Philadelphia Eagles News

What Eagles Must Do To Win Opener

Jacksonville is here to win the 2014 regular season opener against the Eagles. The young Jaguars are thrilled that nobody in the media or among the fans is giving them much of a chance in this one.

If you are looking for Jacksonville to come into Lincoln Financial Field and roll over for the Eagles in the 1 p.m. (CBS 3) game, you're wrong.

"We know they are going to play good, hard football," said linebacker DeMeco Ryans. "This is the NFL. You're going to get the best from every team every week. We have to play our best football. Nobody thinks it's going to be easy."

Jacksonville is in the second year of building under head coach Gus Bradley, and the Jaguars showed great improvement last season as they won four of their final eight games after opening the year 0-8. There are some injury concerns, and youth is apparent across the board, but the Jaguars have talent and they believe in Bradley.

So how do the Eagles open the season the right way? There are many things that need to happen, of course, and a good start and great intensity go a long way toward accomplishing the mission in Week 1. There are other, more specific matchups to keep an eye on ...

1. IS EAGLES OFFENSIVE LINE READY FOR TRENCH BATTLE?

Perhaps the strength of Jacksonville's team is a front seven that plans downhill football. Bradley wants to pattern this defense after Seattle's group, where Bradley coached as the defensive coordinator prior to joining Jacksonville, and it all starts up front. Chris Clemons is an elite pass rusher. Red Bryant is a physical presence on the edge. The Jaguars have some depth along their four-man front and they are physical.

The Eagles aren't as athletic without Lane Johnson in the lineup, but the advantage in terms of pure speed goes to the home team here. So the Eagles must get off the ball fast and take away the muscle of Jacksonville. Maybe the Jaguars take some chances and bring blitzes against the Eagles offense, rather than relying on a four-man pass rush. Giving quarterback Nick Foles time is likely to be lethal.

You'd figure that the Jags would direct much of their attention at right tackle Allen Barbre, who replaces Johnson. Barbre looks forward to this moment to start and play and help the offense pick up where it left off in 2013.

2. WHAT JAGUARS' WEAPONS CAN HURT EAGLES' DEFENSE?

A very young group of offensive skills-positions players dot the starting lineup, but there is a lot of talent. Rookie wide receivers Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns give the Jaguars some firepower. Cecil Shorts III is the team's best and most experienced receiver, but he's listed as questionable as a hamstring injury tightened up on him during the week of practice.

The best receiving threat could be tight end Marcedes Lewis, who is 6 feet 6 and very athletic. He can create space with his body and hurt defenses down the field.

The running game? Toby Gerhart is a power running back who is good in short yardage. The Eagles must be stout against the run. Denard Robinson is a jack-of-all-trades talent and should Jacksonville try to surprise the defense with some trick plays, Robinson is likely the one who will have the ball in his hands.

3. PUT DOUBT IN CHAD HENNE'S MIND

Jacksonville has a bit of a quarterback, er, situation going on. Blake Bortles is the hotshot rookie who the fans want to see. Bortles was outstanding in the preseason, but Bradley wants the veteran Chad Henne to start the year and bring Bortles along as slowly as possible.

The Eagles, thus, can't allow Henne to get into any kind of groove. Jacksonville's offensive line is questionable, starting with left tackle Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall draft pick last year. He's going to have to fend off some speed and power moves from veteran Trent Cole. Center Jacques McClendon is starting his first game at the position. Right tackle Cameron Bradfield is subbing for injured starter Austin Pasztor.

You get the idea. The Jags have a lot of moving parts up front, and the Eagles must force some third-and-long situations and cause Henne to hesitate and make mistakes.

4. WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE

This is a pretty easy one, a standard "must" every week. And it certainly applies here. The Eagles can't give Jacksonville a lot of short fields and easy scoring opportunities by playing sloppy football.

Head coach Chip Kelly understands the equation. The coaches preach it every day. Ball control is huge.

You may see a feeling out period early in the game just so the Eagles can rid themselves of any first-game jitters. Keep your eyes on the discipline as far as penalties and tackling and ball security early to see just how focused the Eagles are for this game.

Win the turnover battle and most likely the Eagles win the game. Jacksonville has nothing to lose. Who expects the Jaguars to win? This is a team coming into Philadelphia and playing go-for-broke football.

5. FEED OFF THE ENERGY FROM  THE EAGLES FANS

The joint is gonna be jumping. Eagles fans have waited a long, long time for this season to begin. There is a defined hunger in the region. The Eagles must ride the energy from the crowd and play with more urgency. They have to be aware that Jacksonville could try anything and may have the plan to pull out all of the stops to win the game.

This can't be a "letdown" game for the Eagles. As weird as that sounds for an opening game, this is usually when the most upsets in an NFL season happen. When the Eagles play their best game, they can beat any team in any stadium. A "best" game in the opener is just what Kelly and his coaching staff are hoping to have happen.

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