The Eagles finally open up the 2009 season on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Carolina went 12-4 last year and then had a meltdown in the playoffs. They will be looking to redeem themselves and show they are still a playoff contender. Here is a closer look at the 2009 Carolina Panthers.
Jake Delhomme – It all starts with this guy. He has been around the league a long time and has seen it all. If you give this guy time to sit back and throw the ball, he can pick you apart. However, if you get in his face and keep pressure on him all game, he tends to make mistakes. The Eagles will have to get in Delhomme’s face early and often on Sunday.
DeAngelo Williams – After last seasons performance, Williams is now considered one of the premier running backs in the NFL. He showed everyone the type of runner he is last year and that he has a nose for breaking a big play and finding the end zone. Carolina will try to get him started early, but the Eagles have to punish him every time he nears the line of scrimmage. It all starts up front with the D-Line and I’m looking for big games from Bunkley and Patterson.
Jonathon Stewart – Entering his second year, Stewart is a great compliment to Williams. Together they can run on a defense all day if you let them. Stewart is a talented back and Carolina won’t hesitate to get him in the game and put the ball in his hands. He has been banged up in the preseason so the Eagles need to bang him around every time he touches the ball.
Steve Smith – He can be described in one word, scary. This guy can break a play open at any point of the game. He can catch a screen pass and take it 80 yards for a touchdown or he can just run past you and catch the deep ball. Asante will have his hands full covering him and I hope that the Eagles plan to provide safety help over the top.
Muhsin Muhammad – This veteran lines up opposite of Smith and has been in the league a long time. He has some pretty good size so it will be a nice match up for Sheldon. The big play threat really isn’t there with this guy but he knows how to move around on the field and get open.
Dwayne Jarrett – He is entering his third season in the NFL and Carolina is hoping this is his break out season. At 6′ 4″ 220 pounds he has ideal size for a wide receiver and could produce mismatches on the field. He is their third wide reciever and will probably see a good amount of time on the field. I’m guessing he will lineup against Joselio Hanson most of the game unless they switch Sheldon over to try and deal with the bigger Jarrett.
Jordan Gross/Jeff Otah – These two are the bookends on the offensive line for the Panthers. Otah was a guy many people wanted to see the Eagles draft two years ago, and Gross is a guy that was mentioned many times in the offseason. Welp we don’t have either one but will have to deal with them Sunday. Our defensive ends will have a tough time with these two but they REALLY need to get pressure on Delhomme. I hope Trent Cole and the boys have watched a lot of film and know exactly what weaknesses these guys have.
Julius Peppers – This guy is a freak and is one of the best defensive ends in football. He has an amazing build and has the ability to run through offensive tackles or run around them. His versatility is what makes him so dominant. Although he can line up on either side, I think Jason Peters will see the most of him. Peters hasn’t shown that he’s worth the money yet so he better get it together fast. If Peppers can get in the backfield whenever he wants, it’s going to be a long day.
Jon Beason – Beason is one of the best young linebackers in the league right now. Much like Stewart, he has been hurt most of the preseason and is just returning to full health now. Leonard Weaver is going to have to get through the line and put some blocks on Beason to spring the run game. If Beason is unblocked, he will wreak havoc on our offense.
Defensive Tackles – I do not know very much about the men in the middle for Carolina; however, I have heard this is a weak spot for their defense. With that being said, I’d like to see the Eagles pound the middle with the run game. This may not be in our playbook but it better be this weekend. If we can run the ball early it’s only going to set up big things for our pass game. Westbrook and McCoy aren’t your big backs but I think they can slash the middle well. I was impressed by the way McCoy ran the ball up the middle in the preseason. It might also be nice to see Weaver and Buckley get some carries up the middle.
Secondary – Carolina’s starting secondary only combined for a total of 6 interceptions last season. The Eagles like to come out and throw the ball downfield early. I think this trend will continue and they will look to hit one of those home run balls early. Carolina was undefeated at home last year so it would be nice to come out big early and take the crowd out of it.
Returns – The Eagles weren’t real great against the return game this preseason and need to change that. They can’t give up good field position on a team that can potentially run the ball down your throat. Steve Smith is no longer listed as a punt return man which is a good thing but you know that if they are in need of a big play they probably wouldn’t hesitate to throw him back there.
John Kasay – This guy is a solid kicker. I hope that it doesn’t come down to a field goal at the end of the game because this guy doesn’t miss all that often.