It seems that every year the Eagles have trouble shutting down tight ends. They will receive an early challenge this year when the highly-touted Jermichael Finley comes to town.
Finley isn’t one of the elite tight ends yet, but if his play in the second half of the 2009 season is any indication of his future, he’s well on his way.
In the final seven games of the regular season and the playoff game against the Cardinals, Finley recorded 44 receptions for 575 yards and four touchdowns. He turned into one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets and will probably be favored a lot in 2010.
I’m sure that Rodgers knows how the Eagles have struggled to cover tight ends in the past, so he will probably look to get Finley the ball early. The Eagles’ linebackers will need to make a statement early that Finley won’t be open all day. They will need to prove they can run with Finley and also make plays on the ball when it comes his way.
I think we saw some definite improvement in the preseason in terms of our linebackers making plays on the ball. Stewart Bradley is one guy that definitely made a statement in coverage, and is a player the Eagles lacked in that department last year.
If the Packers are in obvious passing situations, I’d like to see the linebackers make some contact on Finley towards the line of scrimmage and throw him off his route. Rodgers is a pure passer. If you disrupt his timing with one of his favorite targets, it should force him to hold on to the ball allowing our pass rush to get to him.
If Finley gets involved early in the game it could turn into a long day for the Eagles defense. However, if they can take him out of the game, it will provide a huge advantage.