What to Watch for: Eagles/Skins — Game 1
Before I get into all of the specifics for tonight…..
WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SAY YOU LOVE FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!
I love having football season back and week one has been great. There was the Packers/Niners showdown, the Falcons/Saints shootout, and the Bills annually almost beating the Patriots before inevitably realizing they’re the Bills. All great stuff.
BUT TONIGHT IS WHAT REALLY MATTERS. Tonight’s game is the most exciting season opener since the arrival of T.O. and it’s a million times more important. Chip Kelly. Monday Night. Two Guns. Six Boobs.
Tonight is everything you could ever dream for as an Eagles fan. It’s a fresh start on the national stage against the best team in the division. It’s Chip’s chance to put this team back on the map so that fans never hear the phrase “Dream Team” ever again and instead dream of a parade down Broad Street. And it all begins tonight.
So while you’re pounding beers and and wings and fists with your buddies tonight, here are the important things you should watch for in tonight’s game.
1. The Offensive Line. Jason Peters (achilles) and Jason Kelce (ACL)return to the lineup with rookie Lane Johnson starting at right tackle. This unit has the opportunity to be one of the best in football and will be tested tonight against one of the league’s top run defenses—Washington allowed 95.8 yards per game on the ground last season, which was fifth best in the league. Add in the fact that a healthy Brian Orakpo returns to the lineup and this will be a great evaluator for the Eagles front five.
2. Run Defense. RGIII is considered healthy and ready to play, but there’s no way in hell we see the RGIII of last season. In 2012 he attempted an average of eight runs per game. Given how ugly things could get if he gets injured early in the season, Shanahan will have to tread lightly with his star QB tonight—avoiding a gratuitous amount of read-option plays in favor of a slightly more traditional attack. Therefore, the Eagles defense will have a lot of bouts with Alfred Morris, who rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 TDs last season. I wouldn’t bet that Billy Davis slept well last night.
3. Mike Vick. It’s impossible to not mention him. Vick will finally have his chance to break loose again on the field with the read-option offense. However, will that affect his passing? Pay attention to how patient Vick will be on broken plays. Do we see the Vick last year who held onto the ball too long or do we see the Vick too eager to run (AKA Terrell Pryor yesterday)? Ideally, somewhere in the middle.
4. Special Teams. “We’ve said it since Day 1, there’s three ways for them to make this football team. Special teams, special teams, special teams.” This quote from Chip Kelly is a big part of his culture. He wants guys who are going to put their best effort out there, even if they’re not starting. Take note of how effective/ineffective the Skins return men are tonight. It could make all the difference.
5. Fourth Downs. A notable part of Chip’s legacy of the college level is that he was willing to take a lot of risks on fourth down. If the situation is right, don’t be surprised to see the Eagles force the issue with Washington and go for a fourth and two around midfield. While this is a very situational thing, it may be the most ground-shaking on the NFL level. The majority of the time coaches are content with punting or kicking long field goals, but if Chip has success in this area it could become his permanent fingerprint on the league.