The season is finally here. This is the moment we’ve longed for since that brutal game against the Cowboys in the playoffs ended. We’ve wanted this chance at a new season. We wanted to see this team get its rebirth and now the moment is just about here. This Sunday at 4:15 our beloved Philadelphia Eagles will host the Green Bay Packers to kickoff both teams’ seasons. The sparks should fly in this game so when you’re watching be sure to not look away for too long or you just might miss one of the many touchdowns that will be scored. First, let’s take a look at how the Packers offense matches up against our defense.
Last season Aaron Rodgers was among the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL. His offensive line struggled for much of the season, especially at the tackle spots. In an attempt to shore up the right tackle spot they brought in first round draft pick Brian Bulaga. However, things have no gone quite as planned and he is (this is according to the depth chart of NFL.com and Packers.com) the backup left tackle and guard. The offensive line starting unit combined started more than fifty percent of the Packers’ game last season. They did improve somewhat as the year progresses but overall still struggled in pass protection. For the Eagles, having a Pro Bowl defensive end in Trent Cole and a promising looking rookie in Brandon Graham as the starters, it could mean a good day at getting at the quarterback.
Behind the offensive line we’ll have to deal with running back Ryan Grant. He is a solid runner who usually starts the season off slow. That plays into our favor. The speed of our defensive ends should allow us to shut him down for the most part.
Past the trenches our linebackers are going to have a very dangerous tight end to deal with in Jermichael Finley. The 6’5” 247 pound tight end is a very powerful player with solid hands. Now, this offseason the Eagles did an excellent job of shoring up the linebacking core. Akeem Jordan returns to his spot along the outside. Ernie Sims, a great coverage linebacker, was brought in via trade with the Detroit Lions. The biggest acquisition though? The return of middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. Those three guys, all solid or better in pass coverage will have to be on their A game in order to shut down Finely and any other receivers who venture across the middle.
Greg Jennings and Donald Driver make for a very troublesome duo of wide receivers for our defensive backs to deal with. Jennings is playing at a Pro Bowl level and Driver is still a solid weapon. Or cornerbacks and safeties will have their hands full this Sunday. Samuel is excellent at reading and jumping routes but he can be too greedy at times and miss the interception and give up a big play. Opposite him we have huge question marks. Ellis Hobbs was solid in New England and has looked decent in the preseason but we still don’t really know how he will fit in here. Dimitri Patterson had an excellent preseason and he could be a starter at some point down the line this season but likely not this week. Rookie Trevard Lindley is in the same boat as Patterson. Joselio Hanson is only serviceable as a nickeback and struggles with big and strong receivers. Returning at strong safety we have Quntin Mikell who is solid if not spectacular. To his benefit we now have a real free safety opposite of him in rookie Nate Allen. Those two are going to be key to taking away the deep route that the Packers love to run. I worry about having a rookie and many unproven players in our secondary and I fully expect Aaron Rodgers to take full advantage of those weaknesses.
Onto Rodgers. This guy is incredible. He has quickly cemented himself as one of the elite passers in the NFL and will only continue to get better. He also creates nightmarish matchup problems for all defenses. He is deadly accurate, very smart with the ball, has a very strong arm, and is more mobile than many quarterbacks. In all honesty, I believe he well on his way to being the best quarterback in the NFL and that will be a problem for our defense. I cannot see our secondary holding up against his passing attack. Some quick advice, if you have Rodgers in fantasy football you darn well better start him. He will have a field day against our questionable defensive backs.
In Green Bay they run the 3-4 defense, something our offense has always struggled with. Now we get to find out, in part, if it was McNabb who really struggled or our offensive game plan in general. Personally, I believe it was a little of both. Hopefully having a true West Coast Offense quarterback will eliminate some of the struggles. But, of course, our guy lining up under center is very raw and inexperienced. Speaking of centers….
Our offensive line has looked nothing short of awful in the preseason. They shipped out turnstile Stacy Andrews to Seattle, finally admitting defeat in the Andrews brothers experiment. They also brought in guard Reggie Wells from Arizona. It is unlikely that Wells plays this week so our offensive line should look like Peters-Herremans-Jackson-Cole-Justice. On paper that isn’t too bad. It’s too bad that games aren’t played on paper. It appears to me that Jamaal Jackson was rushed back from the torn ACL and I really worry about that. I just cannot see him being full strength at this point, only 8 months removed from knee surgery. For the rest of the line many of their issues can be righted by simply focusing. If we have a game where Jason Peters has several penalties called on him we are done for. The line must be at their very best to handle to exotic blitzes of the 3-4 scheme and protect Kevin Kolb.
At running back we have second year man LeSean McCoy officially taking over duties full time. He looked good last year but he lacked that big play ability. In training camp he looked fantastic, breaking off many plays. In preseason he looked solid, making one big play against the Chiefs and grinding out yards in the limited time he saw. He too will be responsible for keeping Kolb up right and clean. He has to be ready to drop back into pass protection, as does fullback Leonard Weaver and backup halfback Mike Bell. The Packers, last season, ranked first in the NFL against the run. Now, in a way this likely won’t be too much of an issue because we don’t run the ball either way. But when we need to run this Sunday it will prove very difficult I believe.
Brent Celek will be facing some very talented linebackers in this 3-4 defense, most notably second year man Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk. Both are excellent in coverage and will pose a great test for Celek and Kolb. If Celek can figure out a way to beat these guys then the Eagles should be able to command time of possession. That said, it will be a very difficult task for Celek.
The Eagles wide receivers are clearly the best group of pass catchers we’ve had on this in a very long time. They are facing a Green Bay secondary that ranked fifth in the NFL last year in passing yardage given up. However, they rank a lowly 28th in the league last year in passing TDs given up. The Eagles meanwhile were tied for tenth for passing TDs. One thing that the Eagles have working in their favor this weekend is that the Packers will be without cornerback Al Harris and safety Atari Bigby, both starters in their secondary. I fully expect the Eagles receivers to try and take advantage of these holes.
And now we come to the new guy on the block. After waiting in the wings for three years this team is finally Kevin Kolb’s to guide. Instantly he is facing a great test. As I previously mentioned he will be facing the fifth best team in the league against the pass (statistically speaking of course). He will also be facing a team that had the eleventh most sacks last year with 37. This will be tremendous test for our young quarterback and we mustn’t judge him too harshly or joyously based on this game’s outcome. Because of the key missing players in the secondary I expect Kolb to have a good day but likely not fantastic. Coaches now have game tape of him and will be able key off on his tendencies now. Something to watch for with Kolb this week is how he rebounds from mistakes. One thing he did in training camp was never repeat the same mistake twice. He is a quick learner and hopefully he can use that skill to figure out the Packers defense.
I just don’t see it happening for the Eagles this week gang. I really don’t but every part of me hopes I’m wrong. I see a very high scoring affair this Sunday with the Packers, being more experienced on offense, eventually pulling away in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
That said, I’d be happy to be proven wrong.