There will be plenty of things to look out for when the 2-0 Philadelphia Eagles hook up with the undefeated Arizona Cardinals in their Week 3 NFL matchup.
The story lines are aplenty, especially with ex-Eagle, Kevin Kolb, getting his first start against his former team. But in order to ensure that their former signal-caller doesn’t put a blemish on their perfect record, Andy Reid will need to keep a close eye on these four aspects of his team.
Offensive Line Play
Jason Kelce will be missing extensive time after suffering a partial ACL tear and complete tear of his MCL, but the real news here is that King Dunlap will also be missing.
The Eagles were able to get by on the fly last week while integrating Demetress Bell and Dallas Reynolds at left tackle and center. However, who knows how the two, let alone the rest of the makeshift offensive line, will hold up against a formidable pass rush?
The Cardinals have a young core of talented defenders and will not make Michael Vick’s afternoon easy. They run a complex defense and like to show different fronts with lots of pre-snap movement (like this).
I doubt that backup center Dallas Reynolds will be ready to handle line calls, so expect Vick to shoulder that burden once again.
It’s a small sample size, but the DeSean Jackson we’ve seen in 2012 has been far different than the one from last year.
Last week, against the Baltimore Ravens, Jackson made one of the most courageous catches I’ve ever seen him make. After running a streak down the right side of the field, the speedster exposed himself to an oncoming hit while hauling in a beautiful 49-yard pass.
It has already been confirmed that Jeremy Maclin will miss Sunday’s contest—which means DJax will have to play a larger role than he already has. Patrick Peterson, who I believe is a star in the making, will likely shadow No. 10 all over the field.
Whether it’s by moving the chains, opening underneath routes, or commanding a double team, Jackson will need to find ways to make plays for his team.
Coverage Against Larry Fitzgerald
He might be off to a slow start, but it’d be extremely foolish to underestimate the damage that Larry Fitzgerald can do.
In four career meetings against the Eagles (including one NFC Championship game), Fitzgerald has recorded 26 total receptions, 456 yards and eight touchdowns. He has found the end zone each time he’s gone up against Philly and is still one of the best wideouts in the NFL.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the Eagles have been unwilling to switch their cornerbacks to the opposite side of the field just to follow a receiver. This means that you’re likely to see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, more than Nnamdi Asomugha, lined up across from Fitzgerald.
While DRC is fast enough to keep up with anybody, Fitzgerald is the most technically sound pass-catcher the league has to offer. If the Eagles don’t want to be burned again, they must do something different in coverage this time around.
While Patrick Peterson has improved defensively, he remains as a premier threat in the return game. Last season, during his rookie year, he returned four punts for touchdowns and averaged 15.88 yards per run back.
The Eagles have improved leaps and bounds in the tackling department, but I’m not fully convinced that the special teams unit is immune to a whiff. With his top-flight speed, all Peterson really needs is a crevice of space in order to separate himself from coverage.
Chas Henry regressed significantly after a Week 1 performance that earned him “Punter of the Week” honors. He’ll be an important weapon in the battle of field position, especially if the Eagles struggle to move the ball.
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