Heading into the 2011 season there were a number of concerns regarding this revamped Eagles team. Philadelphia would sport a new offensive line (4 of 5 players – or everyone but Jason Peters – new or in new positions with two potential rookie starters), new defensive backfield (Nnamdi Asomugha, Jarrad Page and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie joining Asante Samuel and Kurt Coleman), revitalized defensive line (with Cullen Jenkins, Phillip Hunt and Jason Babin complimenting Trent Cole, Mike Patterson and Daryl Tapp) and of course several questions about the linebackers.
While it all starts with the coaching, Andy Reid promoted Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to Defensive Coordinator and then imported the best in the business Howard Mudd and Jim Washburn to coach offensive and defensive lines respectively. Any win in the NFL is a good win so the coaches, players and fans will all enjoy this win – but there is much to be learned.
The game ball should go to the NFL schedule-makers because while the Eagles won this game 31-13, Philadelphia won their season opener despite their performance. First strike was Rams LB-at-RB Steven Jackson as he knifed through the overzealous Eagles linebackers en route to a 47-yard TD (left game with pulled quad).
Strike two came when the Eagles offensive line faltered. Rookie center Jason Kelce had trouble communicating in the raucous dome environment resulting in delay of game penalties (8 penalties for 91 yards on the day) and an early assault on QB Michael Vick.
Vick (14-32, 187 yds, 2 TD) struggled as St. Louis relentlessly blitzed, either overpowering or out-maneuvering the flummoxed Eagles offensive line. Fortunately the Eagles offensive weapons overcame their line’s shortcomings and piled up the points. LeSean McCoy was bottled up until amassing 95 rushing yards in the fourth quarter – but eked out a 7-yard TD catch early in the game.
Eventually the running game – thanks to combined efforts of “Houdini” Vick (98 yards on 10 rushes), “Shady” McCoy (15-122) & “Wildcat” Ronnie Brown - slowed down the pace of the game to provide the defense an occasional blow on the sideline. Another score came from a 56-yard fumble caused by Darryl Tapp then recovered and taken to the house by Juqua Parker – posting Philadelphia to a 14-7 lead which they would never rescind.
St. Louis head coach Steve Spagnuolo is a former Eagles defensive assistant and was the one-time heir apparent to legendry Jim Johnson as defensive coordinator. “Spags” left to be DC with the NY football Giants before taking his current post but he has not forgotten what he learned from Andy Reid and other tutors. Blitz, blitz and blitz some more against an indecisive QB or an inexperienced offensive line – or both as the case may be. The NFL has learned to blitz Vick and force him to his weak side, hoping he will take off on foot rather than scan downfield. This takes away dangerous receivers like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and Steve Smith.
When this game tape gets out it can be added to those from the last 4 games of 2010, when Vick was effectively neutralized by this scheme. Apparently the Eagles need their offensive line to organize themselves quickly or play Vick from the shotgun (or Wing-T offense) and expect him to scramble on every snap. Vick needs better protection or perhaps he would benefit from eyes in the back of his helmet.
Time of possession was virtually split down the middle but the second half saw St. Louis lose three primary offensive weapons (Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola) and also featured the return of A.J. Feely. Yes, that A.J. Feeley, the two-time Eagles professional clipboard artist who stepped in for injured Donovan McNabb in a playoff game and… very little else in an otherwise forgettable career.
Now Feeley could be the Rams starting QB if Bradford misses any time. As a result of Bradford and Jackson’s premature exits, the Rams offense was M.I.A. for much of the fourth quarter. Had Philadelphia played anyone aside from St. Louis, Kansas City or Indianapolis, they might not have come out with a victory this week. Fortunately, they did.
The Eagles are 1-0 on the season but if they play like this next week against Atlanta, their record will be 1-1 and could be 1-2 heading into Week Four. San Francisco and Buffalo are on the schedule for Weeks Four and Five after the Giants and Falcons. This is of course why they actually play the games!
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org