In this corner we have former starter, turned backup, turned starter due to injury! In this corner we have the exact same thing, just with a slightly different back story. Yes, the men I am referring to are Michael Vick of the Eagles and Shaun Hill of the Lions. The is the Battle of the Backups. I can guarantee you it didn’t take me long to come up with that title and I’m sure I’m nowhere near the first person to dub it as such. As we did last week we’re gonna take a nice (and long) look at the match ups between these two football teams. We’ll start with the Lions offense.
The Lions front five is mediocre. I don’t think anyone will argue with this. Last week they let up 2 sacks but also let up 5 QB hits along with blocking for a less than pedestrian 20 yards on the ground. Last week the Eagles defense sacked Aaron Rodgers 3 times and hit him another 5 times. I fully expect the Eagles defensive front to have a field day against this weak O-line and get after the relatively immobile Shaun Hill.
Behind the offensive line are running backs Jahvid Best, Maurice Morris, and Jerome Felton at fullback. Last week they combined for 20 yards on the ground and 34 yards through the air. I am a huge fan of Jahvid Best, one of the Lions first round picks from the 2010 draft. Though he only rushed for 20 yards on 14 carries he did score two TDs and is very dangerous in space. The issue for him will be just getting into that open space. The Eagles defense last week allowed 123 yards on the ground and allowed 12 yards receiving to the Green Bay running backs. They did an excellent job of sniffing out the running back screen and I fully expect them to do the same against Detroit, a team that struggles with executing the screen greatly.
At tight end the Lions have two players I think highly of in Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew is a powerful blocker and a big target in the red zone. Scheffler has never quite lived up to the hype he garnered in Denver but he is still a good weapon over the middle. Last week the two combined for 49 yards, largely due in part to Detroit’s inability to allow their QB time to pass. Last week the Eagles defense did an decent job of shutting down TE Jermichael Finely of Green Bay. They allowed him only 4 receptions for 47 and no TDs. While he didn’t put up huge numbers he did put up first downs. He helped Green Bay move the chain in crucial moments and that is something the Eagles cannot allow to happen this week. Again, because of Detroit’s weak O-line and QB I expect the Eagles to do a good job of clamping down on the TEs and keeping them in check.
At WR the Lions have an absolute stud on Calvin Johnson. He is the exact type of WR we struggle with as well, a large and physical specimen. Again, we are very lucky has has a mediocre QB to get him the ball. Behind him are WRs Bryant Johnson, Nate Burleson, Derrick Williams, and Stefon Logan. Total the Lions wide outs combined for a measly 88 yards. That includes Calvin Johnson’s yardage. Johnson will get his catches and yards against Samuel. Samuel struggles immensely with physical WRs. Past Johnson, I don’t see a WR who truly scares me.
Moving onto to Shaun Hill, the general of the Lions offense this week, I see a career backup and nothing more. Last week he threw for 88 yards, no TDs, and 1 INT. Last season, as a starter for the San Francisco 49ers, he threw for 943 yards, 5 TDs, and 2 INTs in five starts. However, he was ineffective when it really counted. His mobility is greatly lacking and behind a very weak O-line he see him being terrorized by Trent Cole and Brandon Graham.
Moving over to the Eagles offense, I think we all know our own offensive line is weak. One game into the season and we’re already down our starting center. Jamaal Jackson went down last week with a season ending biceps tear. In his place Mike McGlynn started and actually did a fairly decent job. I won’t be surprised if he makes us forget about Jackson this year. I loved what I saw from in training camp and if he can take that ferocity to the playing field I think we’ll find we have a solid player at center. As a whole the Eagles gave up 5 sacks and 6 hits on the quarterback. The Lions meanwhile, with a very ferocious D-line, sacked Jay Cutler of the Bears a total of 4 times and hit him another 7. Leading their line is DE Kyle Vanden Bosch and rookie DT Ndamukong Suh. Vanden Bosch is a great leader and a relentless player and Suh is simply a beast. I expect both to reign havoc in our backfield.
At running back LeSean McCoy put up a decent game last week, despite what his raw numbers might show. He put up 35 yards and a TD on 7 carries. 35 yards is pedestrian. 5 yards per carry and showing great vision and quickness is not. He also caught 5 passes for 47 yards and showed great explosiveness. Behind McCoy the Eagles have Mike Bell and Eldra Buckley, both of which rushed for no yards. Buckley had one catch for 10 yards. He also fumbled the ball away on that catch. Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions let up 79 yards rushing to Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. More importantly, Matt Forte put up a whopping 151 yards and 2 TDs receiving. The Eagles must utilize the screen this week, whether it be a bubble or underneath screen. McCoy is a very solid pass catching back and he should be able to take full advantage of the Detroit defense.
At TE Brent Celek had a rough start of the season. He only mustered 2 catches for 32 yards. He is a center piece of this offense and when he’s hot he can command the middle of the field. He’s crucial to eating up the play clock and keeping the opposing offense on the bench. The Lions gave up 37 yards on 4 catches to Bears TE Greg Olsen. Michael Vick is a fan of utilizing the TE so I’d expect to see him go to Celek early and often provided he can get open against the Detroit LBs and DBs.
The Eagles WRs are considered a strength my many around the league and they need to prove it this week. Last week the only Eagles WRs to catch passes were Jason Avant, Jeremy Maclin, and DeSean Jackson. They combined for 109 yards and a TD (Maclin). The Lions secondary gave up 140 yards to the Bears WRs. The Eagles wideouts are far superior to any of the Bears weapons and I fully expect either Jeremy Maclin or DeSean Jackson to explode for yardage this week. One is bound to be double covered which will leave the other in single coverage and I’d take either one of them in a one on one battle against any of the Detroit DBs.
And that takes us to Michael Vick. Anyone who’s read what I’ve written or listened to what I’ve said on the podcast knows my stance on Vick. I haven’t been a fan of bringing him in since day one and it has nothing to do with his past. I just don’t think he adds any value to the team. But, he will be the starting QB this week due to Kevin Kolb’s concussion and in a way he does give us some advantages. As I’d previously mentioned the Lions’ defensive line is ferocious at getting to the QB. I like Vick’s ability to escape from pressure and in all honesty I’d rather not see this happen to Kevin Kolb. Vick will be able to elude that pressure and hopefully complete some passes to his weapons who should be able to find separation against the Lions defense.
The last on field facet of the game is special teams. Against the Bears the Lions put together a pretty lousy day on special teams as far as returns and had an average day on coverage. The Eagles meanwhile allowed some big plays on returns (kicks specifically) and didn’t get any spark from their own return group. DeSean Jackson had almost no room to the return the entire game and the one time he did he had issues hanging onto the ball. Both teams had a so-so day on special teams so and I won’t be surprised if we see Jackson provide some kind of spark this week and take one to the house or at the very least gain some positive yardage.
The final battle is the coaching battle. Andy Reid (another person whom people are well aware of my position on) versus second year man Jim Schwartz. Last season Schwartz took the previously 0-16 Lions to a 2-14 record. I love what he’s doing with this team but I gotta give the edge to Reid here solely because he’s been at it for so long. In a few years I’m more than sure my stance on the two will change but for now, Reid wins.
HOW I SEE IT:
The Eagles have too many edges here on both sides of the ball to lose this game. Even with the serious injuries we’ve suffered we’re just a better team than the Lions. It won’t be a total blow out but we’ll win comfortably and improve to 1-1.