Hey there folks, internet message board pretend football scout here to dig deep and analyze the trench battles (and aerial warfare) on hand tonight in a rematch of every time we’ve lost to the Patriots for the last eight years.
Quarterback: If you’re like me, you were very intrigued when the Eagles brought in Trent Edwards to compete with Mike Kafka for a spot behind Mike Vick. Then things went even more haywire when they drafted Nick Foles (who I think has a little Tom Brady in him). With Edwards, you have elite mechanics and a veteran presence. Kafka is wise beyond his years and knows the game. Foles, well, is special. He’s locked into a spot. So let’s see what the decorated Edwards can do to try and wrestle a spot from Kafka. This is a heck of a predicament for the Eagles to be in, and a tribute to Howie Roseman. I expect big things from the Birds’ passers tonight against a questionable NE secondary.
Running Back: Again the Eagles are loaded here. “Shady” McCoy is arguably the best in the biz. Dion Lewis is a shifty back that keeps his pads low and can follow blocks. Only, enter Chris Polk and Bryce Brown. What talent! I watched tape on both of these backs in the days following the draft, and what stood out to me for both was their ability to see the holes, hit them hard, carry the ball up high securely, fall forward after impact, and keep their feet moving. Brown is particularly effective moving laterally, as his hips allow for strong, quick cuts. Polk has some medical issues, but in reading the medical reports and comparing his situation to others with similar injuries I’m comfortable that’s all behind him. Watch his ability to decode linebacking schemes, it will impress you. Kid is heady. All of the backups have good hands, too. Plus, they fit coach Reid’s system- which emphasizes big play ability and versatility- perfectly. We know what the All-World McCoy is, and I can see the other three making a big impact tonight against a questionable NE run defense.
Wide Receiver: Going into this past offseason, the big question mark for the Eagles was whether or not they’d re-sign their dynamic deep threat (and resident Twitter grammar aficionado) Desean Jackson. Now that Jackson is signed, the main question looms and that question is whether or not Desean can be the playmaker that the Eagles signed back in March when they gave him a big contract. Will the new contract cure Desean’s alligator arms? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure is that Jeremy Maclin has a good burst off the line and is quietly developing into Michael Vick’s favorite receiver target. The two spent a good deal of time working together in the offseason, so look for Maclin to finally break the 60 reception barrier that’s been his nemesis. Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, and Demetrius Johnson round out the remainder of the receiving core. Look for one of them to break out against th ePatriots and their stalwart defense. I can see one of them with a a big impact tonight against a questionable NE pass defense.
Tight End: Brent Celek is coming off his best season as a pro. Clay Harbor is serviceable in the pass game and has shown some burst in open space, but the big head-turner at camp has been tall drink of water Brett Brackett out of Penn State. Listed at 6’8” but possibly an inch or so taller possibly even, Bracket is a large target and from all reports seems to have soft hands and a nose for the goalline. He’s no slouch blocking, either. This kid is a testament to the work of are coaching staff. Think Gronk, but with a better head on his shoulders. Some team officials have even told me that Brackett could potentially fill in at quarterback in emergency situations. The rookie started his college career at the position and has really shown the intellectual fortitude to lead in all situation.
Offensive Line: They’re a bunch of Mudders! Seriously, though, if ever a group took on the character of their position coach it surely is the Eagles offensive line! Howard Mudd has taken a group that includes a small center from Cincinnati, a Bengals cast-off, a Canadian, and a guard moved to tackle and turned it into a stalwart front that can play strong in front of quarterback Mike Vick. One issue might be we don’t have a left tackle but we’ll see how that plays out against a questionable NE defensive line.
Punt Returner: With the days of Jeremy Bloom still fresh in the fan base’s mind, the Eagles seem to have finally addressed the return game (beyond DeSean Jackson in emergencies, LOL). They drafted a guy to do this, so let's see how it goes. Rumors out of camp are that he has lateral quickness
Kicker: Alex Henerey has shown flashes of that cornfed Nebraska brilliance that made him the Eagles second round draft pick in 2010, but most think that this is the season he firmly plants his status as a top-10 NFL kicker. An avid weight lifter, Henery has reportedly taken to “Insanity” backyard-style workouts to improve his leg swing, hip rotation and all-around flexibility. Expect boomers (and I’m not talking Chris Berman or the former southpaw Bengal), and expect them often.
Defensive Line: FAST FAST FAST FAST! Not since Nolan Ryan have I seen so many fastballs! And that’s not even Trent Cole and Jason Babin dominating the lines in the first preseason game, folks. Philip Hunt, Darryl Tapp, and first round stud Brandon Graham were chasing down Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. I’m serious, though, if ever a group took on the character of their position coach it surely is the Eagles defensive line! Surly Jim Washburn has his boys pinning their ears back and ATTACKING the signal caller. They’re not slouches in the middle, either. Fletcher Cox is a natural at attacking the gaps and is well-suited to play the 1, 2 or 3 technique. Antonio Dixon uses his ample lower body to penetrate. Derek Landri has a motor that won’t ever quit... which powered him to the playing time highway during last season’s second half playoff push. If Mike Patterson’s brain heals this unit is intact and ready for a big season. I expect them to have another big night against the questionable NE offensive line.
(Editor's Note: Also, this)
Linebackers: The gang green’s linebackers corps really got a facelift this offseason with the addition of Pro Bowler Demeco Ryans and Cal rookie Mychal Kendricks. While last year’s unit struggled, there were some diamonds in the rough that will only shine brighter now that these two are in the fold. Brian Rolle is what I like to refer to as an under-sized assassin that just knows how to play the game the right way and makes plays. If you look at him on paper the numbers don’t jump out at you, but if you watch the tapes then what you see is an NFL caliber ‘backer with a nose from the ball. Last weekend I put in some of his collegiate tape and his knack for being around the ball just stood out to me. In one game against Miami (OH), Rolle made 13 tackles for a loss! When the Buckeyes had a Big 10 battle against Minnesota at the horseshoe Rolle was in on 23 stops against the Gophers. Kid just knows how to make plays. WHAT TO WATCH FOR TONIGHT: How our mobile backers match up agains the NE tight ends, who have some ability to make plays.
Cornerbacks: Many were curious with the Eagles decision to trade Asante Samuel for what seemed like pennies on the dollar but you have to take into account that DRC plays much better on the outside and Nnamdi is better in press coverage so it may actually be addition by subtraction when you look at it that way. Additionally, this staff loves Brandon Boykin out of Georgia, and so do I. This kid has a legitimate NFL backpedal, as demonstrated by the times he put up in the shuttle at the combine. SEC speed in the slot. Don’t count out Joselio Hanson, Curtis Marsh, or Brandon Hughes either. These guys can play. I expect our corners to have a big game against a questionable NE receiving corps.
Safety: This group is coming together nicely. Nate Allen is solid, Kurt Coleman is the Brian Rolle of safeties (if you don’t believe me watch this ball-hawk’s tape in OSU’s game against Indiana or Bowling Green), Israel Antagonwe is a veteran presence that will provide stability, and Jaiquawn Jarrett is a former second round pick who finally is getting a chance to have a full offseason training regimen.