense and scheme just a tad more conservatively today.

Maybe, maybe not.

Reid has never been held hostage by personnel. He believes in everyone on his roster. He makes sure that everyone is coached the same. But given the circumstances -- the lack of an off-season, the new faces up front -- Reid may run the ball just a bit more here, and he may scheme his passing plays to get the ball out of Michael Vick's hand just a bit quicker in the passing game.

I'm not sure we will notice much of a difference early. The Eagles want to take advantage of their skill players and spread the field and put the ball in the hands of players like DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, etc. To do that, they must be adequate up front. They must read the blitz and adjust. They must be on the same page with Vick and his receivers.

And then Vick has to be on his game. With so many weapons, and so many ways to beat a team, will the Eagles rely so heavily on Vick week after week, or will they turn and hand off to LeSean McCoy and a fine stable of running backs?

CONTAINING THE RAMS BLITZ

The matchup to watch is Rams left defensive tackle Fred Robbins and left end Chris Long against the Eagles' right side of the offensive line. Kyle DeVan at right guard and Todd Herremans at right tackle have to work in concert to defeat all of the blitzes and games the Rams are going to run at them.

And as much as we are going to focus on the offensive line, the backs and tight end Brent Celek are vital, too. They must step up in the blocking game. The Eagles need to keep Vick clean.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles design some Vick runs to counter-act the blitz game. Screens, draws and three-step drops are critical, too. The Eagles know the blitz is coming. The chore is to defeat it.

HOW DO EAGLES CORRAL RB STEVEN JACKSON?

I respect the Rams and their offensive philosophy, and there is no doubt that quarterback Sam Bradford is one of the best young players in the league. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels likes to spread teams out and throw the football.

But running back Steven Jackson is the bread and butter here. The Rams want him to use his power in the running game and his speed and elusiveness in the passing game. I want to see how the Eagles scheme to take him away from the danger zone. Is there a way to shadow a back and minimize his impact? Sure is. Let's see what Juan Castillo does.

We're all going to watch how the Eagles use the cornerbacks and how they change their combinations in coverage. Nnamdi Asomugha is going to be all over the field. Asante Samuel is going to play left cornerback. And Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is going to be around the football.

The entire defense bears great watching. We know that Casey Matthews is a rookie and that the linebackers have been under fire all summer and that the Eagles have some changing pieces and some youth at safety. The first order of business is to minimize Jackson and go from there.

KEEPING AN EYE ON THE KICKING GAME

Weather is not an issue. The Dome is a wonderful place for placekicker Alex Henery and punter Chas Henry to begin their NFL careers. The biggest issue the rookies have to overcome is the pressure of the opener. They can concentrate on technique the rest of the day.

We saw on Thursday night how critical the kicking game is. Big plays are still out there, even with the new kickoff rules (kickoffs from the 35-yard line), so the kids have to be on their games against a Rams team that knows it can even the playing field with a big return or two in the kicking game.

If I'm Bobby April, I tell Henery to boot his kickoffs through the end zone. Henry's instructions would be to kick it high and keep the Eagles out of trouble.

Has there ever been a time when a punt was an edge-of-your-seat experience? That's what we have ahead. Every moment of every game is going to be fascinating to see. We've waited a long time for this, and now it is here. The opener is upon us. The season starts now.

The expectations are through the roof. The confidence level is tremendously high here. The players and coaches are ready.

And Eagles football is about to kick off another season with a new team and a new personality and the same goal of winning the Super Bowl. Get ready for a long, entertaining ride this season, gang. Glad to be here with you, sharing the thrills and spills, knowing the knot in my stomach won't ease up until the Lombardi Trophy is hoisted in Indianapolis in February, 2012.

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