I didn’t think that the Eagles would enter week two the way they did. This isn’t to say that I’m complaining or anything, but I’m trying to keep a level-head after an impressive Week One performance.
Looking ahead to Sunday, they face a Chargers team who has a bad taste in their mouth after a Monday night meltdown against the Texans. They’ll be looking for redemption as they come to Philadelphia looking for their first win.
You would think the Eagles would have an advantage against a west coast team traveling to the east coast to play a 1:00 game. However, this is not something the Eagles can take lightly. They almost ended up on the same side as the Chargers as they began to squander their lead late against the Redskins. They need to put together a complete game on Sunday to ensure they walk away with a win. Below are five keys that I think will lead to a win on Sunday.
1. Decision making from Michael Vick
I must say I was pretty pleased with the overall play of Michael Vick on Monday against the Redskins. However, I see plenty of room for improvement. He was very good at running the offense early, but there are a number of throws I know he’d like to have back. There were opportunities to hit receivers that were open that he simply failed to do.
At the same time, I think his decision making needs to improve within the read-option. He is far from mastering the execution in the read-option and many times I feel that he has his “read” predetermined. It didn’t always end in a poor result, but I think a lot of that has to do with the ability of LeSean McCoy. There were a number of opportunities in the first half where Vick would have had more success holding onto the ball. In the fourth quarter, I thought he made some terrific decisions to keep the ball. He needs to become more consistent.
Additionally, he still has room for improvement in reading the blitz at the line. This is something he has struggled with for a long time. There has been a lot of talk about how much film Vick has watched over the offseason. I’m hoping that this trend has continued this week and that he’s spending a lot of time with his coaches in reading the defense. The Chargers have openly admitted that they will try to attack him, so I hope he’s prepared.
2. Contributions from depth
As I checked my Twitter timeline during Monday’s game, I remember seeing a tweet from the Eagles account very early that all active players had entered the game with the exception of Nick Foles. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I do remember thinking to myself that it seemed very early in the game to see a statistic like that. I think that speaks a lot about the Eagles current team.
With the fast paced offense, players are going to get fatigued. There’s no denying that. In order to continue to consistently play at that level, you need capable players who can substitute in on the fly and keep the offense performing at a high-level. I think we saw that to an extent on Monday night, but this needs to be a continuing trend. Guys like Bryce Brown and Chris Polk need to be ready to relieve LeSean McCoy and keep ripping off large chunks of yardage. Other players at the skill positions need to be able to do the same so the Eagles offense never has to take its foot off the gas.
Defensively, the Eagles showed that they like to play an attacking style of defense and run a different number of formations. Although there are guys who are deemed “starters,” a large number of players on defense are going to see the field and need to be able to ready to attack and force turnovers. Just like the offense, the defense has to be ready to play with a high motor and not stop. To do this, the non-starters need to contribute.
3. Consistent attack from defense
Much like the Eagles offense, we saw the Eagles defense turn away from their bread and butter that was giving them so much success in the first half. With a large lead at hand, the defense shifted from its attacking style to more of a prevent look. This allowed Robert Griffin III to get rolling and lead his offense down the field to put some points on the board.
It seemed like they were only interested in preventing any type of big play which the Redskins turned into an opportunity to consistently gain large chunks of yardage and move down the field. The change in the scheme allowed the Redskins to crawl back into a game which could have easily been put away.
On Sunday, the Eagles defense will face a quarterback who is far less mobile then RGIII. Philip Rivers is capable of slinging the rock, but by no means is he going to kill you with his legs. The Eagles need to keep this in mind as they game plan for Sunday. This is a quarterback who isn’t going to elude defenders if they are able to get to him. If they can continue their attack throughout the game, it will result in a long day for Rivers.
4. Win the turnover battle
This is something the Eagles didn’t do a whole lot last year. Instead they were on the very opposite end of the spectrum. What happens when you’re on that end? You lose 12 games. On Monday night, they showed the joys that can be experienced when your defense is forcing turnovers.
Come Sunday, the Eagles need to build off my third item to create turnovers. If they’re consistently getting to Rivers, he’s going to have to start forcing balls. Although there have been concerns about the Eagles secondary, they do have some athletes who have proved they can make plays on the ball. Getting the ball back in the hands of the offense is a great way to make the scoreboard uneven quickly.
If the defense is able to get the ball to Vick and the boys, they shouldn’t have trouble converting those opportunities into points.
5. High play from special teams
If you watched the Comcast Sports Net pregame show last week before the Redskins game, Ray Didinger spoke at length about the improvements he has seen from the Eagles special teams units. It looked liked they were out to prove him right with their performance against the Redskins.
Although I didn’t expect a Chip Kelly offense to ever punt the ball, they performed at an extremely high level in their coverage against the Skins. The coverage was also phenomenal in kickoffs. On the other end, the Eagles have shown that they have multiple return men who are more than capable. DeSean Jackson proved to be such a threat that the Redskins wouldn’t even punt to him.
The offense has shown that they can move down the field pretty quickly, but when that field is shorter it makes things even better. Football is a game of field position and when you can win that battle, it generally puts you on the winning end.