FINALLY! At last we have a game against a division rival. I don’t know about you, but every week since the preseason started, I’ve had to manufacture every ounce of disdain, and hostility I’ve expressed for each opponent we’ve faced. TWICE I had to invent reasons to badmouth the Steelers (a franchise that I actually have a great deal of respect for).
No need to manufacture fake disdain this week. I’m sitting on tons of good ol’ fashioned, homegrown, organic hate. And it feels lovely. Do you have any idea how hard it was to get geeked up for the Lions? The Lions? But this… Twice a year rival. Playoff implications. Old grudges and bad blood… So I’m sure you understand why I can’t stop smiling this week, despite the loss we suffered last week.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to look for, Week 6 versus Washington:
1) We need a plan for covering TE Jordan Reed. (NOTE: Reed experienced concussion symptoms this week during practice, and as of now there is no word on whether or not he will suit up Sunday. If he does play, we need to be ready.) I’m not sure that we have a LB with the skillset to go step for step with Reed. Having to keep Safeties back deep to help with WR DeSean Jackson, means that bracketing Jordan with OLB Nigel Bradham and SS Malcom Jenkins is out of the question. Alternating coverage concepts underneath will help get the job done, but only if we get enough heat on QB Kirk Cousins to keep him from making reads in time.
2) Work the edges. Like we did with the Steelers who also run a 3-4 defense, we need to force the ‘skins OLB’s into coverage. Their two best pass rushers (Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy) are OLB’s who don’t excel at playing in reverse. Against the Steelers we needed to pull the OLB’s out. That favored using RB’s. For the ‘skins we need to push the OLB’s back. That means short passes along the hash marks to WR Jordan Matthews and TE Zach Ertz.
3) Do NOT punt directly to WR Jamison Crowder. Even without his 85 yard return for a touchdown, he’d still average 18.5 yards a crack and has 5 returns (out of 7) of 20 or more yards. By the way, he’s only fair caught 2, so he’s looking to scoot if he gets his mitts on the pig. So don’t give him the chance.
4) Protect the rookie. Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai, will be starting at RT after not suiting up for any of the previous games this year. His belly will be LOADED with butterflies. Settle him down by letting him mash on the guy across from him, early on. On passing downs help him out with TE chip blocks. The game will be faster than he’s ready for at this point. Hanging him out to dry could damage his confidence and stunt his development. (Remember the game against the giants where LT Winston Justice was stuck against Michael Strahan with no help and victimized for a million and half sacks? Let’s not do that again.)
The ‘skins will be our toughest test so far. Yes, even tougher than the Steelers. The ‘skins are built to compete against the rosters in their division and will be playing in their house, in front of their crowd, for actual stakes. Winning this game would be a clear indication that the balance of power has indeed shifted in the NFC East and establish the Eagles as the team to beat.
Let’s hear what’s on YOUR mind football fans. Scroll down and leave a COMMENT. What do you think of this upcoming game?